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Wave-field, the world famous interactive Musical Seesaws created by Lateral Office and CS Design.
Lightwaves 2019 Wave-field, the world famous interactive Musical Seesaws created by Lateral Office and CS Design.

Lightwaves 2019 – a free festival of light at MediaCityUK

Home » To do & see » Lightwaves 2019 – a free festival of light at MediaCityUK

Lightwaves 2019 is lighting up Salford Quays and if you have been eagerly awaiting its return or you are visiting this free interactive light festival for the first time, this year’s public art will not disappoint.

Public spaces around Salford Quays are illuminated daily 4pm-10pm from 6-15 December, with new and exclusively commissioned digital art displays, alongside emerging talent and interactive workshops, from local, national, and international artists.

Spiro an immersive walkway through a 25m light tunnel.
Spiro an immersive walkway through a 25m light tunnel.

The event, hosted by Quays Culture, includes world premieres together with more intimate motivations of digital lightwork, some involving human beings, like the Umbrella Project, from Cirque Bijou. This piece of work features 20 local Salford residents, who all operate hand-built LED umbrellas to create a kaleidoscopic moving light performance. Should the December weather not be kind these residents, they will at least be equipped with the most beautiful umbrellas of the season!


The world premiere of Keith Brown’s GeoThicket is a virtual reality experience inside The Lowry art centre. An immersive visual artwork, guests are invited to select their own path through a colourful, multidimensional, geometric wonderland, offering a whimsical escape from reality as the adventure alters with every step.

Many visitors returning to Lightwaves, will remember, Wave-field, the world-famous interactive musical seesaws which turn Salford Quays into an urban playground. Created by Lateral Office and CS Design, with soundscape by Mitchell Akiyama, the illuminated musical seesaws encourage interpersonal relationships with strangers and consolidate existing relationships between friends and family.

Lightwaves 2019 Light Orchestra, an interactive sound and light installation
Light Orchestra, an interactive sound and light installation

My personal favourite is the Light Orchestra, an interactive sound and light installation, having its European premiere at the festival. The installation invites visitors to become conductors, moving their arms to direct a symphony of light and music. From a conductor’s podium, visitors can direct an orchestra of motorised projectors that create beams of light and unique musical sequences that respond to the maestro’s movements. The installation aims to transform the public space into a concert hall; a luminous and musical community arena for self-expression, that acts as a catalyst to generate conversations and interactions.

Lightwaves 2019 DigiTree, a state of the art, interactive LED installation
DigiTree, a state of the art, interactive LED installation

If you like the idea of a digital Christmas tree, have a look at DigiTree, a state of the art, interactive LED installation, designed to bring the seasons to your feet. The new commission for 2019, has been created by Backstage Academy students. A large LED tree made of angular branches, the installation blooms with coloured light that changes to show the changing seasons of the year. The installation also includes an LED floor, fitted with tracking software that locates and reacts to the weight of a person as they move around on the floor to create illuminated magic at their feet.

Lightwaves 2019 Portal of Reflection by Tom Lambert
Portal of Reflection by Tom Lambert

Visitors are encouraged to download the free festival app on their smart phone during their visit to Lightwaves, where they will also discover, Groups of People, a new digital creation by Visioning Lab that aims to animate Salford Quays, using state of the art technology. Over the last month, local people have been introduced to virtual reality drawing tools and asked to respond to the work of LS Lowry. Their creations have contributed to this virtual artwork.

Blackpool Illuminations returns as an ongoing collaboration between the lighting behemoth and Lightwaves Festival continues. Spiro, this year’s installation, takes the form of an immersive walkway through a 25m light tunnel. The work, inspired by the shape of a cresting wave, invites guests to enter with pulsating, undulating light.

Lightwaves 2019 The Umbrella Project
Lightwaves 2019 The Umbrella Project from Cirque Bijou

Quays Culture is exhibiting one of its own commissioned works, Cathedral of Mirrors by Mads Christensen, an installation of mirrored columns fitted with technicoloured lights. The work is located and exhibited in the University of Salford campus foyer at MediaCityUK, as part of the festival. For many, this may be there first visit to the University Campus and personally I would have liked to see more signposting.


The festival also brings three new SHINE commissions: The Happiness Sum by Gemma Wood, Portal of Reflection by Tom Lambert and Pharos by Joe Moran. The Happiness Sum is a colourful, playful installation that poses important questions about what activities make people happy and invites guests to check if they are maximising their happiness potential! I am happy to report that my chosen subject -Family- did score very highly! Again, I trust that visitors will be encouraged to visit the foyer of the University of Salford at Media City.

Portal of Reflection by Tom Lambert is a hexagonal installation of mesmerising radiating light and sound, viewed through special glasses, designed to alter your perception and take guests on a journey of self-reflection.

LIghtwaves 2019 Wave-field, the world famous interactive Musical Seesaws. Created by Lateral Office and CS Design,
Wave-field, the world famous interactive Musical Seesaws. Created by Lateral Office and CS Design,

The third and final SHINE commission, Pharos by Joe Moran is a light sculpture, constructed from a series of lenses designed to absorb light from nearby sources and redistribute the light as colourful pulsating patterns.

Homage to the Rain has its world premiere at the festival, a short film that explores the global human connection through rain, the film is on a loop set to an original score. After the Lightwave World Premiere, it will be released globally online. The project is co-commissioned by Quays Culture and University of Salford Art Collection.
There are many Christmas lights already at Media City and throughout the year there are lights from and on the many buildings, restaurants and even the tram stop. Now the trees are festooned with lights too igniting an excitement of the festive season.

Lightwaves 2019, amongst its many offerings endeavours to stimulate the interaction of conversation about art in public spaces and long may those conversation expand and continue long after the festive season.

Lightwaves 2019 a free festival of light from Quays Culture is at Salford Quays from 6-15 December 2019.

Written by
Lorraine Worsley-Carter

A resident of Salford Quays, Lorraine Worsley Carter received her MBE for Exceptional Services to Community and Broadcasting in 1998 and became a Deputy Lieutenant of Greater Manchester in 2008. She is Senior Partner of Countess Publicists. Her love of travel takes her near and far.

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Written by Lorraine Worsley-Carter