Meet the latest innovative form of public lighting finance: Crowdfunding.
That's what the Bristol neighbourhood of Bedminster is attempting, as it tries to reel in £22,000 of commitment-free gift money that would allow it to install a novel outdoor Christmas lighting scheme created by Bristol's resident international designer Ulf Mark Pedersen.
In case you've just arrived from the age of oil lamps: Crowdfunding is a Twitter-era form of financing in which individuals, groups or companies ask for money via a website. In a typical crowdfunding campaign, the fundraiser targets a stated amount in a set period of time. Donators ('the crowd') then pledge, and if they collectively hit the goal, then the fundraiser receives their money with virtually no strings attached – the contributors do not get equity, for instance. The recipient might send a t-shirt or a coffee mug or an early version of a product as a thank you, but he/she does not hand over any shares in their company.
This type of funding has helped back everything from women's fashions to travel to scooters to nuclear fusion reactors, via crowdfunding websites such as Indiegogo and Kickstarter. In fact, it helped give a $1.3 million lift to the LIFX smart LED light bulb.
Now, it could become instrumental in public lighting.
Bristol's Bedminster is using a site called Spacehive, which specialises in civic projects.
The ambitious plan calls for, among other things, filling empty ground floor and first floor windows with various Christmas colours, and for projecting images like snowflakes and lyrics from Christmas carols in large scale text onto building facades.
Lighting designer Pedersen is known for playful, architectural scale light and colour installments that, according to his Spacehive bio, 'transforms the act of looking into a physical experience.' He is part of the Power Plant project, which has provided light and sound shows to botanical gardens around the world including in Sydney and Hong Kong.
A group called the Bedminster Town Team is running the Spacehive campaign, noting on the website that:
'Everyone loves Christmas but for many years Bedminster could not afford Christmas lights. This has changed with the advent of the Town Team however our choice of Christmas lighting has been perhaps a little traditional. Given our purpose to fuse art, shops and entertainment, this seems like a great idea...Given our organisation's purpose is to “exploit and eventually explode the gap between art, advertising and entertainment, high street retailing and real estate development” we usually like to do things a little differently. Working with a local Bristol based lighting artist, we will bring Christmas lights to Bedminster. But different!'
As of this writing, the team had raised £12,262, and had until the end of November to secure the total of £22,206.
It's one thing to raise a few thousand. At last week's European Commission conference on LED Lighitng for Sustainable Smart Cities, one commentator encouraged it as a financing source for citywide LED streetlighting projects, which can costs millions of pounds.
Sounds a bit unlikely. But then again, crowd behaviour can be unpredictable.
Photo is a screen grab from Bedminister Town Team's Spacehive homepage