Armistice Day Commemoration

An experiential event that compelled a whole city to engage with the sacrifices of the past.

100 years ago, Londoners gathered in Piccadilly Circus to celebrate the end of the First World War – a conflict that had claimed the lives of over 1 million British and Commonwealth service people. To mark the Armistice centenary in November 2018, we brought Piccadilly to a standstill once again – and compelled a whole city to engage with the sacrifices of the past.

 The idea

When asked by Westminster council to mark the centenary of the end of the First World War, we set out to create an experience that would restore meaning to the shocking death toll – and help some of those who served to live again, if only for an hour.

We didn’t want this to be a memorial – we wanted to create something sensitive but impactful, that would help build an emotional bridge between the present and the past.

Armistice Day image 1

Our creative idea was driven by a startling realisation: if our war dead were to march past us in single file, it would take more than 10 days and 19 hours for them to do so.

A filmic dramatisation of this thought needed a dramatic stage. Piccadilly Circus, a place where Londoners had spontaneously gathered 100 years ago when they heard the war was finally over, seemed perfect.

And so, during evening rush hour on Friday 9th November, the famous Piccadilly advertising screens were filled with the sight and sound of relentless marching boots – each pair representing a soldier who died in the war. As the hour progressed, the death count in the bottom corner of the screen ticked ever upwards.

As the last pair of boots marched off screen, representing the 1,119,193rd and final soldier to be killed, our screens faded to black – and a lone bugler sounded the last post across an at-standstill Piccadilly Circus.

Creating a lasting impact

From a simple synopsis of the idea, the media were captivated. BBC, ITV, and Sky News were granted access to a rooftop opposite the screens so that they could broadcast the event live. Radio stations like LBC, Heart, and Classic FM included it in news bulletins throughout the day. And newspapers like the Evening Standard devoted column inches to the film.

Feedback from those present was exceptional too, with an outpouring of heartfelt responses on social media. But the final word should go to Councillor Rachel Robathan, armed forces champion at Westminster City Council, who simply said:

“The sight of Piccadilly Circus being almost brought to a standstill will stay with me a for a long time.”