Lightwaves: the spectacular art festival lighting up Salford Quays and MediaCity - what’s on and when it is

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The trail of dramatic light installations that visitors can wander around after dark is back for its ninth year.

The spectacular Lightwaves festival which sets up a trail of dramatic illuminated artworks around Salford Quays and MediaCity is returning.

Visitors can enjoy the stunning light show and installations after dark for four days at the start of December, with both local and national artists showcasing their skills.

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The centrepiece of this year’s festival, the ninth Lightwaves which has been run, is an ambitious audio-visual work which will be located on the water and will pay tribute to the workers who built the Manchester Ship Canal and the harsh conditions they faced.

Visitors from all over Greater Manchester are expected to head to Salford to see the illuminated artworks - here’s what they will see when they turn up.

When is Lightwaves happening and what is there for people to see?

Lightwaves takes place around Salford Quays and MediaCity between Thursday 1 December and Sunday 4 December. Visitors will be able to follow the trail and see the brightly-lit artworks between 4pm and 10pm each evening.

The event is free and there is no need to book a ticket in advance: you can simply turn up and walk around the stunning art installations.

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The headlining work in this year’s festival is Navvies by Matthew Rosier, an ambitious work which will be presented on the water and recognises the construction workers of the ship canal who faced hardship and death in their work. The installation is accompanied by a new orchestral composition, composed by Hayley Suviste and performed by the BBC Philharmonic orchestra.

Once We Were Water, by Manchester studio idontloveyouanymore, allows visitors to ‘walk’ through the waters of a digitally-recreated river which appears to flow over the Detroit Bridge, reacting to the movement of people.

Connections, which will be displayed at the Lightwaves festivalConnections, which will be displayed at the Lightwaves festival
Connections, which will be displayed at the Lightwaves festival | Lightwaves

Studio Vertigo has two works at the festival: Our Beating Heart, a giant mirror ball with more than 11,000 tiles slowly rotating, and End Over End which takes inspiration from the beloved slinky, playfully transforming buildings into a virtual playground and is located next to the hexagonal tower of The Lowry.

Garden of the Deep, by artist Dianne Watson, aims to raise awareness of the consumption of single-use plastic. She has worked with local schools and community groups to create a display of 1,000 flowers made from discarded bottles.

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Walk the Plank, who are well known for their outdoor art, are back at Lightwaves with Roost, a series of three nature-based fire sculptures which visitors can interact with in the MediaCity garden, while Lightstream byFlora Litchfield uses sound and colour to transform surroundings and focuses on people’s relationship with nature and the city.

Kin, which has been created by Backstage AcademyKin, which has been created by Backstage Academy
Kin, which has been created by Backstage Academy | Lightwaves

MicroCosmic, a collaboration between Paul Miller and the University of Salford, is an immersive installation of video, sound and projection-mapped sculpture, whie the iconic waterways at Salford Quays will be animated by Anne Bennett’s Butterfly Cluster, with the multitude of butterflies creating a dreamlike and magical experience.

There’s also an interactive light and sound installation from artist collective Monomatic called Norman, a retro-futurist work reflecting the pre-Internet age. Festival organisers Quays Culture have teamed up with RHS Glow festival at RHS Bridgewater to commission Connections, featuring profile pictures encased in resin cells and then lit up, with the work reflecting on concerns around social media.

Finally Kin has been created by Backstage Academy, a collective of second-year live visual design and production students, which uses lights and video to reflect on the importance of community and the power it has for people.

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What else is on at the festival and why is it put on each year?

As well as the artworks at this year’s festival Lightwaves visitors can enjoy Through No.4 by Liz West, a permanent artwork at MediaCity consisting of a six-metre-long, triangular corridor of light and colour. The walk-through structure encourages visitors to look at their surroundings in a different light and for Lightwaves additional lighting will be added to turn the multicoloured artwork into a jewel glowing in the dark.

Running alongside the festival each evening is the Quayside Festive Market which will take place outside The Lowry, showcasing a selection of local artisan produce.

Lightwaves is the creation of Quays Culture, which puts on large-scale art events at Salford Quays and MediaCity and has an artistic programme which immerses audiences in outdoor shows inspired by their surroundings with a focus on technology, creativity and digital innovation. The idea of Lightwaves each winter is to bring light, colour and positivity to the cold, dark evenings at this time of year.

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