Stunning spectacle heads to Salford

A spectacular art installation, designed by Leeds based visual artist Alison Smith and inspired by research from Dr Christopher Hassall in the School of Biology, has dazzled visitors in Salford.

The interactive sculpture, titled “The Nectary” joined a trail of dramatic light art installations as part of Lightwaves Salford which illuminated the waterside environment at Salford Quays and MediaCity between 7-11 December.

Originally paired through the Leeds Creative Labs programme, delivered through the Cultural Institute, Alison was inspired by Dr Hassall’s work investigating green space and biodiversity in urban environments – particularly how insect populations can be monitored using a novel technique called "bio-acoustics".

Researchers at University of Leeds are using this technique to capture remarkable recordings of insects to develop a better understanding of species biodiversity which can provide critical information about the impacts of climate change.

These soundbites transform the sculpture into a living delight. As visitors place their heads inside the spell-binding flowers, they experience an immersive soundscape of buzzing insects, moving from plant to plant as they perform their crucial role as a pollinator.

Towering flowers, which have been hand made from recycled plastic, have intricate textures and bright colours to allow you to imagine what a bee might see when they enter a flower.

The Nectary is an interactive, sensory installation, allowing visitors to experience the ‘hum of the earth’ through a series of huge, glowing flower heads, carefully crafted from recycled plastic and hung from trees in University Square.

It’s been fantastic to tour The Nectary to so many different events this year, to be seen by tens of thousands of people, and particularly to make my artistic debut with it on the continent. Audiences really enjoy the interactive nature of the piece, and the original message around the importance of pollinators and our connection to the natural world is just as powerful and relevant.

Alison Smith, visual artist and designer of the Nectary

Dr. Christopher Hassall, School of Biology, Faculty of Biological Sciences, added: “I’m delighted to see The Nectary go from strength to strength and entertain audiences across the world. It was a pleasure to work with Alison on this collaboration as it delivers such an important message in a wonderfully engaging way.” 

The Nectary on tour 

The Nectary has already captivated visitors in six cities this year, including events in Germany and Romania.

At the Nightfall light trail in Middlesborough, the sculptures were also animated by bee and wasp performers. Adding another layer of interaction, the delighted crowds were able to help the performers ‘pollinate’ the flowers and learn more the importance of pollinators.

A bee performer at the Nectary


Would you like to discover The Nectary? The Nectary will be at Bristol Light Festival from the 2nd – 11th February, and at Light Night Worcester on the 14th and 15th February 2024.

About Lightwaves Salford

Lightwaves Salford is part of Light up the North, a network of northern light festivals which have come together to share their collective expertise.

This year, the festival celebrated its 10th anniversary and featured three brand-new artworks commissioned by Quays Culture.

Image credit: Lizzie Coombes and Alison Smith