Case Studies

Analysing festival footfall data

Monday, 5 June, 2023

How Salford City Council used VivaCity footfall data to demonstrate festival popularity

As part of Salford Quays on-going regeneration, VivaCity footfall data has been used as a quantitative measure to help demonstrate the continued popularity of Lightwaves festival. The data has been used to evidence festival visitor numbers which has helped to secure funding for the festival.

Salford Quays: A New Vision

In the last decade, of all the places in the UK, Salford Quays has undergone perhaps the most substantial redevelopment. Last year the latest chapter of its regeneration was announced: Salford Quays: A New Vision 2030.

The vision is based on five key principles:

  1. A place that puts people at the centre
    The Quays will create a lively and vibrant town centre at the heart of the waterfront with a focus on activity and providing lots for residents and visitors to do.
  2. A place that works for everyone
    The Quays will manage the different needs of everyone who lives, works and visits – with three different kinds of neighbourhood: Living, live-working and leisure.
  3. A place where creativity brings people together
    The Quays will continue to be one of North West’s premier culture neighbourhoods where art, film, music and comedy are easily accessible.
  4. A place that’s dedicated to wellbeing
    The Quays will continue to prioritise health and be an active community where people can take part in a variety of sports and exercise with public spaces prioritising people over traffic.
  5. A place that celebrates its past
    The Quays will celebrate its renowned history and open up access to resources, stories and archive in a way that has not been achieved so far.

A place where creativity brings people together

Lightwaves is a free, interactive, annual, outdoor light festival that takes place at Salford Quays. The festival is part of the Quays Culture Programme. The programme’s mission is to:

“…immerse audiences in new and exciting public-realm exhibitions that are inspired by its surroundings, with a focus on technology, creativity and digital innovation.”

As part of this, the intention is for events like Lightwaves, to inspire audiences to engage with the Quays in new and exciting ways.

VivaCity data was used to report on the success of the festival using footfall data to quantify attendance and this free, non-ticketed event.

Salford City Council:
Analysing footfall data at Lightwaves festival

Understanding visitor numbers using footfall data

The Lightwaves festival is a non-ticketed event, across multiple outdoor sites with no designated entry and exit points. To understand visitor numbers and event’s popularity, Salford City Council and festival organisers analysed anonymous pedestrian count data gathered captured by a VivaCity sensor network located across the festival site.

Lightwaves festival 2022 Map and Sensor Locations

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Analysing pedestrian footfall volumes across festival site

Salford City Council analysed pedestrian footfall data gathered across a four month period, from 1st October 2022 to 31st January 2023. Lightwaves festival fell midway through this period, running from Thursday 1st - Sunday 4th December 2022. This data period allows for a clear understanding of the festival’s impact on pedestrian movement.

Daily Pedestrians Counts at three sensor locations across the four month monitoring period: 1st Oct 22 - 31st Jan 23

The data above shows a peak of footfall activity across the Lightwaves festival, most dramatically at the Lowry Plaza to the Alchemist site on Saturday 3rd December. Data also captures a clear drop in activity on Christmas Day - a trend observed across VivaCity’s UK sensor network.

Daily Pedestrian Counts by day of the week at three sensor locations across the four month monitoring period: 1st Oct 22 - 31st Jan 23

The graph above shows the average pedestrian counts by day of the week and the pedestrian counts recorded on each day of the Lightwaves at the Lowry Plaza to the Alchemist sensor sites. The other monitoring sites observed a similar trend. Every site experienced the most dramatic peak on Saturday, and substantial increases across the other festival days compared to average activity.

Shining a spotlight on key Lightwaves route

Hourly pedestrian counts from Lowry Plaza to the Alchemist during Lightwaves festival 2022, 01/12/2022 - 04/12/2022

This graph shows hourly pedestrian counts recorded at the Lowry Plaza to the Alchemist route with the festival hours on each day shaded in blue. There is a clear correlation between highest footfall and festival hours. The data also shows that there were consistently more journeys from 14:00 onwards each day, coinciding with people finishing lunch. 18:00-20:00 were the peak hours on each day, however on the final day crowds sloped off earlier.

Footfall analysis overview across the full festival duration

Daily pedestrian count totals across each site

Overall, Saturday footfall was 85% higher than average levels on other festival days and Saturday’s visitors made up 38% of total festival footfall.

Average Daily Pedestrian Counts recorded two months prior to 2021 and 2022 Lightwaves festivals and during the festivals respectively

Before festival period, 2021: 01/10/2021 - 02/12/2021; Lightwaves festival 2021: 03/12/2021 - 12/12/2021
Before festival period, 2022: 01/10/2022 - 30/11/2022; Lightwaves festival 2022: 01/12/2022 - 04/12/2022

Comparing 2022 footfall to previous festivals

By comparing pedestrian counts recorded during Lightwaves festival periods to the average daily footfall during the two preceding months at the Lowry to the Alchemist site in 2021 and 2022, it shows that the average daily number of pedestrians more than doubled during the festival period. Higher absolute numbers were recorded in 2021, with a longer festival period that covered two weekends, but despite its shorter duration, Lightwaves 2022 recorded a similar level of success in terms of footfall increase.

Average countsBeforeDuring Lightwaves% Change
2022 Pedestrian6,07612,394104% incr
2021 Pedestrian8,14416,419102% incr

Before period, 2022: 01/10/2022 - 30/11/2022; Before period, 2021: 01/10/2021 - 02/12/2021
Lightwaves festival 2022: 01/12/2022 - 04/12/2022; Lightwaves festival 2021: 03/12/2021 - 12/12/2021


Data shows that Lightwaves 2022 was another successful year. Visitor numbers based on VivaCity footfall data shows a significant uplift compared to usual figures. By observing hourly data which shows peaks during festival operating hours, it’s possible to attribute the increase in footfall to the festival and not other activities in the area.

“We’ve always known how much people enjoy Lightwaves and it always seems busy.  We  have been able to use VivaCity data to prove how successful it actually is. The data has been used as a qualitative measure to help show the continued popularity of the event, helping to evidence visitor numbers. Visitor numbers are one of the key measures that helps secure funding. This data evidence demonstrated that it was another successful year!”

Peter O'Hare, Regeneration Lead Salford Quays, Salford City Council

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