James Glancy Design add a festive glow to the West End
Words Mark Hooper
Film by Peter Drinkell
Watch the six-month process to capture The Spirit of Christmas, putting craft back at the centre of London’s seasonal display of lights…
In the not-so-distant past, the seasonal lights in London’s West End were nothing if not honest: cheap and glitzy tie-ins with movie franchises that put commerce firmly at the centre of the Christmas message.
But no more. This year, the largest display of lights in Central London – following Regent Street down to Waterloo Place St James’s – instead aim to capture The Spirit of Christmas through the creativity of a crack team of model makers, animators, welders and craftsmen from across Britain. Tasked with injecting a bit of class and magic back into some of the city’s busiest streets, James Glancy Design Ltd took their inspiration from the more design-led lighting displays of 1954, when retailers and businesses in the West End organised and financed the first display to liven up a drab post-war London.
This is part of a series of innovative festive installations this year, including a giant advent calendar in St James’s Market Pavilion created by illustrator Daniel Clarke, with an accompanying Instagram competition to win prizes every day until Christmas as each door is unlocked (see stjameslondon.co.uk)
The new lights consist of a series of dramatic, large-scale ‘spirit’ figures, covered in sparkling white LED lights and each with a wingspan of over 16 metres, which were handcrafted in a South London workshop. Photographer and filmmaker Pete Drinkell was on hand to record the entire making process for Hole & Corner, starting in the summer to capture just some of the 2,200 hours of welding time, the construction and fine-tuning, before witnessing the installation and capturing the final switch-on.
Paul Dart, lead designer at James Glancy, explains how the initial idea for the figures came from the 17th century Grindling Gibbons carvings found in St James’s Church. ‘I started with the wings and that naturally evolved into an angel or spirit. The interesting aspect of this scheme was knowing there was a very strong story to the area as a home of craftsmanship which we hope is reflected in our work.’ Watch Pete’s full film above…