Global connection and love of our planet are the messages at the heart of this year’s Lightwaves festival at Salford Quays.
The free 10-day arts festival features an illuminated trail of 12 original art works, starting with a huge globe on the water between the Lowry and Media City. Luke Jerram’s Floating Earth has been created from detailed NASA imagery to give visitors an opportunity to consider the interconnections of our planet by viewing it in three dimensions. The globe stretches 10m in diameter and after sunset creates a stunning reflection in the water below. The visual art is accompanied by a surround-sound musical track by BAFTA award winning composer Dan Jones to encourage visitors to contemplate the beauty of our planet and our collective responsibility to support the environment.
Across the tram tracks and into the Media City gardens there is a huge Christmas tree and another of the light sculptures, Digital Playground by Studio Little Lost Robot. This electronic flower garden of light and lace encourages us to slow down and metaphorically smell the flowers, with the robotic plants changing appearance to reflect its interactions with any onlookers.
There is more fun and interaction to be found on the plaza outside the Lowry arts centre, where Illumaphonium joins art, light and music in a multisensory activity for all the family. Visitors are encouraged to grab a stick and play a tune by hitting notes across it 150 hand-tuned chime bars.
Travelling art installation Mystery Bird that toured the city during the Covid lockdown last winter takes a perch outside the Imperial War Museum North. For Lightwaves 2021 the experiential artwork has been developed as a static installation with music and projection onto the museum building that can be seen from across the water.
Opposite the Alchemist bar, Cygnus by Loomaland is a water ballet featuring 12 synchronised, glowing robot swans. Illuminated from the inside, the swans change colour to the rhythm of the music that comes from within their bodies. The work is accompanied by a newly commissioned soundtrack ‘Swan Songs’ by Anil Sebastian.
Lightwaves 2021 sees the festival’s most ambitious line-up to date with the trail stretching further into the Quays. The tree-lined walkway on the water front between the Lowry and Helly Hansen Watersports’ Centre is home to Entwined Light by Antoniya Soitsova and Nicolo Bencini an illuminated web tunnel powered by solar energy.
Outside Helly Hansen Watersports’ Centre is the massive robot light sculpture, Youth Culture by Stanza making a return from previous year’s festivals. And around the corner in Mariner’s Canal is Sirens by Davy and Kristin McGuire – a projection of mermaids, turtles, fish, and other sea creatures in the canal. The beauty of the movement and the hypnotic sounds that accompany them is beautiful to see but as plastic pollution appears in the holographic projections it becomes apparent there is something deeper to think about in this otherwise relaxing and absorbing exhibit.
If you’re not familiar with the area there is free mobile app to help you find your way around the route. And if you’d like to learn more about the installations there is a free tour by the organisers on 8 and 11 December.
You can easily spend a good couple of hours at the festival, especially if you visit the stalls on the Christmas craft market outside the Quayside shopping outlet, which is open in the evening too on 3 and 10 December (see website for times).
Lightwaves 2021 is a free festival at Salford Quays from 3-12 December.