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

Lightwaves at MediaCity and Salford Quays, Manchester, 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.

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.

2021 festival details are still under wraps, but here’s a look at what we’ve loved in past editions:

A 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.

Talking to Spectrum made light and sound move across a chain of large light hoops and artist William Latham’s virtual reality headset provided an “immersive psychedelic experience”.

Youth Culture at Lightwaves
Youth Culture at Lightwaves

We headed straight to play with Kimatica Studio’s outdoor digital interactive wall and threw some shapes in front of it to create magical, illuminated versions of our bodies.

Play was the aim of the game also in Gillian Hobson’s mesmerising projections onto reflective surfaces in Mirror Stage. Opening up drawers in Megan Fell’s Colour Curiosity revealed luminous secrets within.

Returning to the Quays by popular demand were the iconic Red Squirrel sculpture, transformed by a light show when night falls, Mads Christensen’s Cathedral of Mirrors to lose yourself in and the award-winning Heart Beat which revealed the illuminated symbol of a heart when you join hands with someone else before it.

Spectrum at Lightwaves
Spectrum 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 Daleks, the Tardis and an interactive surfboard from the Blackpool Illuminations?

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

Free entry