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Canary Wharf Winter Lights festival 2023: First look at the luminous spectacle taking over E14

 (Daniel Hambury/Stella Pictures Ltd)
(Daniel Hambury/Stella Pictures Ltd)

January is set to brighten from tomorrow as London’s largest light art festival returns for the first time in three years. The Winter Lights Festival in Canary Wharf, which is free to attend and unticketed, runs from Wednesday until Saturday January 28.

The festival is the largest of its kind in London and sees more than 20 major artworks installed throughout London’s commercial centre. Designed as an immersive trail, the luminous works coalesce around the themes of togetherness, climate change and the transfer of data in a modern world.

The festival will debut nine newly commissioned pieces, as well as exhibiting returning works, including Luke Jerram’s Floating Earth. His 10-metre wide globe aims to prompt in his audience the “Overview Effect” felt by astronauts, which signifies a deep connection to, and an awe of, the planet.

Jerram said of the piece: “My colour blindness has given me an interest in exploring the processes of perception and through this, the use of light. I’m really looking forward to seeing how Floating Earth looks at night, reflecting in the water and surrounding architecture.”

Ressurrection: Permafrost — Sleeping Giants shows three giant mammoths (Daniel Hambury/Stella Pictures Ltd)
Ressurrection: Permafrost — Sleeping Giants shows three giant mammoths (Daniel Hambury/Stella Pictures Ltd)

One other notable work will feature the seeming resurrection of three brightly illuminated giant mammoths. Permafrost — Sleeping Giants by Fisheye aims to highlight a growing concern in the fight against climate change; the use of mammoths is a nod to what Fisheye call the “sleeping giant” of climate change.

The studio explained: “Permafrost is a permanently frozen layer beneath the earth’s surface which consists of rock and soil. This phenomenon has often been referred to as the ‘sleeping giant’ of climate change. As global temperatures rise, the once always-frozen ground starts melting, exposing historical information, including DNA, microbes and ancient fossils.”

During the evenings, three Winter Light Bites food stalls will line the trail. However, for something more substantial, a number of restaurants and bars nearby are providing greater restoration. Hawksmoor (1 Water Street, E14 5GX, thehawksmoor.com) are offering a complimentary round of drinks for diners quoting “winter lights” upon booking (for up to six guests), while Boisdale (1 Cabot Square, E14 4QT, boisdale.co.uk) will serve a two course, £19.50 menu from 5pm-7pm during the festival.

Canary Wharf’s arts and events manager told the Standard: “The bright lights of Canary Wharf are already a spectacle after dark, but the Winter Lights festival transforms it into something spectacular and unique in London. We’re excited to be able to bring the world’s leading and most innovative light artists together again for our biggest show yet.”

A downloadable map of the full Winter Lights trail can be found here, and details of all the food and drink offers during the course of the festival can be viewed here.

The full list of artists, installations and locations are as below:

  1. bit.fall, Julius Popp, Chancellor’s Passage by Middle Dock

  2. The Clew, Ottotto, Cubitt Steps

  3. PING, Gijs Van Bon, Westferry Circus

  4. Permafrost - Sleeping Giants, Fisheye, Canary Riverside

  5. Continuum, Illumaphonium, Cabot Square

  6. The Stars Come Out at Night, Stellar Projects, Wren Landing

  7. Captivated by Colour, Camille Walala, Adams Plaza Bridge

  8. Intonaluci (The Light Snails), Calidos, Crossrail Place roof garden

  9. Fragmented Appearances, Gertjan Adema, Crossrail Place roof garden

  10. We Could Meet, Martin Richman, Crossrail Place -1 Quayside

  11. Elantica “The Boulder”, Tom and Lien Dekyvere, Crossrail Place -1 Quayside

  12. You Exist, Here Now, Fandangoe Kid, Crossrail Place -3

  13. In[visible], Daniel Popescu, Crossrail Place -3

  14. Out of the Dark, Tom Lambert, Crossrail Place -1 Quayside

  15. Glories, Richard William Wheater, Water Street

  16. Anima, Master in Ephemeral Architecture and Temporary Spaces (MEATS), Water Street

  17. Toroid, This is Loop, Union Square

  18. Lightbenches, LBO Lichtbank, Union Square

  19. Emergence, This is Loop, Montgomery Square

  20. Florescent firs, Jubilee Par

  21. Crystal Greenhouse, Shared Space and Light, Jubilee Park

  22. Floating Earth, Luke Jerram, Middle Dock

Canary Wharf Winter Lights Festival runs from Janaury 18—28 across Canary Wharf. For more information, visit canarywharf.com