HMS President awaits repainting as a 'Dazzle Ship' on the Thames in London

Call for 'lights out' across UK on August 4 to mark First World War Centenary

Posted on on 28 March 2014
Share |

People across the UK will be invited to commemorate the First World War Centenary by turning off their lights on 4th August 2014, the 100th anniversary of Britain declaring war on Germany.

The project has been announced as part of an official programme of cultural events marking the Centenary, called 14-18 NOW.

Two historic ships in London and Liverpool will also be repainted in 'dazzle' camouflage, as a striking reminder of the crucial role played by shipping in Britain's wartime survival.

With its call to put out the lights for a "collective moment of reflection," 14-18 NOW is seeking to evoke one of the best known episodes in the run-up to the war.

As peace ebbed away, the British Foreign Secretary of the day, Sir Edward Grey, famously remarked: “The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.”


Britain declared war at 11pm on 4th August 1914, after Germany refused a demand to respect Belgian neutrality.

14-18 NOW says people in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland will be asked to display just a single light each from 10pm, recalling the hour which ushered in "one of the darkest periods in the nation’s history." The organisation says it will be "one of the most dramatic UK-wide events ever organised."

Artists are being specially commissioned to create free digital light works which the public can download. There will also be a series of site-specific, large-scale works in a number of locations across the UK.

The event will complement a special candlelit vigil at Westminster Abbey and other Centenary events taking place that evening, which will be broadcast by the BBC.

A special late night concert at the BBC Proms, featuring a significant new work will also be linked to the 'Lights Out' project.

The events, announced by 14-18 NOW at a press conference in London, will mark the climax of a three-month cultural programme, starting in June. 

Artists from the UK and abroad have been invited to create new works reflecting on the impact and legacy of the First World War.

Everyone in the UK is also being invited to take part in Letter to an Unknown Soldier, a project inspired by the war memorial on platform one at Paddington Station in London. It shows a soldier reading a letter. 


In a year crowded with official remembrance and ceremony, the project's creators, Kate Pullinger and Neil Bartlett, are asking people "to pause, take a moment or two, and write that letter." 

All contributions will be published on the 14-18 NOW website. Fifty leading writers will also be participating.

14-18 NOW will hold further events in 2016 and 2018 to mark the 100th anniversaries of the Battle of the Somme and the Armistice..

The programme for 2014 includes the following projects:

Large-scale participatory events

The streets of Liverpool features a new production by the world-renowned street theatre company Royal de Luxe. Using their spectacular giant puppets, they will retell the story of the Liverpool Pals and King’s Regiment, the young men who signed up with their friends, colleagues and neighbours to defend Britain on the battlefields of Europe (23 – 27 July 2014).

100: The Day Our World Changed is a large-scale community project which brings together people in three villages in Cornwall connected by the Lost Gardens of Heligan Estate - Mevagissey, Gorran and St Ewe. The event is inspired by local archive and by the tragic memories and haunting memorabilia of local people whose forefathers used to work on the Heligan Estate. Of the twelve who enlisted, nine never returned. (3 August 2014)

Visual arts

Dazzle Ships – two spectacular artworks will pay tribute to the wartime heritage of London and Liverpool. The Venezuelan contemporary artist, Carlos Cruz-Diez, has been commissioned to paint a version of a camouflaged ‘Dazzle Ship’ on the historic pilot vessel, Edmund Gardner, in a dry dock adjacent to Liverpool's Albert Dock. 

In London, HMS President, a former First World War naval ship moored on the Thames, will also be ‘dazzled’ by a contemporary artist commissioned by Chelsea College of Art.


1914 Day by Day Cartoons is co-commissioned with BBC Radio 4. The historian, Margaret Macmillan, will select news reports from that same day 100 years ago and leading cartoonists and graphic artists from both the UK and Germany including Steve Bell, Ralph Steadman and Posy Simmonds will respond to the events of each week (28 June – 4 August).

Northern Ireland artist Graham Gingles will respond to the remarkable story of the Princess Mary Box with a large-scale installation for The MAC Belfast. The 17-year-old Princess was determined that no British soldier would go without a gift on the first Christmas Day of the war. (3 July – 17 August 2014)

Inspired by the landscape on which the British military conducted its early experiments in flight, Scottish-born artist, Anya Gallaccio, will create a new installation for the Aldeburgh Festival’s visual arts programme SNAP, in two locations in Suffolk – at Orford Ness and at Snape Maltings. During the First World War, the newly-formed Royal Air Force conducted trials in aerial photography and bombing at secret testing grounds on Orford Ness, to which the artist now returns.

Art on the Underground is the first in a series of three poster commissions by artists to commemorate the First World War and the London Underground, timed to coincide with 14-18 NOW’s seasons in 2014, 2016 and 2018. The first of these is a commission to artist Richard Wentworth on the theme of communication in the First World War.

Shot at Dawn - award-winning photographer Chloe Dewe Mathews will present a series of images of the locations at which British, French and Belgian troops were executed for cowardice and desertion during the First World War.  Dewe Mathews’s photographs were taken as close as possible to the precise time when the shootings took place. The works will be shown at Stills: Scotland’s Centre for Photography and at Tate Modern in winter 2014 and tour internationally in 2015 and 2016. 


The German composer, Torsten Rasch, and the Philharmonia Orchestra will present the world premiere of a major 40-minute work for choir, soloists and orchestra that sets the poetry of the First World War to music. Commissioned jointly by the Three Choirs Festival and Germany’s Chemnitz Opera, where it will also be performed, A Foreign Field features singers from both companies. The work sets verses by the Dymock Poets to music, including texts by Robert Frost, Edward Thomas and Rupert Brooke. The piece will have its German premiere in spring 2015. (Worcester Cathedral: 31 July 2014).

Live Music Now will bring older people, both those living independently and those in residential care, together with young professional musicians. The memories of older people attending lunch clubs or in residential care homes will be recorded and used as source material and inspiration for a new song suite. The new work will be performed both in care homes and on tour. (August 2014)

14-18 NOW’s partnership with the world music festival, WOMAD includes a commission to a band from Zimbabwe to make new songs which will be premiered at UK WOMAD and toured internationally to WOMAD festivals around the world. In addition, the festival will feature Letter to an Unknown Soldier. (24-27 July 2014) 

Named by Rolling Stone Magazine as one of the Top 20 Guitarists of All Time, Richard Thompson is also one of the world’s most critically acclaimed and prolific songwriters.  His 14-18 NOW commission is to write four songs reflecting on the First World War which will be performed on a UK tour in July/August. He will add further songs for a full work to be presented in 2016.


Mametz/National Theatre Wales: This large-scale, site-specific production – performed in ancient woodland near Usk in Monmouthshire – gives audiences a vivid glimpse into life and death in the trenches and on the battlefields of the Somme. The production is inspired by Owen Sheers’ poem Mametz Wood, recalling the battle in which 4,000 of the 38th (Welsh) Division were killed or wounded. Sometimes referred to as ‘the poets’ battle’, among the soldiers who took part were several key Welsh and English war poets, including Robert Graves, David Jones, Siegfried Sassoon and Llewelyn Wyn Griffith, and Sheers’ own great-great-uncle, William Cross (24 June – 5 July 2014).

After A War:  LIFT, the international theatre festival in London, has invited 25 artists and companies from across the world to think about the global impact and legacy of the First World War alongside contemporary issues of war and peace. Theatre companies, poets and an avant-garde cabaret band are among those who will address subjects as varied as the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, conscientious objection, the division of the Middle East, colonialism, civil war in Africa and drone strikes. The programme begins at the Southbank Centre in London and culminates with a three-day takeover of Battersea Arts Centre, the scene for the trial of many conscientious objectors during the First World War when it was Battersea Town Hall. (24-26 June & 27-29 June 2014) 

The Forbidden Zone: Leading British theatre director Katie Mitchell and playwright Duncan Macmillan present a new play about a family of German scientists who become embroiled in the manufacture of chemical weapons during the First World War. Commissioned by the Salzburg Festival and live streamed to the Barbican in partnership with 14-18 NOW. (5 August 2014)

Charlie Ward: Sound & Fury’s performance is inspired by the fact that Chaplin shorts used to be screened on the ceilings of hospitals for the war wounded. The audience will lie in hospital beds, watching excerpts from a Chaplin short film and listen to a sound world that resonates with echoes from the war and memories of home. It is the subjective sonic world of a patient in a field hospital removed from the front. (23 –27 July & 30 July – 3 August 2014)


‘Goodbye to All That’: One of Britain’s most eminent poets and respected literary figures, Lavinia Greenlaw, invites 10 writers from countries involved in the First World War to respond to the title of Robert Graves’ famous book. Each takes the poignant phrase Goodbye to All That as a starting point for a personal reflection on the aftermath of war, as well as on the continuing struggle for artistic freedom in the face of conflict in all its forms. The new essays will be presented in a variety of formats: on radio, in an anthology from Pushkin Press, online and in readings/talks given at the British Library and elsewhere in the UK. 

Lemn Sissay/The Verbal, Derry/Londonderry: The acclaimed poet Lemn Sissay will take up residency at this exciting Northern Ireland literature centre, creating a new performance piece and working with the city’s young people on themes around the First World War. (July 2014).


Does it Matter? - Disability and the First World War: Nearly two million British men returned from the First World War with a permanent disability. Disabled veterans were among the most visible legacy of the war, and their unprecedented numbers changed the way that the general public, and the state, understood disabilities. In a series of short films, five contemporary disabled artists present unorthodox, irreverent and unexpected takes on the legacies of war and disability in Britain today. (August 2014)

The Empire Café will be based at the Briggait within Glasgow’s Merchant City for seven days during the Commonwealth Games. As part of the Café’s programme, 14-18 NOW is commissioning a new piece of work by the Scottish artist, Graham Fagen, considering the stories of Jamaican soldiers during the First World War. The Café also features Letter to an  Unknown Soldier. (24 July – 1 August 2014)


BalletBoyz: Young Men present an excerpt of its much-anticipated new full-length show Young Men as part of an evening of dance at The Roundhouse. Drawing inspiration from images of the First World War and war through the ages, Young Men explores the theme of war and the bond that forms between the men that train and fight together.  Choreographed by Iván Pérez with an original score by composer and musician Keaton Henson, the performance features film and projection by BalletBoyz. (31 July & 1 August 2014)

The Director of 14-18 NOW is Jenny Waldman, who was creative producer of the London 2012 cultural festival accompanying the Olympic and Paralympic Games

Full details of the 14-18 NOW programme, and how to get involved, can be found by clicking here.

Source: 14-18 NOW

Date of press release publication: 27th March  2014

Images: Peter Alhadeff, Centenary News

Posted by Peter Alhadeff, Centenary News