People make places and on the evening of 31 October 2017, people gathered in the town square in their thousands to create a river of light celebrating ordinary people from the past who have made extraordinary contributions to the town.

In the weeks and months running up to the event hundreds of children and their families, as well as schools and community groups worked with SPAN arts Cheerful project staff and artist Toby Downing to make lanterns inspired by the buildings and characters from Haverfordwest’s past.

The event, which was covered live on S4C, drew people from all over the town and county. Summing up the experience, one family of lantern carriers commented:

‘It’s a very atmospheric event, a creative community where everyone comes together…it’s vibrant and exactly what Haverfordwest needs!’

Guy Norman from spacetocreate, one of the Confluence partners, and founder of the annual event, now in its third year, commented.

River of Lights is just one of many experiments using the arts to get people involved in shaping the future of the town.

Over the last three years many thousands of people have taken part in over 70 artist led projects and commissions designed to change the way people feel about their town and to inspire them in making their own contributions.

The success of River of Lights, which has doubled in size each year, shows the power of people and organization working together.

Feedback  gathered from 100 people on the night and a further 170 online was extremely postive.

  • 95% rated the event as “very good” or “excellent”
  • 85% said it had changed their view of Haverfordwest for the better,
  • 100% want more events like it in Pembrokeshire
  • 93% said they would participate again
  • 35% saying they’d like to volunteer at next year’s event!

Participants were also invited to contribute three word reviews and here are a selection:

Amazing coming togetherness
Breathtaking, spectacular, beautiful
Magical lantern puppets!
Art transformed Haverfordwest
Definitely go again
Weird, wonderful, Wiccan

Rowan Matthiessen of the Span Arts Cheerful project who managed this years event commented:

What a night!!! Thank you SO so much for all of your input into River of Lights 2017; from lit-up canoes to burning buildings, armies of volunteers to illuminated foliage, not to mention giant puppets, banging beats and some top-notch organisational skills…

The next phase, currently in the development stage, will place the emphasis on Heritage and culture and will include plans to develop River of lights into a wider festival of light.

All images by Jenny Blackmore with the exception of the featured image by Di Ford and the film of Toby Downing’s Dog Puppet by Sean Vicary