Light Installation Programme


Plymouth City Council and Plymouth Culture are collaborating as part of the High Street Heritage Action Zone (HAZ) programme to revitalise and activate the City Centre Conservation Area. The Civic Centre is an iconic and significant building within the Conservation Area and it is about to undergo an extensive renovation scheme under the ownership of Urban Splash.

The Civic Centre has great significance as a symbol of survival, rebirth, strength, innovation and determination, but its current closure is sending a negative message to citizens which needs to be addressed. It is therefore proposed that we collaborate with artists and technicians to install a series of light-based works/installations into, on and around the building and immediate area (guildhall, civic square, council house). The overall concept is to ‘breathe life back into the building and the surrounding area’ and for the Civic Centre and square to once again be a symbol of hope and regeneration. We want to use the works to highlight and celebrate the past whilst looking to the future.

To achieve this, we will commission a technically and artistically curated series of installations that complement the stages of the building/regeneration schemes. This will mean starting with small, guerrilla style interventions that build to more extensive, interactive and immersive experiences for the public between Autumn 2022 and Spring 2024.

The First Installation – ‘What Will You Make of It?’

The first in a series of light installations in the heart of Plymouth glowing from the windows of the iconic Civic Centre.

A programme of artistic creations in the city centre has launched with the illuminating message from the building, currently being developed by Urban Splash.

The message reads, ‘What Will You Make Of It?’ and has been developed by agency Creative Concern as part of the marketing campaign for the nationally-recognised British Art Show 9.

It’s the first in a series of light installations commissioned in the city centre in a project led by Plymouth Culture, in partnership with Plymouth City Council and funded by Historic England through the Heritage Action Zone programme.


The second light installation sees a powerful message that echoes Plymouth’s kindness and togetherness.

An inspiring message made from the same materials used for the globally renowned No New Worlds light installation has been switched on and is beaming from the top of one of Plymouth’s most recognisable buildings.

The top five storeys of the Civic Centre now spell out a poem with a scrolling message, edited from a longer text written by Booker Prize-winning author Sir Ben Okri, in response to the climate emergency. 

These emotive sentences emanate from the central refrain:  ‘LOVE IS THE HIGHEST ECONOMY OF LIFE’, and together call for collective change towards a more simple way of living within the finite resources of our beautiful planet. The installation will be visible from early October.

This Third Light Installation – ‘NeAr Suttona’

A series of neon light installations that celebrate the heritage of Plymouth’s Civic Square and the buildings that surround it will be switched on later this month.

NeAr Suttona will be a series of coloured neon tubes displayed along the windows of the Council House which combine to create imagery that evokes its city centre location.

The strikingly creative artwork is by Plymouth-based artist Nick Halford whose design work and installations appear around the city, including the eye-catching cinema sign inside the University of Plymouth’s Roland Levinsky Building.

It’s the third light installation in the city centre this year after the scrolling ‘Love is the Highest Economy of Life’ message atop the Civic Centre and the ‘What Will You Make of It’ message displayed earlier this year.


This programme is looking for artists to fulfil two briefs:


Brief TWO

Plymouth Culture would like to commission a light-based artwork that explores and celebrates the heritage of the Civic Square and the buildings that surround it, including the Civic Centre, Guildhall and Council House. Whilst referencing the heritage of the places and spaces within the Square, the work must look to the future and reflect the growth and regeneration plans for the city centre high street.

The Civic Centre may act as the canvas for the installation, which may be located inside, on or outside the building. We would be keen to see the building start to have a relationship to the public realm space within the Civic Square and hope that the light-work could physically or symbolically connect the building to the public space around it.

At this time work will be underway in the Civic Centre with contractors onsite, phase one of the Civic Square redevelopment will have started and plans for the Guildhall will have been approved so it is important the work speaks to the future of the city.    


Special Considerations

  • As construction work will be underway within the Civic Centre you will need to take account of health and safety considerations and access limitations. It may be necessary to adapt your proposal and work with technical expertise to manage onsite plans.
  • The work will remain in place March – May 2023 so please consider the light implications as we enter Spring.

DEADLINE: 17th February 2023.


Plymouth Culture would like to commission a light-based artwork that celebrates the opening of the Civic Square following extensive public realm work. We would like the work to activate the space so would consider public interaction with the work to be a critical component.

The design for the Square celebrates the architectural heritage and reinstates performance spaces, areas of quiet reflection and communal spaces which we would want the light works to complement. This may mean working in only a specific location within the Square or could expand across the Square depending on the nature of the works.

Given that the Square is intended as a public space and will encourage increased dwell time we would be keen to see how the light-work might support this sort of footfall/dwell time. We would be particularly interested to see proposals that connect light with other elements such as sound, moving image, objects, performance, for example.


Special Considerations

  • Works for the Civic Square are due to be completed in July 2023 but any delays may impact on this commission.
  • Plans for the redeveloped Civic Square can be found here.
  • The works must be installed by September 2023 but the duration will be negotiated depending on the nature of the piece and requirements of installations that follow.


DEADLINE: 17th February 2023.


A total budget of £7,000 is available for each piece of work. This budget must include VAT and expenses, artist fee, production, installation and deinstallation costs. You will have access to technical support from JHAV, technical project managers for the programme, for the development and installation of the work through an agreed number of days.

Plymouth Culture will provide additional support for marketing and documentation which can be agreed at contracting stage.



The submissions will be assessed by a panel of experts and project partners including:

  • Plymouth Culture
  • Plymouth City Council
  • Plymouth City Council HAZ team (Brief 3)
  • Plymouth City Council Civic Square team (Brief 3)
  • JHAV
  • Public Art Steering group rep
  • Cultural expert (TBC)


  • Monday 30th January 2023 – Launch of open call
  • Friday 17th February 2023 – Closing date for open call submissions
  • w/c 27th February 2023 – Panel decision announced
  • March 2023 – Artwork development begins
  • w/c 6th March 2023 – Artwork development and install begins (Brief 2)
  • from w/c 27th March 2023 – Work installed (Brief 2)
  • September 2023 – Work installed (Brief 3)
  • 31st May 2023 – Work deinstalled (Brief 2)
  • TBC – Work deinstalled (Brief 3)