26 January 2021

Lighting Up London Lockdown at Connected by Light, Canary Wharf

Although London is in lockdown for the foreseeable, we are at least still allowed to go out for exercise once per day and despite the cold, grey weather, I've been going for a walk, run or cycle ride every day. Well, as I'm still a fair-weather cyclist, I've mainly been walking and running, which does limit the places within a reasonable distance. Much as I love running west along the river from Tower Bridge, close to where I live, I have done the same loop about 150 times in the past year and so I've been looking for some other options.

Connected by Light, a collection of outdoor light installations dotted around Canary Wharf, provided the variety I was looking for. There was a similar event last January, where I got to test out my new camera (ahead of all the travelling I was expecting to do last year). Even in those beforetimes, it felt really crowded during my visit, and thankfully, this year the organisers have made sure that all of the installations can be enjoyed from a safe distance.

It took me about 45 minutes to walk to Canary Wharf. I arrived about an hour after sunset to make sure it was dark enough to enjoy the installations properly. It was also really cold, and there weren't too many other people out and about which made it easy to comply with physical distancing requirements. I arrived via Limehouse and started my exploration of Connected by Light at Westferry Circus, which was a good spot for viewing both the colourful geometry of Mandylights' Tetra Park and the rainbow stripes of Hawthorn's Newfoundland Reflections (the titular reflections appear in Middle Dock, around the other side).

I then followed quite a logical route around Canary Wharf, taking in most of the installations; there are also a few permanent installations that aren't specific to Connected by Light. Even in normal times, I liked strolling around Canary Wharf by night and at the weekend — maybe it reminds me of Manhattan, or maybe it's the contrast of huge-capacity buildings and no one around at street level.

One of my favourite installations was Colour Cubed, also by Mandylights, which is just off Cabot Square. After photographing it from pretty much every angle, I made my way to the Crossrail roof garden, via the rather funkily designed tunnel. 

Curious Fluoriuous by Baker & Borowski turns the rooftop garden into a fluorescent, Alice-in-Wonderland-inspired tea party, with neon chess pieces, playing cards, flamingoes and, of course, tea. This might be a fun installation if you're visiting with children.

After a quick pass by Hawthorn's Neon Tree, I crossed into Montgomery Square to see another of my favourites, Mumuration by Squidsoup, a series of orbs that light up, change colour and emit music in ever-changing patterns. It was quite mesmerising to watch. 

I couldn't find Elisa Artesero's The Stories Under Our Feet in Jubilee Park (yes, I did look under my feet!) but I did enjoy the colourful lights in the gently streaming water features in the park. Walking back to Westferry Circus, I found Newfound Reflections again from Middle Dock, which also featured Ghost Trees by Tom Wilkinson. I realised then that I'd missed Parker Heyl's Office Party, but I was getting cold and with I a bit of a walk home in the dark ahead of me, I decided to press on instead.

Connected by Light is on until 27 February, so you have a month to visit if you are in the area and looking for something fun to do on your daily exercise. You can download a map and guide to the installations here.

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