About Britain

It's that time of the year again when the days are short and the nights are long.

Sounds gloomy, yet some folk are using the descent into darkness as an opportunity to cast light on some of our most beautiful public spaces.

From 12 November to 20 November, Derby city centre will be bathed in light as Gleam: Festival of Light launches a week of illuminating free events (derbygleam.co.uk). World-leading interactive arts and technology outfit, Seeper, will be putting on regular Light Spectacular shows on the evenings of 12 and 13 November.

Key buildings in the city's Market Place will be lit up by the projection, light mapping, and interactive technology collective, while the Cathedral Quarter will be graced by the Light Trail every evening except Remembrance Sunday. Follow the Gleam lanterns to experience projections – including one on to the cathedral itself – interactive installations, and a light garden.

A range of workshops will keep families and young people occupied with fire drawing and lantern making – with resulting artwork being part of the festival finale Lantern Parade and River Fire Display.

Meanwhile in Northumberland – also from 12 November and continuing until 28 November – a historic National Trust property, Cragside Estate, will be brought alive with interactive illuminations courtesy of Northumberland Lights: The Electric Estate (northumberlandlights.com/2010/).

To celebrate the bicentenary of the property's creator, industrialist William Armstrong, The Electric Estate will offer an interactive experience to allow the whole family to enjoy our wintry evenings. Aiming to reflect the imagination and invention of Lord Armstrong, renewable energy sources hidden in the heart of Cragside's woodland will light up a series of 90-minute evening walks to create a mysterious and magical atmosphere.

And on 26 November – the date of the Armstrong bicentenary – Culture Creative will combine fire, water and electricity to put on a spectacular final show, followed by a torch-lit procession to the local town of Rothbury.

Then you can say you've seen the northern lights – without leaving the UK.