The River of Light Trail put on by the Culture Liverpool Programme, is a collection of eleven light installations along the Liverpool waterfront. With museums and galleries still closed, these large-scale artworks turned the city into one big art gallery. A clever adaptation that allowed for the event to happen whilst keeping visitors Covid safe. Liverpool has a rich history in arts, culture, and music; in many ways it’s what defines the city, and the loss of this connection to the arts and to each other has been a heavy blow for the community. So, an event like this was a meaningful reconnection to its heritage. The display opened on the 23rd of March 2021, this date marked one full year of lockdown, making it a significant moment of commemoration. As we have now been given a timeframe by the government for the easing and eventual end of restrictions, there is a sense that people are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel and to me the River of Light display felt like a physical representation of these sentiments. This was the first display of art I had seen in person in many months; also, the first time I had been into the city in as long. Among the tall buildings of the cityscape, surrounded by lights and the chatter of happy conversations, it felt like quite a monumental experience, sort of like a big family reunion. Each piece was beautiful, but there were a few that stood out and felt particularly symbolic. The first of which was Light a Wish: a collection of floating illuminated dandelion seeds. As I was there with my family and this was the first installation we encountered, we reacted initially with ooh’s and ahh’s and that eventually turned into a moment of quiet while each of us made an individual wish. I could see others in the crowd doing the same and it felt as though there was a communal request for betterment.
‘Light a Wish’ by OGE Group Israel Light Art Collection
Fittingly, the next piece was Futures; this immersive installation of corresponding light and sound played calming rhythmic beats as crowds moved slowly through its tunnel shape. The idea behind this installation was a transportation to a ‘place where we can envision the future we want’. (Visit Liverpool, 2021) This seemed to be the perfect continuation from the wishes we had just made at the dandelions. Walking through Futures was a peaceful time to reflect and a procession into something more positive.
‘Futures’ by Lucid Creates
The real star of the show however, was most certainly Rainbow Bridge, standing 30 foot high and 75 foot long, it was the largest of all the installations. Lit with thousands of programmable LED’s displaying messages such as ‘Happy Easter’, it continuously altered its colours and patterns which were then reflected in the waters of the Mersey. This installation gathered crowds of people keen to take selfies underneath its lights, it felt joyful and inclusive with everyone smiling and laughing under its arch. The rainbow has been a significant symbol over the past year, representing hope, and communicating gratitude for the NHS and frontline workers. We’ve seen them displayed all over our neighbourhoods and it’s these kinds of iconographical symbols that show just how powerful art can be. Like a beacon for a brighter future, the River of light display felt like an inspiring start to a new chapter.
‘Rainbow Bridge’ by The Looking up Arts Foundation
Visit Liverpool (2021) Futures [online] Available at: https://www.visitliverpool.com/whats-on/futures-p472971 [Accessed 5th April 2021]