Blog Archives

Brighten up dark nights with interactive, light art installations at Winterfest at Wembley Park

The Sonic Runway will be one of the installations during Winterfest
© Jordan Laboucane

Lighting up the dark, cold nights this autumn is a new light festival at Wembley Park. Winterfest kicks off on 20 November 2019 and transform the area into an expanse of light, sound and colour. Guests will be able to move around the park and interact with the installations, creating plenty of Insta-moments to capture.

One of the highlights will be the light-art installation Sonic Runway, making its European debut following its success at Nevada’s Burning Man festival. Located on Olympic Way, the piece features music rippling down a 100-metre corridor of 32 concentric rings, with the light patterns moving at the speed of sound. During the launch night, the installation will be accompanied by a bespoke music soundtrack in partnership with Boxpark Wembley. Following the switch-on, guests can head to nearby Boxpark to chose from over 20 street food stalls and entertainment, including the world’s first free-roam virtual reality e-gaming arena.

Other installations includes the ‘Murmuration of Hopes’ light by architectural designer Elyne Legarnisson and digital scenographer Aurelien Lafargue. The commission is displayed across 15 huge LED banners and across the trees, with digital ‘birds’ perching on them. London’s tallest-ever LED Christmas tree will be unveiled, standing tall at 25-metres and including over 100,000 low-energy coloured lights. Meanwhile, you can enjoy the sounds of ‘Illumaphonium: Halo’, a series of eight, 3-metre music installations by musician and inventor Michael Davis. Visitors can interact and created music together. There will also be plenty of Instagrammable photo moments waiting, including the ‘LoveSpot… Under the Mistletoe’, a heart sculpture adorned with mistletoe and pulsating red lights; ‘Star Box’, a gift shaped cube, filled with golden lights and shimmering sequins; and ‘Saturation Surge’, a bold, colourful and geometric piece by street artist Maser.

As well as the art installations, there will be series of live music performances every weekend throughout November and December. Meanwhile, theatre fans can head to the new Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre to see the touring production of hit musical Fame from 21 December – 26 January 2020.

  • Winterfest runs from 20 November 2019 – 3 January 2020. Free admission. At Wembley Park, Wembley, HA9 0FD. Nearest stations: Wembley Park or Wembley Stadium. For more information, visit the Wembley Park website.

For a guide to what else is on in London this November, click here.

For a guide to London’s outdoor ice rinks this festive season, click here.

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Winter Lights festival 2019: Ghost whales, mazes and trees as Canary Wharf is lit up in neon

Having a gas: The last Webb Patent Sewer lamp in London

Once a mainstay of Victorian streets, gas lamps have gradually been replaced by electric lighting and are a very rare occurrence today. However down one quiet London street, there is what is believed to be the capital’s only remaining sewer gas lamp.

Carting Lane Gas lamp © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2014

The Webb Patent Sewer Gas Lamp is located on Carting Lane

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2014

The lamp burns 24 hours a day

Halfway down Carting Lane at the back of The Savoy hotel, is an example of a Webb Patent Sewer Gas Lamp. The design was patented by Joseph Edmund Webb of Birmingham in the late 19th century in a bid to safely remove sewer gases from the sewers below. These gases, when built up, were hazardous and smelt dreadful. These lamps were mainly placed on slopes and hills – where sewer gases were more likely to collect. Carting Lane is a slope leading down towards the Thames from The Strand, with the sewers taking waste from The Savoy. With this in mind, it’s no surprise to hear the road has been nicknamed ‘Farting Lane’. However, while the lamps removed sewer gases, they weren’t actually powered by them. The flame is lit by traditional town gas, while drawing up sewer gases from below and burning off any impurities along with the mains gas.

Unfortunately the lamp was damaged by a lorry in more recent years, but has been fully restored by British Gas engineers and can now be seen running 24 hours a day.

  • The old lamppost can be found on Carting Lane (leading from The Strand to Savoy Place), Westminster, WC2R. Nearest stations: Charing Cross, Embankment or Temple.

For the history of the ‘Dolphin’ street lamps by the Thames, click here.

To find out about the monument to composer Arthur Sullivan in Embankment Gardens behind the hotel and his ties to The Savoy, click here.

For more of Metro Girl’s posts on London history, click here.

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Can lampposts be fashionable? The myth of the Coco Chanel street lights

Have you ever spotted the CC logo on Westminster’s street lighting?

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2013

A tribute to a loving merger of aristocracy and high fashion? The ‘Coco Chanel lampposts’ in Westminster

Anyone observant who has walked around the City of Westminster may have noticed the gold CC initials embossed on some of the lampposts. With the two Cs back-to-back, the first association that would spring to mind would be Coco Chanel’s iconic logo. Decades after the French designer was the talk of the town, her brand is still a big name internationally, synonymous with classic style and quality.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2013

Coco Chanel… or just City Council?

For years, there has been a myth that the initials actually are in homage to Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel (1883-1971) as a declaration of affection from her lover, the Duke of Westminster, Hugh Richard Arthur Grosvenor (1879-1953). The pair were said to have met at a party in Monaco sometime between 1923 and 1925 and embarked on a love affair until the early ’30s. Although French and known for her long association with Paris, Gabrielle spent a lot of time in London during the ’20s and opened her Mayfair boutique in 1927. To prove his love for her, the myth claims the Duke had her CC initials embossed in gold on black lampposts alongside his own ornate W crest (for Westminster). Decades after their romance, Coco herself denied reports she had refused the Duke’s proposal with the reply: ‘There have been many Duchesses of Westminster, but only one Coco Chanel.’ She said such a response would have been ‘vulgar’, adding: ‘He would have laughed in my face.’ However, he did buy her some land at Roquebrune-Cap-Martin on the French Riviera, where she built her villa La Pausa.

While the lampposts appearing to combine French fashion and traditional British design remain on many Westminster streets, it appears the CCs may not have such a romantic origin after all. Westminster Council told the Telegraph two years ago that the CC stands for something far less glamorous. Martin Low, City Commissioner of Transportation for Westminster City Council, told the paper: ‘Periodically, we get calls from the fashion press asking if the double Cs on our lampposts stand for Coco Chanel. It’s a nice idea, but no. The fancy W stands for Westminster and the two Cs stand for City Council. The lampposts didn’t actually get installed until the 1950s.’

N.B. The lampposts in the 1st and 2nd photos is located on Temple Place, WC2R, just behind Temple tube station, while the final lamppost is on Irving Street, just off Charing Cross Road.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2013

Sadly the CC stands for Coco Chanel and the W is for Westminster


For more Metro Girl blog posts on London’s ‘Dolphin’ lamps by the Thames click here or for the last gas sewer lamp in London, click here.

To read about more of London’s street furniture, such as the now-restored Georgian water pump on Cornhill click here or the old police telephone posts click here.

If you’re a fan of the 1920s, check out our guide to prohibition-themed bars and parties here.

Check out more of Metro Girl’s history posts.

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