IN an instant, the huge East Window of Carlisle Cathedral was transformed.

As a haunting music filled the cavernous interior of this ancient place of worship, spectacular images filled the darkness – stars, figures, planets, ghostly abstractions; a kaleidoscope of ever-changing pictures, the colours breathtakingly vibrant, evocative.

Many of those who came to watch simply stood or sat, staring wide-eyed with wonder at the luminous spectacle.

Last night saw the launch of the city’s first Carlisle City of Lights event. It had begun with an official switch-on in Court Square, watched by civic leaders from both Carlisle City Council and Cumbria County Council, and officials from the project’s key partners Story Contracting and the Railway Heritage Trust.

At 6.30pm, there were speeches from Carlisle mayor Marilyn Bowman and Cumbria County Council chairwoman Christine Bowditch, welcoming the four-day event, which councillors say will boost the city’s reputation as a top destination for must-see events.

Councillor Bowman said: “I know other cities have held events like this, such as Durham and Madrid; but they’re going to have to up their game because after tonight Carlisle will be the top out there. We’ll do the best as we always do.”

Councillor Bowditch said she was delighted the county council had worked with the city council to launch such a a fantastic event. “It will be a celebration of what is best in Carlisle: the best it has to offer in terms of heritage and our history,” she said. “I hope this gives a real boost to the city.”

Seconds later, a button was pressed and light flooded the surrounding cityscape, with the sandstone Citadel tower and the Hallmark Hotel opposite bathed in vibrant light, the colours changing slowly and constantly, transforming the area’s mood.

The main focus last night was on the Carlisle Cathedral light show – ‘The Great Exhibition: SPACE, God, the Universe, and Everything’. Among the images was an astronaut, floating above the earth.

Carlisle’s romantic citizens can even have a Valentine’s Day love message projected on to Carlisle Castle – find out more at Carlisle Tourist Information or