London

Piccadilly Circus lights to be switched off for revamp

Piccadilly Image copyright Victoria Jones
Image caption Piccadilly Circus's billboards are rarely switched off

Piccadilly Circus's billboards are to be switched off for the longest period of time since World War Two.

A revamp of the central London attraction will see its famous lights go out from January until the autumn.

It is the first time since 1949 that the iconic lights have gone off except for power cuts and special occasions.

A static advertising banner featuring signed brands will replace the lights for most of next year.

Land Securities, which owns the site, plans to replace the six illuminated advertising boards with one ultra-high definition curved screen.

Once finished the screen will boast one of the highest resolution LED displays of its size in the world.

Image copyright Ocean Outdoor
Image caption The new Piccadilly Circus display will boast one of the highest resolution LED displays of its size in the world

Land Securities said the new screen will be able to display live video streaming, weather, traffic, sports results, finance information and real-time social media feeds.

Tim Bleakley, CEO of Ocean Outdoor - which organises the advertising on the screens - said the upgrade will "protect" Piccadilly Circus's heritage while ensuring it remains a testament to "London's global reputation for defining invention and innovation".


Light history

  • 1819 - Piccadilly Circus is built to connect Regent Street with Piccadilly
  • 1908 - First electrical advertisements appear, with Perrier the first brand to be illuminated
  • 1923 - Electric billboards are set up on the facade of London Pavilion to advertise Bovril
  • 2011 - LED displays completely replace neon lamps

The lights went out in 1939 to comply with World War Two blackouts and were not switched back on until 1949.

Since then, they have only been turned off as a mark of respect during the funerals of Winston Churchill and Princess Diana and in support of environmental campaigns.

The occasional power cut and the imposed three-day week in the 1970s have also plunged Piccadilly Circus into darkness.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Piccadilly Circus was the site of celebrations during VE Day

Advertiser Coca-Cola has already committed to continue its 62-year residency on the Piccadilly Circus display.

Aedamar Howlett, Coca-Cola Great Britain and Ireland marketing director, said: "There are only a handful of advertising spaces in the world that are as iconic and unique as the Piccadilly Lights".

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