Sunday, September 26, 2021

The Illuminated River Tour

Over the last few years some of the bridges of London have been lit up as part of the Illuminated River installation.

Designed by New York based artist Leo Villareal, LED lights have been installed in 9 bridges of central London from London Bridge to Lambeth, together with controlling software. It is said to be the longest public artwork in the world.

On Friday, as part of the Totally Thames Festival, there was a special Thames Clipper tour of the river with commentary from project director Chris Waite and I went along.

It was a lovely evening, warm with clear skies, and we left from Tower Pier heading up river to Lambeth Bridge and the back down again. We learnt a lot about the project, and there was a lot more details to it than you might expect, from the engineering and abseiling required to install the equipment to the environmental angles, whereby lights could not point into the water to avoid confusing the fish.

The best bit was we could take photos from the front of the Thames Clipper boat and we're not usually allowed there, plus the moon was rising over the City:

Must admit I did spend rather a long time admiring the view and not listening too closely, though I did catch a few phrases that sounded interesting such as "secret chamber within the Boudica statue" and "no one knew where the light controllers were, not even those in MI6".

The colours and pace of movement of the lights were carefully chosen. For example, the photo at the top shows Westminster and Lambeth bridges which are green and purple to reflect the colours of the benches in Westminster itself. Pedestrian bridges typically have faster moving changes than other bridges.

We went back down to Tower Bridge and then returned to Tower Pier.

I stopped to have a chat with the project director while others disembarked. We were then all a bit surprised when the Thames Clipper boat without warning let loose its lines and headed out into the river.

But all was well as we ended up getting a short ferry ride over to City Pier, which was great for me as meant I could get an earlier train home.

The good thing about this art work is its available to all, for free. Just walk along the Thames path on either side in the evening after dark and admire the bridges.

But I do recommend seeing them from one of the Thames Clipper which has by far the best view.

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