'Dazzling relief': Floodlighting and national affective atmospheres on VE Day 1945

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


The VE Day celebrations in London on 8 May 1945 are popularly understood as a moment of wild national celebration. An important aspect of this event was the use of floodlights by the government to highlight important buildings in central London, and many accounts of the event describe this illumination as both spectacular and national. This article uses this case to explore the relationship between the materiality of the built environment, the way such environments are transformed through illumination, the use and experience of such sites, and how these aspects might combine into 'national atmospheres'. In doing so, it draws on recent scholarship concerning the materiality and agency of light and affective atmospheres to show how use of floodlighting helped constitute the built environment of central London nationally symbolic. Two aspects of this occasion are considered: the role of this spectacle in reinforcing national narratives, and the more subtle ways in which the illuminations helped create affective atmospheres that complicated the explicit 'nation-ness' of the event. This article will also discuss the importance of the experience as a collective one, as spectators helped construct the national through collective activity. It argues that these elements combined to create a 'national atmosphere' that relied on the embodied and collective spatial practices for its both its affective and discursive impact.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-69
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Historical Geography
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Affective atmosphere
  • Illuminations
  • London
  • National identity
  • VE Day

Cite this