I know the year is well and truly underway when once again it is time to wrap up warm and head out into the night at Canary Wharf for Winter Lights. Now in its fifth year this celebration of all things light has, like so much of the Wharf’s Arts and Events scene, embedded itself in my annual calendar.
The arrival of‘ Sasha Trees’ in Westferry Circus early in the new year reminded us that Winter Lights was on the way. The appearance of neon firs so soon after Christmas was a welcome festive reminder – and provided a taster of what was to come. The environment and our relationship with it are the underlying themes of this year’s ‘Lights’. Referenced in a number of installations utilising movement and sound to encourage reflection not only on our planet and the impact of our actions upon it, but also consideration of our responsibilities to the other life we share it with.
‘Whale Ghost’ (Cubitt Steps) is an emotionally haunting work. A skeletal frame and whale song soundtrack portray a simultaneous power and vulnerability. As the (I presume) life-size undulating Whale skeleton ‘swims’ alone above us we wonder whether this is the last Whale?
Whale Ghost – Cubitt Steps
‘The Last Parade’ (Crossrail Place) is unobtrusive, located as it is ‘on the shore’ of the water feature below. It would – just about – be possible to pass by and not notice it and I suspect this is partly the point. This is an engaging and atmospheric work both because of the evocative soundtrack of animal calls, and the random and sometimes surprising nature of what comes next – as in nature itself. I found myself viewing this next to a lady out walking her dog. I’m not sure who was more enthralled – us or the dog – as he struggled to comprehend these creatures and their sounds, appearing and then fading. The Last Parade reminds us of both the dangers of complacency and that time is running out – as some of these animals fade away for what may be the last time.
The Last Parade – Crossrail Place
‘Plastic’ and ‘waste’ were the environmental concerns of 2018. Nowhere are these more evident than in ‘Recyclism’ – a new platform for artists with a concern for the environment. The futuristic worlds exhibited are built entirely from waste materials including old electronics and packaging. Headsets are available as you enter Recyclism and bring colonies on Mars and other imagined worlds to life sufficiently that we are experiencing a future slightly more believable than science fiction.
Recycled Future – from Recyclism
Submergence (Montgomery Square) – the largest version of this work ever shown – with 24,000 individual lights and the opportunity to immerse oneself – literally inside the installation – will I imagine, be the Instagram hit of the 2019 ‘Lights’.
Submergence – Montgomery Square
The Canary Wharf estate is constantly growing and evolving and once again this Winter Lights utilises an area of the Wharf ‘under construction’ – namely ‘Two Hearts’ projected onto Newfoundland Place (viewed from Cubitt Steps). This is probably the largest of the installations – and one of the most prominent. Though for sheer ethereal eeriness 2018’s use of the then uninhabited, Level -3 at Crossrail Place is hard to beat.
As in previous years part of the Wharf’s substantial permanent outdoor at collection – ‘We Should Meet’ (Crossrail Place), ‘Lightbench’ (Canada Square Park), and ‘BIT.Fall’ (Chancellors Passage) – is included. Although not ‘officially’ an installation, the Cabot Square fountains – featuring lights and movement synchronised to music – have a Las Vegas-esque quality about them – complete with a movie theme soundtrack – and as ever the stunning backdrop of One Canada Square.
Finally, another regular – the simply beautiful ‘Angel’s of Freedom’ – also returned this year. Always popular (who doesn’t love an Angel?) and what a great selfie backdrop. The underlying sentiment – ‘everyone can become an Angel in their own way’ – has obvious appeal – not least when our planet needs us all to be guardian angels now more than ever.
Angels of Freedom – various locations
all text and images – © Later Than You Think
Canary Wharf Winter Lights 2019 – on now until Saturday 26th January.
Downland a map and brochure from
Canary Wharf Arts and Events