Britain to turn out lights for centenary of First World War

With the centenary of the First World War approaching, Britons are being urged to turn their lights out on 4 August – 100 years since Britain declared war on Germany

World War I centenary commemorations
British infantrymen in a shallow trench before an advance during the Battle of the Somme. ©PA Images

Britain will stage a virtual black-out on the centenary of the First World War if an ambitious art project gets its way.

The dramatic UK-wide Lights Out event will take place at 11pm on 4 August, 2014 – exactly 100 years since Britain declared war on Germany –  as part of 14-18-Now, a series of artistic commissions to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the First World War.

This is a symbolic reference to the moment in 1914 when then Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey made his famous remark: “The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.”

Speaking at the launch of 14-18-Now on board HMS President – one of only three surviving ships from the First World War – Culture Secretary Maria Miller said: “Culture is part of the fabric of British society. Ensuring a cultural element flows throughout the centenary will be a vital part of our commemorations, particularly as a way of engaging young people and helping them make that connection with the past.”

The 2014 programme begins in June and culminates on 4 August, with other notable highlights being ‘Letter to an Unknown Soldier’ – a project inspired by Charles Jagger’s statue in Paddington Station of a soldier reading a letter from home. The project features the work of 50 writers including Sebastian Faulks, Andrew Motion and Stephen Fry and the public are also invited to write their own letters to be published online and stored in the British Library’s digital archive.

Events will take place over the next four years and focus around two other significant historical dates: July 2016, the start of the Battle of the Somme; and November 2018, the Centenary of the Armistice.

The director of the programme is Jenny Waldman, creative producer for the London 2012 Festival, which accompanied the 2012 London Olympics. The project has received £10 million of National Lottery funding. It is supported by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

For more information on the upcoming events visit

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