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Lighting the City Walls

The Bars on the City Walls are lit between dusk and midnight, helping to support York’s evening economy, by allowing visitors to the city's restaurants, theatres and bars to better experience the exceptional historic environment, and to feel safer.

For most of the year the floodlights illuminate the Bars in white light. On some evenings, to mark certain events, 'special lighting' is used to add colour to the Bars, and at Christmastime festive lights are added too.

We've worked with Historic England and technical lighting designers and electrical engineers, Lite Architectural, to:

  • renew floodlights illuminating Monk Bar, Bootham Bar and Walmgate Bar, with 'smart LEDs' which are more efficient
  • install colour changing capability
  • ensure all floodlights visually enhance the Bars and walls
  • minimise light pollution, sky-glow and light spill

Small LED floodlights also illuminate Clifford’s Tower and the stretch of City Walls between Toft’s Tower and Barker Tower; we hope to upgrade the remaining old floodlights over time.

Special lighting on the City Walls

We may light the Bars in colour for occasions that are significant in the wider community, and may also use special lighting on the City Walls, in exceptional circumstances.

Request special lighting

Requests to use coloured illuminations must meet certain criteria (see: special lighting terms and conditions), to ensure that 'special lighting' is:

  • appropriate
  • in keeping with the purpose and dignity of the City Walls and Bars
  • not over-used

Requests for special lighting can be made by registered charities, public-sector, community, and non-profit making organisation, or members of City of York Council (subject to the request having cross-party support).

Individuals and commercial organisations may not make requests for special lighting.

Request special lighting on York's City Walls

Terms and conditions for special lighting requests

Your request must be received no later than 4 weeks before the dates on which special lighting is being sought.

The details you submit will be evaluated and approval will only be given when your request meets 1 or more of the following criteria:

  • an event of exceptional local, national or international significance and/or achievement
  • an event of constitutional or democratic significance
  • a significant anniversary of a significant local, national or international event
  • an event that is considered as being of significant benefit to York from a promotional, reputational or engagement perspective

You'll be advised as soon as possible whether we've approved or declined your request, and well put necessary arrangements in place.

You may share a news story, images, and social media content with our Communications Team, for communications support.

Requests for special lighting will not be approved where such lighting is:

  • linked to a profit-making business
  • linked to a party political issue, or a campaigning issue that is novel, contentious or politically sensitive
  • obviously contentious and risks reputational damage to the city
  • generates a commercial advantage
  • is not in keeping with the purpose and dignity of the building

Special lighting will not be approved to mark an event or occasion that occurs annually, unless it's a significant 'anniversary', exceptional circumstances, or agreed by our City Walls team.

No event or occasion can be marked by special lighting more than once in any 3 year period, unless in exceptional circumstances, or agreed with our City Walls team.

We may, at our absolute discretion, and without notice, cancel any approved requests for special lighting.

Standard and special lighting may be paused during times of national mourning or emergency.

Also see

City Walls