Thursday 23rd – Saturday 25th September 2021
Illuminated River on Waterloo Bridge © James Newton
To celebrate the completion of Illuminated River, the longest public artwork in the world, the Illuminated River Foundation has curated an exciting three-nights programme of events. Taking place from Thursday 23rd to Saturday 25th September, the series forms part of 2021’s Totally Thames Festival.

Illuminated River is a monumental public art project that encourages Londoners and visitors alike to reconnect with the Thames and its bridges. It is free to view, open air and on display every evening from sunset until 2.00am. Artist Leo Villareal’s subtly moving sequences of LED lights now illuminate nine of central London’s Thames bridges, from London to Lambeth Bridge.

The long-term art installation was unveiled in its entirety in Spring 2021, with Lambeth, Westminster, Golden Jubilee, Waterloo and Blackfriars Road Bridges joining Millennium, Southwark, Cannon Street and London Bridges, which were illuminated in July 2019. This September’s events programme is the first opportunity for the public to gather together and celebrate the five new bridges illuminated earlier this year, marking the completion of this new artwork for London – and the Thames that flows beneath it.

On Thursday 23rd September, Leo Villareal will programme a celebratory display, modifying the lighting for one night only across all nine Illuminated River bridges. The special display will encompass the Thames landmark of the London Eye – lit in a one-off occasion with an Illuminated River colour scheme.

With the aim of reconnecting Londoners and visitors with the Thames and its bridges, the Foundation has worked with a host of organisations to create a bespoke Totally Thames programme of free and low-cost events. Collaborations include a ‘Penny Lecture’ and nighttime photography workshop with Morley College; a boat tour led by Illuminated River’s architects Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands with Uber Boat by Thames Clippers; and a heritage walking tour of the Thames with Black History Walks.

Programme in detail:

‘How to Be Brilliant’ – Illuminated River talk in collaboration with the Institution of Lighting Professionals
Friday 24th September 1.00pm, online

A virtual lunchtime talk with Illuminated River lighting design and environmental engineering consultants Atelier Ten. Jonathan Gittins and Elga Neimann will reveal how their pioneering luminance surveys informed the project’s achievement in reducing direct light spill onto the Thames for the benefit of its ecology.

Register here:

Photography Workshop: Using your mobile phone to capture nighttime photos
Friday 24 September 7.00–9.00pm, Waterloo Centre, Morley College

This photography workshop run by Morley College provides practical insight into taking high-quality pictures at night using a smartphone camera. Participants will try out their new-found skills with a visit to the Thames to capture the essence of Leo Villareal’s kinetic light artwork.

Booking information here:

Night Sketching with The Wapping Group of Artists
Friday 24 September 7.30–9.30pm, The Pier Bar

The Wapping Group of Artists has been painting the Thames for over 70 years. In this special skills-sharing session, participants will learn how to encapsulate the Impressionist shades of the Illuminated River artwork against the river’s inky darkness. The event will be hosted in the indoor environment of the new Pier Bar, which boasts panoramic views of the Thames bridges and unparalleled sightlines of Waterloo and Golden Jubilee Bridges.

Booking information will be updated on the Totally Thames website in September:

Penny Lecture by the Illuminated River Foundation
Saturday 25 September 6.30pm, Morley College

The Illuminated River Foundation will discuss Leo Villareal’s artistic vision for the Illuminated River bridges and the inspirations behind it.

Morley College’s Penny Lecture series began in 1882 at the Old Vic Theatre in Waterloo with the aim of widening access to new thinking and ideas. Admission was just a penny, and the historic popularity of the lectures led to the establishment of Morley Memorial College for Working Men and Women.

Booking information will be updated on the Totally Thames website in September:

Black History Walks: Bridges Edition
Saturday 25 September 7.30pm, Southbank Centre

This walking tour along the Southbank is an opportunity to learn more about African and Caribbean history and the Thames. The Founder of Black History Walks, Tony Warner, will shed light on Ancient Africa, the civil rights movement in Britain, apartheid, black music, inventors, suffragettes, heroes of World War II, movies and more. Focusing on Waterloo and Westminster Bridges, the tour engages with London’s rich history in sight of the new Illuminated River artwork.

Booking information:

Illuminated River Walking Tours led by City of London and Westminster Guides
Friday 25 and Saturday 26 September 7.30pm, Blackfriars Station

A gentle evening stroll along the Thames led by official guides to the City of London and Westminster. Experienced guides will share stories about the project, its artistic vision and the historic bridges that make up Illuminated River. All walks last around 90 minutes and begin inside the north bank entrance of Blackfriars Station.

Guides are accredited by the Institute of Tourist Guiding.

Illuminated River Walking Tour: London to Millennium Bridges – Friday 24 September 7.30pm

Booking information here:

Illuminated River Walking Tour: Blackfriars to Lambeth Bridges – Saturday 25 September 7.30pm

Booking information here:

Illuminated River Boat Tours in partnership with Uber Boat by Thames Clippers
Friday 25 and Saturday 26 September 9.30pm, Tower Millennium Pier
To enhance access to the artwork for the benefit of local communities, throughout Autumn and Winter 2021 Illuminated River is subsidising low-cost boat tours in partnership with Uber Boats by Thames Clippers. Departing from Tower Millennium Pier, the tours offer the opportunity to sail beneath all nine Illuminated River bridges to see the artwork and bridge structures up close.

Two special boat tours are offered during the three-night programme:

Architectural Boat Tour with Illuminated River architects Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands
Friday 24 September, 9.30–10.20pm

Chris Waite, Director at Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands Architects, will reveal the technical challenges involved in realising the world’s longest public artwork. From negotiating one of the most complicated planning applications processes in London’s history to working around newly hatched goslings, Waite’s narration will give a first-hand insight into what it takes to deliver an art project at monumental scale.

£12.50 per adult / £8.50 children 5-15yrs / concession

Book here:

Illuminated River Boat Tour led by the City of London and Westminster Guides
Saturday 25 September 9.30–10.20pm

The City of London and Westminster Guides will take passengers on a journey through time, delving deep into the heritage of the great landmark Thames bridges that stand at the very heart of the story of London.

£12.50 per adult / £8.50 children 5-15yrs / concession.

Book here:

Regular Illuminated River Official Boat Tours in partnership with Uber Boat by Thames Clippers and led by the City of London and Westminster Guides will resume on Thursday 2 September. The boat tours were postponed at the onset of the pandemic, but they will be returning this summer on Thursday and Saturday evenings at 9.30pm, running throughout Autumn/Winter 2021 and beyond.

Book here:

November 2023 issue

2023 A1 Buyers Guide