Contemporary art Heritage News United Kingdom

First World War centenary to be illuminated by candle light in the UK

Landmark buildings due to go dark and field of poppies grows at the Tower of London

Each flower in the Tower's moat represents a British or Colonial serviceman killed during the war

Britain's declaration of war on Germany at 11pm on 4 August 1914, which meant a crisis that began in the Balkans would escalate into a global conflict, will be marked across the UK and abroad by an event called Lights Out.

The lights of the Tate's galleries, St Paul's Cathedral and the Houses of Parliament among other landmark buildings and structures, are due to be turned off from 10pm-11pm on Monday, 4 August. The public is being encouraged to turn off lights at home and burn a single candle in remembrance of the start of the First World War for Great Britain and its Empire. Meanwhile, across the world staff of British Embassies and High Commissions will light a candle at 11pm local time.

The centenary event is inspired by the words: “The lamps are going out all over Europe,” spoken by the British foreign secretary, Edward Grey, as the sun set over London on the evening of 3 August 1914, aware that frantic diplomacy to avert war had almost certainly failed.

Meanwhile, the Tower of London's dry moat is becoming a field of ceramic poppies. The installation by the artist Paul Cummins and theatre designer Tom Piper, Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, is due to grow until 11 November when the moat will be filled with 888,246 ceramic poppies. Each flower represents a British or Colonial serviceman killed during the war. The "Last Post" will be played at the Tower every evening.

Scotland's Lights Out artists' commission is due to take place on 4 August incorporating the Scottish National Gallery building. Bombay-based artist Nalini Malani's In Search of Vanished Blood, will be projected on to the gallery's facade. The installation is a 14-18 Now, WW1 Centenary Art Commission and Edinburgh Art Festival co-commission.

In Northern Ireland Bob and Roberta Smith has created a work at Belfast City Hall featuring thousands of candles created by community groups, which is due to be unveiled at 10pm on 4 August. This Lights Out commission is produced by Factotum.

The North Wales Memorial Arch in Bangor is due to be transformed by a light and sound installation by the artist Bedwyr Williams, a work commissioned with Artes Mundi.

The Lights Out commission for England is due to be revealed on Monday in London as is another centenary work, described as a “nocturnal project” by Artangel. A spokesman for the public art agency says the piece will be viewable from the banks of the River Thames in central London

Meanwhile, in Australia and New Zealand the main focus of remembrance will be the centenary in April 2015 of the Gallipoli landings. The Sydney Symphony Orchestra and New Zealand Symphony Orchestra are due to perform simultaneous concerts on 22 April 2015 featuring the premieres of two specially commissioned works by an Australian and a New Zealand composer that honour the Anzacs (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) who fought in Turkey and in other campaigns. When Britain declared war on Germany, millions in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India and across the British Empire volunteered for military service.

More from The Art Newspaper


Submit a comment

All comments are moderated. If you would like your comment to be approved, please use your real name, not a pseudonym. We ask for your email address in case we wish to contact you - it will not be made public and we do not use it for any other purpose.


Want to write a longer comment to this article? Email


Share this