River of Light 2023: We were there on opening night to give you a first look and speak to the artists

Liverpool’s annual River of Light festival  makes its return to the city centre for 2023
Liverpool’s annual River of Light festival makes its return to the city centre for 2023

Liverpool’s annual River of Light festival has returned for 2023, showcasing illuminated art installations created by innovative artists from across the world.

Following on from last year’s huge success, which welcomed 250,000 visitors and brought in around £6m to the local economy, 12 artworks will light up Liverpool Waterfront each night from 5pm to 9pm, until November 5.

LiverpoolWorld was there on the opening night to speak to the artists and to give you a first look at the illuminated installations. You can watch the video above for our full feature on this year’s event.

River of Light 2023. Image: Emily Bonner
River of Light 2023. Image: Emily Bonner

The 2023 theme is United By Light – inspired by the United By Music strapline used when Liverpool was the host city for what is regarded as the most successful Eurovision Song Contest ever.

Zara Pasfield from Atelier Sisu who have four pieces of artwork on display said: “Joy is such an important part of the every day, and we hope each of these pieces the audience will stumble upon. Something that we really focus on through Atelier Sisu is the idea of the democratisation of art so bringing art out of the galleries and into the urban fabric of the city. It should be part of the every day and that’s what something like River of Light does and it’s so fantastic.”

Rachel from Amigo & Amigo, who have two installations, said: “It’s really important that people get the opportunity to come out and about and explore the city. Maybe take a little bit more time meandering around the areas that they would usually breeze through and get really immersed. Especially coming into winter months where people might hole up in their houses. For a free event it’s incredible.”

- River of Light 2023 full guide.

River of Light 2023: Labyrinth by Atelier Sisu
River of Light 2023: Labyrinth by Atelier Sisu

Full list of installations at River of Light 2023

  • Emergence – This stunning installation has a meditative quality, focusing on the mood-altering power of light and sound with visitors being encouraged to explore the three-by-ten metre pavilion which is made up of mirrors and more than 10,000 LED lights. It will reflect its surroundings and a choreographed light show will be accompanied by a captivating soundtrack.  The work has been created by globally acclaimed artists This is Loop.

  • Lampshades Bouquet – French artistic studio TILT have been inspired by everyday objects – giving them a twist of humour and poetry. Expect gigantic outdoor versions of a household lamp, curated in a very special way which will light up in a variety of coloursA bench at each bouquet’s base makes it the most unique location to take the weight off!

  • Elysian and Elysian Arcs –These two never-before-seen commissions will premiere at this year’s festival courtesy of Sydney-based design studio Atelier Sisu. Encouraging people to find joy in the everyday, a giant inflatable creation will allow people to walk around and through it as colour reacts to light and form. Liverpool-based award-winning composer John McHugh has been chosen by Atelier Sisu to produce a brand new soundscape for both the Elysian art works.

  • United By Music – New York based design firm Yellow Studio – founded by Julio Himede – will bring its 10-metre round, multi-purpose performance space to River of Light for its debut, paying tribute to the music of Eurovision 2023 and promising a one-of-a-kind experience for all who attend. With a soundtrack including six songs from this year’s competition, it’s set to be a huge hit with visitors.

  • Ukrainian Dreams –  This brand new commission will see the vivid and wildly imaginative works of one of Ukraine’s best loved artists Tais Poda and RocknLight brought to life in an audio-visual spectacle. It will express the hope and pride of Ukraine through the wonderful work of Maria Prymacenko. Composer Dmytro Saratskyi has provided an original Ukrainian folk score to accompany the piece. This artwork has been co-produced with and part funded by Arts Council England and Royal Albert Dock Liverpool.

  • Our Beating Heart – Art and design collective Studio Vertigo are bringing back ‘Our Beating Heart’ which glistened at Liverpool Town Hall during Eurovision. The heart shaped mirror ball will be returning with a spectacular dancing light show for the beautiful shimmering sight.

  • NOVA – Another Studio Vertigo piece, NOVA is based around a transient astronomical event which causes a star to quickly increase the strength of light it emits. Visitors will feel like they’re experiencing a ‘new’ star – mighty and dazzling.

  • Night Whisper – Sydney based art studio Amigo & Amigo are back for River of Light with European premiere, Night Whisper – a piece inspired by the dynamic movement of moths around light. Featuring a giant luminescent light bulb with multiple moths suspended in the light.

  • GLOW – This world premiere is the second installation by Amigo & Amigo and features a giant interactive light installation inspired by the cycles of the moon, with over 40 different sounds and animations, the audience is invited to move and play throughout.

  • Florescentia – From the Latin word for ‘blossoming’, Florescentia is inspired by the phenomenal natural transformations found in the biology of plant life and is created by Australian artists Atelier Sisu. The piece incorporates movement, light and a soundscape illustrating the blend of the mechanical and the natural composed by Miles Nicholas.

  • Labyrinth – This modular colourful Art-chitecture and temporary playground is driven by an exploration of the golden ratio and its connection to the Fibonacci sequence, once again created by Atelier Sisu. Each module of Labyrinth is positioned to create a unique colourful and immersive experience for audiences.

The popularity of last year’s event was felt across the city centre with footfall up, and restaurants, bars and shops reporting a boost in sales. Liverpool ONE welcomed 1.7million visitors to their stores during the event period – a 27% increase in footfall compared to the same period in 2021 - and overall sales were up 5 per cent

Liverpool BID Company also reported a significant increase in Church Street footfall day-on-day, in comparison with 2019 – weekdays experienced an increase of nearly 70%, and at weekends it was up by 42%.

River of Light will run until Sunday, 5 November.