Watch out for the ‘river in the sky’ this weekend

A new laser art installation will light up the sky above Barnsley this coming weeekend.

The large-scale light installation by artist Patrick Murphy, named ‘Neon River,’ will be projected from Barnsley’s Digital Media Centre across the Dearne Valley on the evenings of Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

It will take place from 5.30pm to midnight every evening, creating the effect of a ‘river in the sky’. The beam of light will be visible for up to ten miles across Barnsley, Doncaster and Rotherham.

Neon River was commissioned by The Dearne Valley Landscape Partnership (DVLP), as part of its ‘Art of the Dearne’ project which aims to connect people to the River Dearne. The DVLP works to protect, preserve and enhance the landscape of the Dearne Valley with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Creator of Neon River, Patrick Murphy, said: “In Greek neon means ‘new’ and the idea of creating a ‘new’ look at the river really appealed to me. Neon’s link to brightly-coloured signs and lights suggested an ideal metaphor for signposting the river.

“When planning this art intervention, the DMC roof balcony space offered the best position for the light to have an uninterrupted projection from the town centre above the natural course of the River Dearne. This will create a visual river in the sky to highlight the real river’s position and importance to the town.”

Sally Gawthorpe, community officer at the Dearne Valley Landscape Partnership, said: “Patrick’s idea for the Neon River really stood out to us as a new and vibrant way to engage people in the Dearne Valley.

“Wherever you are in the Dearne you’re sure to see it, but if you’d like to see the work at its most powerful, we recommend heading to Dearne Valley Park. There you can see one of the intended effects of the laser being reflected in the large body of water in the park.”

A launch event for Neon River will take place at Barnsley’s Digital Media Centre on Friday. The event is part of DMCX, a year-long series of events and activities celebrating 10 years of the Digital Media Centre, a hub for creative and digital people and businesses.

The evening will also premiere new songs by artists Hayley Youell and Andy Seward who will perform live on the balcony adjacent to the light projection. Their performance forms part of another DVLP ‘Art of the Dearne’ commission which culminates in a full performance in April at Elsecar Heritage Centre in Barnsley.

Tracey Johnson, project director at the Digital Media Centre (DMC), said: “As a hub for innovative, creative and digital companies, the DMC is the perfect environment to spark ideas, and to collaborate with like-minded people.

“So what better way to celebrate our tenth year, than to come together with Barnsley artists to host an ambitious, large-scale light installation which has never been done before?”

Free tickets to the launch of Neon River can be booked online at:

  • Photo shows an artist’s impression of the ‘Neon River’.

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