China’s Yangtze River arrives at Gatwick Airport


  • Gatwick’s iconic Skybridge hosts world’s largest in-airport sound experience
  • Interactive audio recreation brings the Yangtze River ambience to passengers
  • HSBC-led project celebrates Water Programme in partnership with WWF*

One of the world’s largest rivers - the Yangtze in China - has been brought to life at London Gatwick Airport with a newly created, ground-breaking and unique soundscape experience.

The installation of the soundscape within the airport’s Skybridge, entitled ‘A Living River’, is the world’s longest and most advanced soundscape in an airport. It provides departing and arriving passengers with the chance to experience the authentic sounds of the 6,300km river in rich detail as they head along the 180m walkway.

Replicating the real-time sounds of the Yangtze River, the soundscape is programmed to react to the time of day, the weather on the river, and even responds to the movements of individual travellers. This will provide each passenger with a unique experience.

HSBC and WWF have been working together since 2002 to help protect the Yangtze as part of the HSBC Water programme and the pioneering sound installation celebrates this partnership.

Since becoming independently-owned in 2009, Gatwick has placed a focus on delivering a high level of passenger service. The airport has already invested more than £1 billion in new and improved services for travellers and has since pledged to spend a £1 billion more.

Gatwick Chief Commercial Officer Guy Stephenson, said:

“This truly unique soundscape perfectly illustrates Gatwick’s ambition to deliver innovative and memorable experiences for our passengers to enjoy.

“We take extra pride that we are achieving this by working with a major global business such as HSBC to promote their Water programme, in partnership with WWF.

“Gatwick Airport will hit the 40 million passenger mark soon after opening this spectacular experience, meaning we will have a record breaking number of customers who will now be able to enjoy it.”

‘A Living River’ features over 100 hours of authentic sounds taken directly from 35 locations. The sounds flow and ebb across the Skybridge, transmitted by 160 speakers and 80 different channels to immerse travellers in 3D sound.

The wall of colourful imagery, shot along the Yangtze, complements the sounds passengers hear as they travel from one side of China to the other – from the First Bend of the Yangtze to the mouth near Shanghai – and showcases the beautiful wildlife, nature and the millions of people who call the river home.

Nick Ryan, ‘A Living River’ sound designer, said:

I believe that sound, and the act of listening, can entirely transform our sense of 'place' and thus, ourselves. I wanted to design a highly immersive audio installation that could 'relocate' listeners, for an instant, to the banks of the Yangtze River, with a tangible, 'first person' sensory experience of its pace, beauty and diversity. Using ground breaking technical and creative approaches to audio, and audio technology, we’ve created a spellbinding journey down an evolving, responsive and ‘Living River’."

Notes to editors

  • CLICK HERE for ‘A Living River’ – the making of video
  • CLICK HERE for the full bank of high resolution images
  • Join the conversation on Twitter – #ALivingRiver


  • Gatwick’s £110m Skybridge opened in 2005 and is the largest in the world to pass over an airport taxiway. It Links Pier 6 to Gatwick's North Terminal and carries around seven million passengers over the course of a year, while serving around 100 destinations
  • The idea for the installation and eventual sound experience were both created by J. Walter Thompson London in collaboration with JWT Live, the in-house event and experiential team. The soundscape was then created in partnership with sound designer Nick Ryan. Nick is widely recognised as a leading thinker on sound creation and performance
  • *The HSBC Water Programme has helped support communities, businesses and nature over the past 15 years. It supports some of the most vital and vulnerable waterways across the world, and the diverse animals and communities that depend on them

About Nick Ryan

Nick Ryan is a multi-award winning composer, sound designer and sound artist, widely recognised for creating highly imaginative and immersive audio experiences and for presenting audio in radical and fundamentally new ways.

Nick's work often applies emerging interactive technologies to composition, performance and listening and his process frequently involves close collaborations with visual artists, fashion designers, creative technologists and scientists. 

Most recently, in late October this year, Nick was commissioned to design and build an electro-mechanical instrument that would respond to the live weather conditions of its environment with an automatic live musical performance, half way up of Ben Lomand mountain in the Tasmanian wilderness. Nick successfully installed his unique ‘Meteorphonium’ 23d October for its ‘premiere’ performance to critical acclaim. The instrument is now being displayed at the Melbourne Cup Tournament.

Nick's work has won recognition in creative and technical fields including a BAFTA for Technical Innovation 2003, The PRS New Music Award in 2008, an Honorary Doctorate of Music at Plymouth University in 2009 and two Music & Sound Awards in 2014.

About London Gatwick

Gatwick Airport is the UK’s second largest airport and the most efficient single-runway airport in the world. It serves more than 228 destinations in 74 countries for 44 million passengers a year on short and long-haul point-to-point services. It is also a major economic driver for the UK contributing £5.3 billion to national GDP and generating 85,000 jobs nationally, with around 24,000 on the wider airport campus alone. The airport is south of Central London with excellent public transport links, including the Gatwick Express, and is part of the Oyster contactless payment network. Gatwick Airport is owned by a group of international investment funds, of which Global Infrastructure Partners is the largest shareholder.

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