We’ve begun testing the recommendations from the Citizens’ Assembly, Art for the People. One evening recently, we went down to the canal towpath with Ludic Rooms to play around with lights and see whether (temporarily at least) lighting might be used to make the route feel a bit safer. The recommendation ‘Lighter & Brighter’ reads:

We recommend adding bright, beautifully designed and environmentally considerate lighting to dark places across the city, to make us feel safer and improve the night-time economy;
residents to choose the places by actively asking them;

– local people to co-design with creatives and lighting professionals;
– think about car parks, bus stops, subways;
– sensors that are activated as you walk to light the floor and art light boxes at bus stops;
– use of colourful lights that also takes into consideration people with disabilities;
– light colour paint on walls.

So, armed with a load of lighting equipment and plenty of hot drinks and cake, we headed to Bridge 6 (by the Gallagher Retail Park). We rigged up some lights, chatted to passers by and took plenty of photos. Bridge number 6 was recommended by one of our Citizens as a place where the darkness makes the path inaccessible and, as it got darker, we totally understood.

The ‘street lights’ on the towpath are bright, there is good visibility, but under this (rather low) bridge it is pitch black – and that is made darker by the fact that the towpath on either side is relatively bright. When the canal towpath art trail was made, Bridge number 6 actually had a lighting artwork underneath it – so we aren’t the first people to think about this by any means.

As is often the way, public artworks are expected to last forever with no maintenance budget – we thought quite a lot about this, and about how lights sited here might be powered in an environmentally sensitive way: using renewable power. But, we also we don’t know whether bridges or trees by the canal might be bat or bird roosts, for example, and what havoc bright or ‘always on’ lighting might have on these, or other, creatures living nearby. If we were designing a permanent scheme, we would have to consider how to balance their needs with people’s need to feel safe.

For now we are happy to test things out, take some photos and chat to people to find out what they think. You can see some photos of our evening of experiments below – and if there are areas or routes near where you live or work that you think would potentially be much improved by some creative lighting and you fancy a chat about it – please let us know…

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