Arts & Culture

10th November 2021

River of Light 2021

After it was cancelled in 2020 because of COVID-19, the River of Light returned this year with the hum of vibrancy and light that we’ve all been needing. From October 22nd to November 7th, Liverpool reclaimed the noise and festivity that was lost in the pandemic. Harmony was celebrated in all its technicolour glory, with 12 installations that danced together in the rhythm of synchronicity.


By Squidsoup

Firstly, there was ‘Wave’. The installation was made up of 500 individual LED orbs suspended in the air. Another whopping 500 sounds also accompanied the ebbing and flowing rhythm of the display! The colours were mesmerising, reflected in the water feature just outside of Liverpool ONE. The soundscape was made up of sounds directly from nature and had a meditative ambience as a result. It was the perfect demonstration of how each and every small part fulfils such an important role in the piece as a whole, with all its parts working together to achieve harmony.

Top-left and middle photos are courtesy of the Photography Society; bottom-left and right are by Martha Sutcliffe

‘Liverpool Love of My Life’

By Chila Kumari Singh Burman

Although harmony was expressed in light and sound working together mainly, one installation in particular showed it in a more inclusive and multicultural sense. ‘Liverpool Love of My Life’ was the artist’s homage to Liverpool and a celebration of her Hindu-Punjabi heritage – just in time for Dawali. It featured a series of neon line-drawings depicting the story of Rāmāyana, one of the key Sanskrit epics of ancient India and an important text of Hinduism. The epic is triumphant in nature; a celebration of overcoming life’s hardships. This is certainly a message that can resonate with us all – especially in the times we’re living in! Displayed in pride of place on the front of the Town Hall, the installation captured all our hearts as a result of its thoughtfulness.

Left picture is by the Photography Society; right column is by Martha Sutcliffe

‘The Pool’

By Jen Lewin

Then we have ‘The Pool’. If you managed to take pictures of the display without blurry legs of children running from platform to platform making an appearance, you deserve a medal! The interactive piece was located on top of Liverpool ONE at Chavasse Park. In promoting community engagement, people and technology had to work together in harmony for it to come to life; with motion-detecting sensors triggering the LED lights when walked across. The sculpture has garnered worldwide attention over the years, travelling across Abu Dhabi, Hong Kong, Prague, New York City (and plenty of places in between!) before coming to Liverpool for this year’s River of Light festival.

‘Trumpet Flowers’

By Amigo & Amigo

Similarly, ‘Trumpet Flowers’ also featured an interactive element – its soundscape. As a result, children became composers to some rather chaotic symphonies, with lights changing to the cacophonous rhythms. These towering musical flowers made us feel tiny in comparison, with their sizes varying from 2-6 metres in height. ‘Trumpet Flowers’ set Exchange Flags Square alight with trumpets, trombones, and New Orleans-style jazz from 5-9 each night.

‘Sonic Runway’

By Rob Jensen and Warren Trezevant

Of course, winning the title of ‘Longest Display’ (not a real thing) was the ‘Sonic Runway’. The 132 metre-long technicolour tunnel was located along The Strand. Light and music moved together at the speed of sound, rippling across 25 LED arches in perfect synchronicity. If the lights themselves weren’t impressive enough, then the energy of the little kids running up and down the length of the piece as if they were on a real ‘Rainbow Road’ track from Mario Kart definitely was! 

‘Dance Together’

By Lucid Creates and Chibuku

Walking towards Canning Dock Quayside and seeing ‘Dance Together’ in the distance felt a little daunting, to be honest. If there was one installation that looked most like an alien abduction pad, then it was this! We all stood beneath the electronic pavilion in awe, trying to read the words that flashed across the display. It was captivating! Unfortunately, the words weren’t from the extra-terrestrial. Instead they were the artist’s unique expression of togetherness. The attraction brought communities into one space and united us all in a vividly strobe-centric experience. Lucid Creates collaborated with Chibuku to honour its most iconic club nights across Liverpool. The Museum of Liverpool’s Atrium then held a digital photography exhibition from October 25th to November 7th in conjunction with the piece.

Photo taken by Martha Sutcliffe

If you missed the River of Light, check out the 2021 trail here and keep it in your calendar for next year!

Visit Liverpool

Finally, a huge thanks to UoL’s Photography Society for taking some amazing pictures of this year’s River of Light! Be sure to follow them on IG for upcoming news or if you’re looking to join.