1959fi - The great forgotten Piccadilly Circus

DSC 7780 - The great forgotten Piccadilly Circus
Lights out! Land Securities’ famous advert hoarding seen the day after it went dark. 17 Jan 2017
This is an article on the deceptiveness that’s Piccadilly Circus. The whole area once had lights on almost every building. Today its just the one corner, a vast monopoly if you like. Its absolutely NOT what Piccadilly Circus was about.

The famous London circus – possibly the most deceptive tourist hotspot in Central London. With its ‘wow’ factor in the old days the site was a true lively spot with adverts on every single building on every corner, making for an amazing night time scene. In other words there was far more to the eye than just WOW!
The ‘lights’ have just gone out for the best part of a year. The replacement will consist of one screen, the largest LCD display in the world they say. Tim Bleakley, the CEO of Ocean Outdoor who manages the advertising says this will “protect its heritage while keeping ahead of trends.”
Since WHEN has Piccadilly Circus had a heritage? These days its just a former shadow of its former glory. Poky adverts on the one main building (the Boots/Barclays/Land Securities side) plus a little advert on the top of another building. It’s just NOT Piccadilly Circus at all!
Love these old pictures showing the area’s former glory. Btw the ones of Pink Floyd are nice.

The black and white photo of Pink Floyd shows the other (at the time) famous set of lights on the Ripley’s building. A close look reveals a huge advert for Clint Eastwood’s A Fistful of Dollars.
Here’s an earlier picture showing the Ripley’s (Wrigley’s) side of the circus in 1955.

The 1940s, war time, the neon lights were switched off but the adverts themselves were painted and these still stood proud on the London scene.
This from ‘Sir William Davenant’ shows the ORIGINAL circus’ lights progress through the decades.

The 1950s.

A nice one from the 1960s showing both main sets of Piccadilly Circus lights.
Its easy to get carried away showing many of these old photographs because these show the real Piccadilly heritage – something which just isnt evident at all in the modern lights.
Alfred Hitchcock loved Piccadilly so much five of his films feature it. It is said he saw the circus as a “glowing urban hub, as a place of romance and danger, excitement and sleaze.”
1962 - The great forgotten Piccadilly Circus
Rare view showing the south side.
1959 - The great forgotten Piccadilly Circus
Proposals by architect Jack Cotton for Piccadilly Circus in the 1950s entailed somewhat austere tower blocks, yet advertising was still a major feature.
The adverts originally stood on three sides of the area and stretched as far as Leicester Square, down Shaftesbury Avenue and Glasshouse Street.  Today its  just the one corner. The new board will be one huge screen. Thankfully it will be able to split up into multi screens according to demand. It’s probably a little bit of semblance of sorts to what was once the REAL Piccadilly Circus, but it wont be the same, and most people will be none the wiser.
The Twitter user below clearly knew the value and integrity of the old Piccadilly Circus 🙂

Let’s face it London seems to go along with the charade without any question when it says “look at our lights, wow,” that sort of thing. Lights what bleedin’ lights? They’re just nothing these days.
Piccadilly Circus could have got better and better. Modern technology no doubt can easily show the adverts plus the buildings themselves at their best too. Instead we have a single corner whose building is covered completely and one cant even see the building’s architecture!
As mentioned before there appears to be some allusion a heritage is being protected. What heritage? Thankfully the redevelopment 1950s proposals did not occur but at least they understood the strength of the area’s advertising heritage. Where’s that now? Show me the heritage that various parties claim is being protected!
Without a doubt the modern day Piccadilly Circus lights essentially amount to little more than a slight against the area’s heritage 🙁
More reading:
The New Piccadilly Lights – Land Securities
Amazing animation compiled using 50 year old images shows what Piccadilly Circus looked like in 1961 – One of the few news articles to acknowledge the adverts are far less than they used to be!