Showbiz stars behind makeover proposed for shabby Leicester Square
Friday 21 March 2003
Influential figures from stage and screen have been consulted over ambitious plans to transform Leicester Square in London from a tawdry city centre haunt into Britain's leading live entertainment venue.
A new casino hotel and a roof terrace along the north side of the square have been suggested for a project to revitalise the area, which has also become a mustering point for aggressive beggars and pickpockets. The theatrical impresario Sir Cameron Mackintosh and the film director Ridley Scott have had talks on the plans with Westminster City Council. Other proposals have included a permanent base for the circus troupe Cirque du Soleil.
Leicester Square has long held sway as a centre for popular culture, with artistic connections dating back to the 17th century. The artists William Hogarth and Joshua Reynolds, the first president of the Royal Academy, used to live there. On the north side of the square, Marlene Dietrich and Maurice Chevalier appeared in cabaret shows at the Café de Paris.
The area remains at the centre of British film going, with its seven cinemas hosting 50 premieres a year. Apart from brief appearances from the odd Hollywood superstar, though, it has become more of a centre for hard-drinking youth and petty crime. Late- night licences for some of the 15 bars and nightclubs help attract up to 250,000 people a day.
Simon Milton, leader of Westminster council, said the plan to make the area the focal point of London entertainment was in its early stages. Consultants were expected to report soon. Mr Milton said the scheme had been inspired by the family-friendly atmosphere of Times Square in New York. A refurbished square could be a valuable draw for the tourism industry, which has been hard hit by American travel fears.
"What we have at the moment is a series of bars and clubs on the north side, some of which are very nice, some of which are pretty dire," he said. "What it does is attract young people who are looking to get drunk. Live performances brings different kinds of people into the Square. It wouldn't be just another entertainment venue – the role of Leicester Square should be to be the showcase."
Around-the-clock wardens and closed-circuit cameras have been introduced in the past year as a first check on the drink-related crimes and thefts in the square. The central area is also likely to be redesigned to make more space for outdoor cafés and dining. "Leicester Square is a great place. Ultimately it will be larger organisations that can afford to be there," Mr Milton said.
- 1 Finland schools: Subjects scrapped and replaced with 'topics' as country reforms its education system
- 2 The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
- 3 #FreeTheNipple: Women in Iceland bare breasts in solidarity with trolled student
- 4 Scientists have discovered a simple way to cook rice that dramatically cuts the calories
- 5 Zayn Malik quits One Direction: Hundreds of workers request compassionate leave following band member's exit
Germanwings captain Patrick Sondenheimer tried to break into locked cockpit door 'with an axe' as plane was descending
Amanda Knox murder conviction: Italian court overturns verdict for US student and Raffaele Sollecito in the killing of Meredith Kercher
Saudi Arabia says it won't rule out building nuclear weapons
The battle for the Middle East's future begins in Yemen as Saudi Arabia jumps into the abyss
#FreeTheNipple: Women in Iceland bare breasts in solidarity with trolled student
Nigel Farage brands LGBT activists 'filth' and 'scum' and accuses them of scaring away his children after they invade his local pub
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
JK Rowling responds to fan tweeting she 'can't see' Dumbledore being gay
Russia threatens Denmark with nuclear weapons if it tries to join Nato defence shield
Jeremy Clarkson sacked live: Alan Yentob 'wouldn't rule out' ex Top Gear host's BBC return
Germanwings plane crash: Co-pilot Andreas Lubitz wanted to 'do something people would remember him for'
£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...
£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...
£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...