Illuminated River launches new engagement programme as artwork is revealed

Pic: Jason Hawkes

(UK) – To celebrate the completion of its nine-bridge artwork, the Illuminated River Foundation has launched a new programme of engagement activities.

Launched on 13 April, the programme will evolve throughout the year, and will support the artwork through a mixture of on-site and digital activities, with free and bookable options. The programme includes interactive art trails and guided walking tours, as well as a new phase of musical collaboration with students from the Guildhall School of Music & Drama.

Spanning from London Bridge to Lambeth Bridge, the Illuminated River artworks were created by internationally acclaimed artist Leo Villareal, with award-winning architectural practice Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands. With a minimum lifespan of ten years, it is estimated that up to 90 million people a year will see the artworks in situ along the River Thames.

The Illuminated River Foundation has also commissioned new music uniquely inspired by the artwork, the Thames and its bridges, from students at the Guildhall School of Music & 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. These will be shared in a series of releases over the coming weeks.

For example the arrangement ‘Still We Move’ by Lillian Chan, for example, explores the under-recognised contribution of the largely female workforce responsible for completing Waterloo Bridge, also known as ‘The Ladies Bridge’ during WWII. Alluding to the sentiment in Maya Angelou’s 1978 poem, ‘Still I Rise’, Chan’s commission layers female vocals with strings to emphasise a message of solidarity among women.

Free audio guides created with City of London Guides also delve deeper into the rich history of each bridge, highlighting key sites of interest along both the north and south banks of the river, and elucidating Villareal’s artistic vision.

Meanwhile, a calendar of guided tours of the Illuminated River artwork is planned throughout the coming months, with some events reserved especially for key workers. The 90-minute tours, available to book online for groups of up to six, take place on Tuesdays (for Blackfriars to Lambeth Bridge) and Fridays (from London to Millennium Bridge) and comprise a gentle evening stroll along the river accompanied by an informative professional guide.

Sarah Gaventa, Director of the Illuminated River Foundation, said: “We are delighted to be developing this programme of engagement to celebrate the completion of the next five bridges in the Illuminated River artwork.

“This launch marks the culmination of five years’ work by the Foundation, and we’re very excited to finally share it with the public. Through various collaborations with some incredible partners, we are offering a stimulating, educational and accessible calendar of activities and resources for all to enjoy.”