Symbolic Piccadilly Circus Billboards Go Dark

Not the first time the illuminated billboards have been switched off – it went dark during World War II blackouts – and on a few other occasions in respect of deceased dignitaries including technical glitches.

Symbolic Piccadilly Circus Billboards Goes Dark

Piccadilly Circus’ giant advertising hoardings have been a major attraction for tourists as well as locals for more than a century, 108 years to be precise. On Monday, at 08:30 am, local time, the lights were switched off for renovation purposes.

Until they were switched off the screens had been a combination of six big screens which will now be substituted by a single high definition curved screen of colossal proportions covering a screen area of 8500 square feet.

The construction of the state-of-the-art convex screen will continue behind a temporary advertising banner until it is ready for display to the public sometime in autumn this year.

The famous Piccadilly Circus Billboard in the capital city of London will be going through a modernization phase and nobody is complaining about it – they don’t have a reason to!

The switch off is advertised on the board
The switch off is advertised on the board

The site is owned by Vasiliki Arvaniti of Land Securities and this is what he had to say about the new look plans:

“This is a huge day for Piccadilly Lights and though it will be a strange feeling to see them go dark, we’re incredibly excited about their future.” The revamping is being undertaken with the permission granted by the Westminster Council.

The planned giant display will be used for high definition video streaming of news feeds, commercials, sports, weather updates, and much more enhancing the attraction of the already famous and crowded Piccadilly Circus.

It will, undoubtedly, be a sight to behold for more than 70 million pedestrians and 30 million people who drive by the lights every year.

Well, this was about the revamping and upgradation of the Piccadilly Circus Billboards; let us now delve into some interesting historical facts about the location itself and the display.

Piccadilly Circus is situated in London’s West End in Westminster. It was built as a road intersection with the intent of connecting Regent Street with Piccadilly and is in close proximity to major shopping and entertainment areas in the West End.

The street intersection, or junction, if you please, is in the shape of a large circle – a round open space for tourists and revelers; hence the name Piccadilly Circus – “circus” being the Latin equivalent of a “circle.”

This six display screens, soon to metamorphose into a single high-tech convex display, is mounted on a corner building on the northern side of the Circus.

Piccadilly Circus, though commonly famous for its glittering billboards, is a major tourist attraction for other landmarks, as well, such as the Shaftesbury memorial fountain and statue, popularly known as Eros – a mistaken identity, though.

Other mention-worthy attractions surrounding Piccadilly Circus are the Criterion Theatre and the London Pavilion, to name a couple.

The Piccadilly Circus underground tube station, directly beneath the circular junction, is responsible for spewing out and swallowing in millions of passengers every year – it allows convenient access to the passengers who voluntarily prefer to avoid the street traffic by not using their own or public street level vehicles.

London, Piccadilly - showing the London Pavilion, and a busy array of vintage transport and people.
London, Piccadilly – showing the London Pavilion, and a busy array of vintage transport and people.

Going back more than a century, rather close to one and half century, in time, 1879 to be exact, Charles Dickens Junior had described the Piccadilly area as “the great thoroughfare leading from the Haymarket and Regent-street westward to Hyde Park Corner is the nearest approach to the Parisian boulevard of which London can boast.”

Here’s a list of some historical facts about the Piccadilly Circus and its Billboards:

* In 1908, Piccadilly Circus was encircled by well-lit advertising hoardings on buildings, starting with Perrier advertisement,

* On March 10, 1906, the Piccadilly Circus tube station became operational

* In 1910, the junction’s first electric advertisements were displayed.
From 1923, electric billboards were set up on the façade of the London Pavilion.

* In 1928, the tube station was rebuilt on a massive level to handle the rapidly increasing commuter traffic

* The lights that initially lit up the advertising hoardings were incandescent light bulbs later replaced by neon signs followed by laterally scrolling signs.

* In 1998, digital projectors were deployed to display the Coke logo.

* From 2000 onwards LED displays gradually started replacing the neon lights and in just over a decade it completely took over from the neon displays, making them obsolete.

* Over the years the number of advertisements reduced as the display costs rose dramatically which small companies could not afford

* On January 16, 2017, earlier mentioned, the six commercial screens were switched off for an upgradation to a single “large ultra-high definition curved Daktronics display,” – probably making it even more expensive to use as an advertising medium.

* This will be the longest the lights will remain switched off since the German Blitz in the 1940s when lights were kept switched off for protection against air attacks – the war blackouts.

* Twice before the billboards were switched off in respect of the deaths of Winston Churchill and Lady Diana.

* Other times the lights went off were inadvertent – the result of technical faults and malfunctions.

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