Piccadilly Circus

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Piccadilly Circus is a famous road junction and public space of London’s West End in the City of Westminster, built in 1819 to connect Regent Street with the major shopping street of Piccadilly. In this context a circus, from the Latin word meaning a circle, is a circular open space at a street junction. The Circus is particularly known for its video display and neon signs mounted on the corner building on the northern side, as well as the Shaftesbury memorial fountain and statue of an archer popularly known as Eros. It is surrounded by several noted buildings, including the London Pavilion and Criterion Theatre. Directly underneath the plaza is Piccadilly Circus London Underground station. Piccadilly Circus is surrounded by several major tourist attractions, including the Shaftesbury Memorial, Criterion Theatre, London Pavilion and several major retail stores. You can see it here live streaming webcams and live video.

Piccadilly Circus used to be surrounded by illuminated advertising hoardings on buildings, starting in the early 1900’s, but only one building now carries them, the one in the north-western corner between Shaftesbury Avenue and Glasshouse Street. As of 2008, the site has six illuminated advertising screens above three large retail units, facing Piccadilly Circus on the north side, occupied by Boots, and GAP and a mix of smaller retail, restaurant and office premises fronting the other streets. A Burger King located under the Samsung advert which had been previously a Wimpy Bar until the late 1980s had closed in early 2008 and has now been converted into a Barclays Bank.

Coca-Cola have had a sign at Piccadilly Circus since 1955. The sign dates from September 2003, when the previous digital projector board and the site formerly occupied by Nescafé was replaced with a state-of-the-art LED video display that curves round with the building. On November 23, 2007 the very first film was broadcast through the board. Paul Atherton’s film “The Ballet of Change”. Piccadilly Circus was allowed five minutes to show the first non-commercial film depicting the history of Piccadilly Circus and the lights. The former Nescafé advert site had also been occupied by a neon advertisement for Fosters until about 1999 and for three months in 2002 between the display of the Nescafé advert and the enlarged Coca Cola advert this part of Piccadilly Circus had featured the quote “Imagine all the people living life in peace” by the late Beatle John Lennon. This was paid for by his wife Yoko Ono who spent an estimated £150,000 to display an advert at this location.

Sanyo’s sign is the oldest out of the six, having been installed in the late 1980’s and remaining unchanged ever since. However, earlier Sanyo signs with older logos have occupied that position since at least 1980.

TDK replaced the space formerly occupied by Kodak in 1990. Their sign has remained almost unchanged since, although in 2001 the color of the background lamps were changed from green to blue, and the words ‘Audio & Video Tape’ and ‘Floppy Disks’ under the logo was removed.
McDonald’s added a sign in the mid-1980s, replacing one for BASF. In 2001 the sign was changed from neon to an animated LED screen, which was further changed to a bigger, brighter LED screen in 2008.

Samsung replaced a sign for Panasonic in November 1994, and the sign was upgraded from neon to LED in 2005.

Piccadilly Lite was added on 3 December 2007, placed under the Samsung and McDonald’s signs. This is an LED screen that allows other companies to advertise for both short and long term leases, increasing the amount of advertising space but using the same screen for multiple brands.

The British mobile telephony company Vodafone used to have a neon sign installed on the roof of Coventry House, which diagonally faces Piccadilly Circus. In addition to the logo of the company, the sign displayed personal messages that could be submitted on a special website and displayed at a certain time and date. As of February 2007, this has been replaced by a new, larger LED video-advertising display for LGE, the British arm of South Korean electronics group LG. The new display also incorporates a scrolling ticker of Sky News headlines.

On special occasions the lights are switched off, such as the deaths of Winston Churchill in 1965 and Diana, Princess of Wales in 1997. On 21 June 2007 they were switched off for 1 hour as part of the Lights Out London campaign.

The phrase “it’s like Piccadilly Circus” is commonly used in the UK to refer to a place or situation which is extremely busy with people. It has been said that a person who stays long enough at Piccadilly Circus will eventually bump into everyone they know. Probably because of this connection, during World War II, “Piccadilly Circus” was the code name given to the Allies’ D-Day invasion fleet’s assembly location in the English Channel.

The Dire Straits song “Wild West End” is about the area around Piccadilly. The Morrissey song “Piccadilly Palare” from the album Bona Drag recounts the life of male prostitutes by employing the use of “palare”, argot used by this subculture and by gay men generally. A lost verse –  “Around the centre of town is where I belong am I really doing wrong?” Jethro Tull mention Piccadilly Circus in “Mother Goose” on the album Aqualung: “And a foreign student said to me, was it really true there are elephants and lions in Piccadilly Circus?”

Bob Marley makes mention of Piccadilly Circus in his song “Kinky Reggae” on the album Catch A Fire. The Sundays mention Piccadilly Circus in their song “Hideous Towns” on their 1990 album Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic.

In the film Austin Powers, Piccadilly Circus is the location of Dr Evil’s lair during “the swinging 60s”. Austin Powers confronts Dr Evil at the “The Electric Pussycat” nightclub which hides a rocketship in the shape of a Big Boy statue on the rooftop of a Piccadilly Circus building.

Piccadilly Circus was the final action scene in John Landis’ 1981 werewolf classic, An American Werewolf in London. David Naughton’s character, David Kessler aka the werewolf, makes his final transformation in an adult theatre in Piccadilly Circus and shortly after, chaos erupts when he escapes the theatre and sets off a chain reaction of car crashes.

Piccadilly Circus is an area in the PC game Hellgate: London.

Piccadilly Circus is a flim location for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I.

The former Zavvi (formerly known as Virgin Megastore) flagship store, previously owned by Tower Records was located at Number 1 Piccadilly before it went into administration. Number 1 Piccadilly is empty, the unit is located on the west side between Regent Street and Piccadilly, directly facing Piccadilly Circus. Before being Tower Records this was the location of the Swan and Edgar department store. Lillywhites is a major retailer of sporting goods located on the south side, next to the Shaftesbury fountain. It moved to its present site in 1925.

Get more information and a live view of Piccadilly Circus here on this multimedia site

On the north-eastern side of Piccadilly Circus, on the corner between Shaftesbury Avenue and Coventry Street, is the London Pavilion. The first building bearing the name was built in 1859, and was a music hall. In 1885, Shaftesbury Avenue was built through the former site of the Pavilion and a new London Pavilion was constructed, which also served as a music hall.

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