Public projects supported by Illuminated River

Illuminated River focuses attention on the rich heritage of the Thames bridges and the river's ecologies and is encouraging more people to spend time outdoors in riverside areas.

The Foundation has proactively worked with a range of stakeholders, residents, communities and special interest groups to develop a broad programme of public events and activities for people of all ages. We are delighted to have supported and delivered history walks, boat tours, musical performances, audio described tours, short films and many more projects, inspired by Illuminated River.

Here are some examples of initiatives that have been funded by the Illuminated River Foundation so far:

Vocaleyes audio-descriptions of the phase one bridges

We are very pleased to have partnered with sight loss charity VocalEyes to produce audio descriptions of the Illuminated River artwork, which can be downloaded for free via Soundcloud. Paired with original music scores inspired by the Illuminated River bridges from the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, the audio described tour enables visually impaired people to sensorially engage with and individually respond to the artwork.

Glen, a London-based, visually impaired accessibility advocate and blogger behind ‘Well Eye Never’, documented his visit to the Illuminated River artwork on his Youtube channel and provided a glowing review of the audio described tour on his blog.

‘We’re proud to have worked with Illuminated River project, that is not only helping open up the Thames for blind and visually impaired people but has also set a new standard for accessibility for public art projects. Their sensitive commission has resulted in a series ofaudio-descriptive narratives that draw on the rich social histories and engineering feats of each bridge and evoke the atmospheres of the dynamic artwork. Woven in are musical compositions by students at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, created in response to the bridges and the artwork.’ Matthew Cock, CEO VocalEyes.

New music for the Illuminated River bridges by students from the Guildhall School of Music & Drama

New music inspired by the unique heritage and architecture of the Illuminated River bridges and Leo Villareal’s artwork has been composed and produced by students from the Guildhall School of Music & Drama. From sweeping orchestral scores to minimalist electronic pieces, Illuminated River commissioned the new bridges music to mark the illumination of the first four bridges in July 2019.

The collaboration culminated in two concerts: a free public concert at The Scoop with over 300 attendees and a ticketed performance at Milton Court featuring the Guildhall Session Orchestra.

Public performance of the new bridges music at The Scoop

We are delighted to be continuing our musical collaboration in 2021, with new compositions being produced by GSMD students in response to Blackfriars, Waterloo, Golden Jubilee, Westminster and Lambeth bridges, due to be released later this year.

You can listen to the full set of new music for the Illuminated River bridges for free via Soundcloud.

‘Illuminated River presented an incredible opportunity to collaborate on a truly unique, world-class International artistic project. Our composers, inspired by the themes of the project, were able to achieve stunning results with Guildhall Session Orchestra and their work continues to reach the ears of thousands of people across London’. Mike Roberts, Head of Electronic & Produced Music, Guildhall School of Music & Drama.

Sketching Southwark Bridge with architect Benedict O'Looney

As part of Totally Thames Festival’s online programme in 2020, we commissioned an instructional video featuring architect Benedict O’Looney to encourage people to discover new drawing techniques for interpreting London’s bridges.

Whilst sketching on the Southbank of the Thames, Benedict explores the architectural history of Southwark Bridge (completed in 1921) and explains the role of its architect, Sir Ernest George, in the Beaux-Arts transformation of central London.

BFI: London's Bridges on Film

People from across the UK can learn about the history of bridges from the British Film Institute through our specially curated collaboration, Illuminated River × BFI: London’s Bridges on Film. With films dating back to 1896, the collection celebrates over 100 years of life of the Thames, capturing the daily interaction of Londoners at work and play while showcasing the architecture of the bridges.

The free online collection of films from the BFI National Archive can be viewed here.

Illuminated River Audio Guide

Our free audio guide and map of the first four bridges delves into the rich history of London, Cannon Street, Southwark and Millennium bridges and highlights key sites of interest along the south bank, including Shakespeare's Globe, Southwark Cathedral and the Anchor Pub.

The audio guide is narrated by City of London Guide, Stephen Benton. It lasts 25 minutes, starting next to Tate Modern and ending nearby London Bridge.

We are partnering with the City of London and Westminster Guides for a second time to produce an audio guide for the next five bridges in Spring 2021.

NHS Walking Tours

As a response to the pandemic, Illuminated River organised free, socially distanced, walking tours for NHS workers at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital. The programme will be expanded in 2021 for other key workers as social distancing restrictions are lifted. The walks have been cheerily led by the City of London Guides.

We have also run over 45 free walking tours of the project in collaboration with the City of London Guides, for members of the public, since the illumination of the first four bridges in July 2019. You can read about the Guides' experience of leading the tours here.

Lighting London Research Project

Illuminated River instigated a new research project with Centre for London, ‘Lighting London', with partners GLA, City of London Corporation and Cross River Partnership, which explores how councils, developers and landlords can make London’s streets and public spaces more inviting and interesting while reducing the city’s carbon footprint. The findings from this review into London’s public lighting approaches will be shared in March 2021.

Peter’s Hill (left – before, right – after). Following the City of London Lighting Strategy in 2018, the City have reduced the scale of lighting at Peter’s Hill, introducing lighting at ground level as well as warmer, lower lighting levels. Image: City of London Corporation.

'Relatively little thought goes into the way London looks and feels at night. Yet lighting has a huge impact on us, on our evening and night-time activities, on people who work at night, and even inside our homes from streetlights. With Londoners set to spend more time outside than ever as we head into autumn, now is an exciting opportunity to help policymakers develop a stronger and coordinated city-wide approach to lighting.' Ben Rogers, Former Director of Centre for London.
'Whilst researching the high luminance levels and light pollution along the banks of the Thames for our own Illuminated River project we were struck by the lack of both information and a coordinated approach to sustainably lighting our city. We felt there was an opportunity to bring together those with responsibilities, expertise and interests in this area to look at how we might collaborate and share our learning to create a more attractive sustainable and safe nightscape for London and approached Centre for London to develop a project.' Sarah Gaventa, Director of the Illuminated River Foundation.

Illuminated River Boat Tours in partnership with Thames Clippers

Since there is currently no free, accessible way to enjoy being on the river, the Foundation have subsidised over 20 low price Illuminated River boat tours in partnership with Thames Clippers. The tours have been led by a range of project team members, including Alex Lifschutz, Director of Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands (as part of Open City 2019), and Ciron Edwards, Community Engagement Lead from Iceni Projects. We have also collaborated with key project partners to deliver boat tours, including Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive of Historic England and The City of London Guides, who have provided historical insight into the Thames and its bridges.

In July 2019, we ran a free community boat tour in partnership with the Zoological Society of London to introduce local residents to the Illuminated River artwork and the Thames flora and fauna. Experts from ZSL gave an interactive talk about the ecological life of the Thames wildlife super highway, often overlooked and rarely seen.

Moonlight Mudlarking with Steve Brooker

As part of Totally Thames Festival 2019, Steve Brooker - Mud God and Foreshore Pirate – led a special mudlarking expedition on the nights of September 28th and 29th, the lowest tides of the year.

Image: Milo Robinson

The night mudlarking was held outside the Globe Theatre on the foreshore, with head torches and the new illuminated artworks on Southwark and Millennium bridges serving as visual aids!

Image: Milo Robinson

Illuminated River Late with Artist Leo Villareal

In November 2019, the Foundation presented a talk by Leo Villareal at Southwark Cathedral, celebrating the completion of the first phase of Illuminated River.

Following a special introduction by the Dean of Southwark Cathedral, Andrew Nunn, who blessed the Illuminated River project in July 2019, Leo also shared plans for the next phase of the project and its intended legacy for London.

A limited number of tickets were made available for a guided walk of the first four bridges by key members of the Illuminated River Project Team. This was a unique opportunity to learn about the project in situ through the expertise of the architects and lighting designers who have helped deliver this major artwork for London.