As a first phase, distinctive coloured lighting columns will mark out theatres in the Shaftesbury Avenue while the theatres themselves revamp their entrances to set them apart from other businesses in the area. Bespoke street lights - traditional Grey Wornum lanterns with strips of coloured LEDs running down the columns - have been specially designed. These will shine brighter and more intensely in colour just before and after shows. Other additional \"showtime\" lighting will be used during the half-hour before and after each show to create a greater sense of event.
Further streetscape improvements as part of the new Theatreland Strategy include decluttering pavements, widening footpaths and repaving outside theatres with sparkly granite in alternating black and white. Major works began on the project in Shaftesbury Avenue in April to install the new lighting columns and carry out street improvements along with work by Transport for London, which is carrying out works to reduce bus journey times by creating a new transport corridor linking high-profile parts of central London.
Cllr Alan Bradley, lead member for Theatreland, said: \"The West End boasts the highest concentration of theatres in the world and they make a huge contribution to tourism and the economy. These plans will help put the sparkle back into the area and set it apart as a unique entertainment destination and an integral part of what makes the West End so special.\"
Richard Pulford, chief executive of the Society of London Theatre (SOLT), said: \"We have been working closely with Westminster for some months in developing these plans, and are delighted with the outcome. West End theatre is a magical asset, which has for too long been let down by its surroundings. The new initiative will ensure that the backdrop to Theatreland reflects that magic in a way that will lift the spirits of theatregoers and of the general public alike.\"
Theatre producer and owner Cameron Mackintosh said: \"We welcome Westminster Council\'s initiative to improve the surroundings of our West End theatres, highlighting Theatreland. These improvements will be of real benefit to our theatre goers and the surrounding businesses and recognise London as the theatre capital of the world.\"
André Ptaszynski, chief executive of Andrew Lloyd Webber\'s Really Useful Group Ltd, said: \"This promises improvements to the general streetscape and overall atmosphere of Theatreland which will be good for all visitors to the West End.\"
Westminster City Council launched the Theatreland Initiative in 2005 to strengthen the identity of the theatre district. The Theatreland district incorporates Shaftesbury Avenue, St Martin\'s Lane/St Martin\'s Cross, Charing Cross Road, Covent Garden and the Strand in Westminster as well as Seven Dials in the London Borough of Camden. The strategy is a partnership initiative led by the Theatreland Steering Group.
Westminster City Council has so far committed £1.55 million within its three-year capital programme. Future phases of development after Shaftesbury Avenue – including new street signs, lighting and footpath improvements in Cambridge Circus and Coventry Street, and the creation of 23 new parking bays for coach drops at theatres - will be dependent on securing additional outside funding.
- by Terri Paddock