The river is London's oldest and most significant public space, yet it is underused and underappreciated at night. The Illuminated River offers an opportunity to think about the river as a unique natural and built environment, to look at ways in which we can enhance the experience for the public and improve the environment for flora and fauna.

Waterloo Bridge. Photo Sean Pollock

The Illuminated River Foundation will deliver multiple benefits for Londoners, visitors and the environment.


It will create more opportunities to enjoy and explore the river, Thames Path, the bridges and local amenities, and to celebrate the unique character and heritage of these great landmarks. It will transform the experience of the city at night and define the bridges as renewed civic spaces for Londoners. Once complete, Illuminated River will be viewed more than 200 million times per year.

Public Realm

It will be a catalyst for wider conversations about improvements to public space and lighting. We are working with bridge owners and local authorities to improve access to and around the bridges, exploring opportunities to make these areas more communal, inclusive and safe, as well as to improve lighting and add better public seating.


It will respect and reveal the unique architectural and historical character of each of the bridges. The project has received full support from Historic England and is endorsed by the UK National Commission for UNESCO, who consider it as a way of enhancing the world heritage sites of the Palace of Westminster and Tower of London.


Spanning 7 different boroughs, the project works with partners whose interests range from engineering and ecology, to culture and transport. It will be a model of best practice and collaboration, a concept built on listening, learning, consultation, research and sharing expertise. It will inspire more city-wide discussions about the quality of London’s public realm, and our relationship with and access to the Thames.


It will connect north and south, and run through 7 boroughs, who are working with us to create a unified vision to celebrate London's bridges and the city's historic links with the river.


It will engage people in the river’s history and ecology, and encourage more people to benefit from spending time in riverside areas. We are working with councils to improve access to these areas for local communities, and have involved nearby schools in river events and learning. We are sharing our knowledge with community groups who are interested in improving the lighting of their areas and supporting projects generated by them.


It will support the green agenda on the Thames by increasing biodiversity and reducing light pollution and energy consumption [Please see the environment page for more information].


It will increase public access to art, promote creativity in the public realm, and support the Mayor’s cultural strategy for London.


It will involve and bring together many riverside communities, schools, organisations and interest groups.


It will pioneer innovative lighting and engineering solutions.


It will create a long-term maintenance programme, collaborating with other lighting and public realm projects along the river.

It will provide a concise and invaluable record of the natural and built environment of this stretch of the Thames, based on 3D mapping of the bridges, wildlife surveys and other resources for use by partners.

A legacy group of bridge owners and other key partners has been created and will work together and share knowledge.


It will enhance travel and connectivity along and over the river, encouraging people to walk across the bridges and use river transport after dark. It will further promote the Thames as a means of transport for both commuters and tourists.

Nighttime Economy

It will invigorate and support the existing nighttime life of central London.

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