London

Piccadilly Circus lights turned off for site renovations

Interactive The Piccadilly Circus lights have been switched off

After the switch off

Piccadilly Circus lights after the switch off

Before the switch off

Piccadilly Circus lights before the switch off

The iconic billboard lights at Piccadilly Circus have been switched off for renovations and will stay off until autumn.

The billboard, which has displayed electrical advertisements for more than a century, went dark at 08:30 GMT for work to take place.

It is the first time since World War Two the lights have gone off, except for power cuts and special events.

A temporary advertising banner will replace the lights.

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Media captionA history of how the lights have changed at Piccadilly Circus

A permanent single screen will be unveiled in autumn to replace the current six screens.

As well as being an advertising board, it will be able to provide live video streaming and give updates about events such as the weather and sports results.

Ros Morgan, chief executive of the Heart of London business alliance, said the new screen would "bring visitors an enhanced entertainment experience".

About 100 million people are estimated to pass through Piccadilly Circus each year.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The lights, seen here on VE Day, were switched off for a decade during and just after World War Two
Image copyright Ocean Outdoor
Image caption The new display will boast one of the highest resolution LED displays of its size in the world

The lights have previously gone out in 1939 to comply with World War Two blackouts. They were not switched back on until 1949.

Since then, they have only been turned off as a mark of respect, including 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 Coca-Cola has a 62-year residency on the Piccadilly Circus display
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The occasional power cut, like this one in June 2007, has also turned off the illuminations

The new display, which will be the same size as the current space, will be shared by six advertisers.

Coca-Cola has been advertising in Piccadilly Circus since 1954 and will continue its residency, while Samsung will also have a spot.

Vasiliki Arvaniti, portfolio manager at Land Securities, said the new screen would offer brands "pioneering new ways to connect" with people.

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Media captionWatch the countdown and lights going off

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

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