Saturday 13 November 2021

Christmas lights: London's West End in first co-ordinated switch-on


The lights
Image caption,
It was the first time all the lights were switched on at the same time

Christmas lights have been switched on across London's West End in its first ever co-ordinated light-up.

The event was kept secret, with shoppers being surprised with a 10-second countdown on the screens at Piccadilly Circus.

Displays were lit in Oxford Street, Regent Street, South Molton Street, Bond Street, Mayfair, Piccadilly Circus, St James' and Leicester Square.

It is part of a campaign to boost business in the run-up to Christmas.

Countdown '2'
Image caption,
A 10-second countdown was displayed on the screens at Piccadilly Circus

The latest survey from the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry concluded that remote working, because of the pandemic, will keep thousands of commuters out of the West End and City in the weeks before Christmas.

Last Christmas there were lockdown restrictions on gatherings, with people in London and south-east England - the country's most populous region - only allowed to celebrate with their households and support bubbles.

In central London retailers have forecast that festive spending will hit £1.2bn, which is a third up on last year, but still half of 2019's pre-pandemic levels.

Lights 2021
Image caption,
The switch-on was kept secret beforehand

The New West End Company, which represents 600 retail, restaurant, hotel and property owners in Bond Street, Oxford Street, Regent Street and Mayfair, has called for the government to bring back tax-free shopping for non-EU visitors, which was scrapped after the Brexit transition period ended on 31 December 2020.

Since those tax-free sales were ended, the UK was "pushed further down the travel wish-list of festive holidaymakers, particularly high spenders from non-EU countries", the company said.

Lights 2021
Image caption,
Members of the public were not told of the event