River of Light attracts 250,000 people

A quarter of a million people flocked to Liverpool for the 17-day River of Light festival, boosting trade at city centre businesses. Tony McDonough reports

River of Light
River of Light 2022 attracted 250,000 people to Liverpool


Record numbers of people flocked to Liverpool’s River of Light festival, offering a boost in trade for city centre businesses.

Running for 17 days from October 21 to November 6, River of Light saw 250,000 people travel along the 2km-long route. It offered 10 large-scale artworks – a mix of world premiere commissions alongside pieces not showcased in Liverpool before.

It coincided with the World Gymnastics Championships 2022 also taking place in Liverpool. And the impact saw a surge in footfall with restaurants, bars and shops reporting a rise in sales.

Retail and leisure complex Liverpool ONE reported a 27% increase in footfall from 5pm each evening compared to the same period in 2021. During the 17 days stores at the complex welcomed 1.7m visitors – a 6% increase. Early indications suggest a rise in sales of at least 5%.

October half-term week was the busiest week of the year to date at Liverpool ONE. Post 5pm footfall was up 89% during the half-term week, with retail store visits up 37%and restaurant visits up 35%.

Chris Snowdon, manager at Liverpool ONE’s TGI Fridays, said: “River of Light has definitely had a positive impact and sales have increased especially in the evenings when footfall has been noticeably higher.”

Liverpool BID Company reported a significant increase in Church Street footfall day-on-day, in comparison with 2019. The October event dates proved to be the busiest. Week days experienced an increase of nearly 70% and at weekends it was up by 42%.

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Royal Albert Dock Liverpool also welcomed the additional evening visitors with many businesses located on the estate, noting a boost in sales.

Bill Addy, chief executive of Liverpool BID Company, said: “Public art and animation is such an important ingredient in our everyday life in Liverpool city centre.

“For our businesses it helps to showcase the mixed economy that makes Liverpool so vibrant. There’s something for everyone and when we increase footfall numbers and give everyone something to smile about.”


River of Light
Affinity was one of the art installations at River of Light 2022


River Of Light was delivered by Liverpool City Council’s Culture Liverpool team and was supported by Arts Council England. A full impact report will now be compiled by the city council and the final figures will be released in the New Year.

Assistant Mayor and Cabinet Member for Culture and Visitor Economy, Councillor Harry Doyle, added: “River of Light is a beautiful, established tradition in this city.

“Each night was busy and the atmosphere was amazing – seeing families with their dogs and groups of friends of all ages making the most of this free showcase and trying to get the best selfie they could at each installation.

“I’m delighted, but not surprised, by these initial figures and I look forward to seeing the full impact report in due course.“

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