London’s New Year’s Day Parade has evolved into one of the world’s great street spectaculars with up to 10,000 performers from across continents, hundreds of thousands of spectators, and a ‘live’ TV audience of several hundred million.
The first New Year’s Day Parade in London was on January 1st 1987, and it was called ‘The Lord Mayor of Westminster’s Big Parade’. The event featured about 2,000 performers, mostly marching bands, and meandered its way from Berkeley Street to Portland Place via Piccadilly Circus, Regent Street, and Oxfords Circus. London had not seen anything like it before, and did not really quite know what to make of it. The hundred thousand or so spectators, though a bit puzzled, certainly seemed to enjoy themselves.
By 1994 the Parade had become so big, so important, and so popular to London that the City of Westminster gave up sole ownership of the event, and it became truly ‘London’s New Year’s Day Parade and Festival’ with all of London’s Boroughs taking an active role in the event. To mark the arrival of all of London’s Boroughs into the Parade the 1994 event featured no fewer than 32 horse drawn carriages each one dedicated to the Mayor of a London Borough with, of course, a special one for the Lord Mayor of Westminster!
To date ‘London’s New Year’s Day Parade and Festival’ has raised or donated more than one and a half million pounds to London charities. Understandably audience figures for the event went through the roof for the Millennium Parade. This is the only Parade so far that has actually started a little late – all the fault of Prime Minister Blair who suddenly decided that he did not want to miss the greatest show in town! In 2006 the organisers decided the Parade should be broadcast ‘live’ for the first time. Simon Bates and Bob Bone hosted a three and a half hour marathon, which by all reports was thoroughly enjoyed all over the world.
London’s New Year’s Day Parade’ now regularly attracts a worldwide TV audience of approaching three hundred million, a terrific audience on the streets of London every New Year’s Day of two thirds of a million, and boasts twice as many participants every year as a little Parade offered by Macy’s in New York City on Thanksgiving Day! ‘London’s New Year’s Day Parade’ is now a very major entry in the United Kingdom’s calendar of events. It is good for London, and it is enjoyed by millions of people worldwide.
The Parade starts at 12 midday on Piccadilly at the junction with Berkeley Street near Green Park Tube Station and finishes at 3.30 pm in Parliament Square. The Parade route is – Piccadilly, Piccadilly Circus, Lower Regent Street, Waterloo Place, Pall Mall, Cockspur Street, Trafalgar Square, Whitehall and Parliament Street.