Speed of Light Salford

Salford Quays, Manchester. 21 - 23 March 2013.

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Speed of Light brought The Salford Quays to life with hundreds of runners illuminating the bridges and public spaces, attracting over 8,000 people to witness the mesmeric patterns of light they created.

A centrepiece of the Edinburgh International Festival and recently staged in the docklands of Yokohama in Japan, the night-time work combines light, intentional movement and sound, changing the way we perceive about a chosen environment.

Hundreds of runners in specially commissioned LED light suits animated beautiful, choreographed patterns of light flowing through key parts of The Quays including canal banks, bridges and public spaces including The Lowry, the Imperial War Museum North, MediaCityUK and BBC North.

“As a spectator, I thought it was beautiful, thought provoking and also very special to see a community spirit amongst the runners and audience.”

The performance was free and non-ticketed for the public, and over 8,000 people from Greater Manchester and beyond came to witness abstract art written on the grandest scale: a work simultaneously monumental and intimate.

Runner places for Speed of Light Salford sold out in 48 hours, and a total of 620 people participated collectively making and producing the final animation.  Runners covered approximately 7km in sub-zero temperatures and created complex choreography led by Sharon Watson and Charis Charles from Phoenix Dance Theatre who both went on to collaborate with us on Ghost Peloton in 2014.  A wealth of amateur and professional photographers and filmmakers got involved in the mass documentation of Speed of Light which also attracted a wide range of media coverage including a feature on the BBC’s legendary Blue Peter.

Speed of Light Salford was commissioned by Quays Culture, a new arts programme based at Quays/MediaCityUK, which aims to attract local and international talent to Greater Manchester.

The Quays

The Quays is Greater Manchester’s waterfront, joining Manchester City, Salford and Trafford and for almost 90 years this area was an industrious shipping canal dockland. Following the closure of the docks in 1982 and a major regeneration process, The Quays are now home to iconic buildings such as The Lowry, Imperial War Museum North, and the BBC North development.

“…when we send our first lines of illuminated runners out and the public realm lighting is turned off, a subtle alchemy takes place: the hard urban nightscape begins to show signs of life.”

– Angus Farquhar, Creative Director

NVA's Speed of Light Salford. Photo: McAteer Photograph


As part of a wider programme for Speed of Light Salford, NVA’s Creative Director Angus Farquhar took part in an artist talk and Q&A session titled New Canvas as part of FutureEverything, which brought together artists and engineers who critically redefine our use of canvases and the role of the creative tool maker.

New Canvas_FutureEverything_Salford_1

Blue Peter

Blue Peter, the world’s longest running children’s TV show, joined Speed of Light Salford with presenters Helen Skelton and Barney Harwood looking at both the running and technology involved in the project. Helen took part as a runner, wearing an LED light suit and joining the choreography around The Quays, while Barney got involved in the technical side, assisting with lighting cues. The Speed of Light feature was aired in April 2013.


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