By Marcus Leach
One of London’s best-loved landmarks has been returned to Leicester Square, reviving a sight and sound that has given pleasure to millions of Londoners and visitors.
The Glockenspiel that rang out from the corner of the Swiss Centre has been returned as a redesigned free-standing unit and will be formally inaugurated on 28 November.
The original Glockenspiel — consisting of 27 bells, an astronomical clock and a procession of 23 farmers herding their cows to Alpine pasture — was given to the City of Westminster on its 400th anniversary in 1985 by Switzerland and Liechtenstein as a token of centuries of friendship.
Redevelopment of the Swiss Centre from 2008 entailed its removal, but it was a condition of planning approval that the Glockenspiel should return to the square.
The historic world-leading clockmaking company, Smith of Derby, was asked by the developer, McAleer & Rushe, and Switzerland Tourism, to design and create the clock from a basic concept. The brief required it to retain a strong Swiss identity and harmonise with the surrounding buildings and urban context.
The Glockenspiel will be formally inaugurated at 12.30pm on Monday 28 November by Councillor Susie Burbridge, the Right Worshipful the Lord Mayor of Westminster, HE Mr Anton Thalmann, Ambassador of Switzerland to the UK, and Mr Urs Eberhard, Executive Vice President of Switzerland Tourism. A past President of the Swiss Confederation, Mr Adolf Ogi, is honouring the occasion with his presence.
The ceremony will include a demonstration of the way that the Glockenspiel has been designed so that it can be played live by plugging in a keyboard. Six Alphorn players will be placed on various roofs around Leicester Square, some hidden so that people in Leicester Square will wonder where the sound is coming from.
At street level traditional bell-playing folklore groups from various parts of Switzerland will parade towards the Glockenspiel and create a circle around the guests. The Glockenspiel will give solo performances and in unison with the bell-ringers.
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