Illuminated River

The lighting of Blackfriars Road, Waterloo, Golden Jubilee, Westminster and Lambeth Bridges extends the transformation of central London, creating the worlds longest public art commission which will be seen by 90 million people a year. The artwork was designed by New York based artist Leo Villareal and was officially switched on on the 13 April extending across nine bridges from London to Lambeth.

The Illuminated River installations are powered with environmentally conscious light and encourages Londoners to walk along the Thames, pause and take in the beauty of their city. In a difficult time, the artwork is a resilient symbol of London as a uniquely innovative world capital.

The Illuminated Blackfriars Bridge ©James Newton

To celebrate the completion, The Illuminated River Foundation has launched a new and exciting programme of engagement activities to mark the completion of its nine-bridge artwork. Featuring a mix of on-site and digital activities, with free and bookable options, the programme includes interactive art trails and informative guided walking tours, and a new phase of musical collaboration with students from the Guildhall School of Music & Drama.

New music for all

The Illuminated River Foundation has commissioned new music uniquely inspired by the artwork, the Thames and its bridges from students at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. In this second iteration of the collaboration, dozens of original music compositions, each focusing on a specific bridge, have been created to celebrate the artwork as well as the social history behind the structures. They will be shared in a series of releases over the coming weeks.

Free self-guided audio tours

Free audio guides created with City of London Guides delve deep into the rich histories behind the bridges, highlighting key sites of interest along the north and south banks of the river and elucidating Leo Villareal’s artistic vision. The commentaries explore the fascinating history of the Thames – from swan upping to frost fairs – with the full nine-bridge walk taking up to two hours. Visitors can also devise their own mini routes making use of audio stops and a downloadable map.

Also available to download for free are descriptive audio guides made in collaboration with VocalEyes – a charity supporting blind and partially sighted people to enjoy arts and heritage experiences. A second group of audio guides is being prepared for the additional five bridges, offering sight-impaired visitors an alternative method of engaging with Illuminated River, and augmenting the experience for everyone. The VocalEyes tracks will evoke the atmosphere of the artwork, interweaving descriptions of each bridge with rich stories of social histories, architecture and engineering feats.

Downloadable fact packs for adults and children

Informative and educational resources available online for viewers of all ages include a historical fact pact with a fun and informative quiz to accompany people on their visit to Illuminated River. In addition, a downloadable ‘kids pack’ offers plenty of things to see and do for younger audiences. Activities can be done either from home or on site, engaging children with the light artwork and the historical context of the Thames while offering colouring-in opportunities, quick facts and things to look out for at different points along the river – from the ‘pineapples’ of Lambeth Bridge to the ‘chewing gum’ drawings on the deck of Millennium Bridge.

Guided tours and events

A calendar of guided tours of the Illuminated River artwork is planned throughout the Spring and Summer months, with some events reserved especially for key workers. Free tours of the artwork from Blackfriars to Lambeth Bridges led by City of London and Westminster guides start on 20 April and are now bookable online. The 90-minute tours with a maximum group size of six take place on Tuesdays and comprise a gentle evening stroll along the river accompanied by an informative professional guide. An alternative programme of tours from London to Millennium Bridges on Friday evenings, led by Official Guides to the City of London, starts on 23 April and is also available to book online (prices start from £8).