Lightwaves at Salford Quays

Gemma Gibb, Associate Editor
Red Squirrel at Lightwaves
Image courtesy of Tom Dekyvere

Lightwaves at MediaCity and Salford Quays, Manchester, 1–4 December 2022, free entry - Visit now

This digital light festival, one of the biggest in the UK, has fast become a much-Instagrammed outdoor winter experience and very welcome fiesta to link The Quays‘ public spaces each December. This year it returns with its ninth edition, packed with illuminated works from leading artists.

The free luminous experiences include some brand new commissions and world premieres with interactivity as their core, making Manchester’s waterfront destination sparkle in all senses of the word.

Starting with the eco-conscious work by artist Diane Watson is Gardens of the Deep – a gorgeous display of 100 flowers made from discarded plastic bottles. Matthew Rosier’s Navvies headlines this year’s festival, with a moving work that focuses on the role of labourers who constructed the Manchester Ship Canal. The ambitious installation is accompanies by an orchestral composition composed by Hayley Suviste and performed by the BBC Philharmonic.

Once We Were Water by Manchester studio – idontloveyouanymore, takes inspiration from the surrounding waterways. The piece allows visitors to ‘walk’ through the waters of a digitally recreated river.

Once We Were Water (2022), idontloveyouanymore, Lightwaves


Pioneers of outdoor art – Walk the Plank – return to Lightwaves with Roost, a series of three nature-based interactive fire sculptures. You’ll also encounter a multitude of light butterflies from Anne Bennett in Butterfly Cluster, while Paul Miller’s piece MicroCosmic plays around with our perceptions and scale. That’s not all either, with even more immersive lightworks just waiting for this year’s visitors!

There are also some memorable gems that we loved from the past editions, such as the towering sculpture of a hooded youth is lit up by feeds of data streaming through it, constantly changing in response to sensors detecting nearby audience stimulation. Youth Culture by Stanza was a stonking new piece of digital art, challenging preconceptions of hooded youth by making visible the complexity of what’s within.

Youth Culture at Lightwaves
Youth Culture at Lightwaves


We love the playfulness and the mad mix of cutting edge and popular culture of Lightwaves – where else might you see a digital artwork that responds to and reveals its audience’s emotions alongside a giant heart-shaped mirror ball whilst also bringing attention to the working conditions of the Manchester Ship Canal labourers?

In a group or on your own, Lightwaves is a spot on free festival to adventure around – aglow with all the good things.

Lightwaves at MediaCity and Salford Quays, Manchester

1–4 December 2022
Free entry