The London New Years Day Parade is one of the most anticipated events of the year. The parade has become a tradition which marks the beginning of the event calendar of the year for one of the greatest cities in the world. Though it may have sprung from rather humble beginnings, the parade has become a spectacular showcase of music, dance and performance that attracts a worldwide television audience numbered in the millions. All traditions have to start somewhere and for the LNYDP its roots are placed firmly in 1987. At this time it was known simply as the Lord Mayor of Westminster’s Big Parade. ‘Big’ the parade may have been but it was barely a shadow of the event that takes place on the streets of London today.
On the 1st January 1987 a parade consisting of a rather impressive 2,000 performers took to the streets. It wound its way from Berkley Street and travelled via Piccadilly Circus, Oxford Circus and Regent Street to its final destination in Portland Place. London had seen nothing of the like before. Thousands of people lined the streets and watched the marching bands and other performers as they made their way through the streets.
In 1987 New Year’s Day was not as we know it now. The shops and stores that we all recognise were open for half a day at the most and the bars and restaurants were generally closed for business. The parade brought colour and sound to a very dull day in the life of the city. The event was repeated the following year to even greater success and in 1989 the marching bands were joined by cheerleaders and the event began including special concerts with planning underway for a grand finale spectacle unlike any other.
The event changed and grew year upon year until it was no longer viable for the borough of Westminster to claim ownership, hence the name change to the London New Years Day Parade and Festival. Now all of the city boroughs are represented and take an active part in the festivities.
For the Benefit of London Charities
There has always been a charitable element to the event but the fundraising really took off in 1996 with the concept of the ‘Help London Challenge’. Since its beginning, the event has raised more than £1.5M for the cities charities. Every year the streets are lines with people numbering in the tens of thousands coming out into the cold to enjoy the festival atmosphere that the event provides. The Millennium parade drew the biggest crowds that the event organisers have ever seen.
The LNYDP was televised for the first time in 2006 and was broadcast worldwide to an enthusiastic audience. This year the viewing audience is expected to reach around three hundred million people, add to this the almost 700,000 spectators that take to the streets and the 10,000 artists, musicians and dancers that take part in the parade itself and you have one of the largest free public events anywhere in the world.