The first Harry Potter film was released 20 years ago, and London celebrates with a public installation at Leicester Square.

A few weeks ago, at our weekly pub quiz, we were given a sheet and asked to name each different type of sports ball pictured. I took a quick glance, sighed and passed the paper over to the rest of my quiz team. They’re all sports nuts and I’m…not. True to form they quickly got numbers one through nine, but number 10 was bothering them. After intense conversation amongst the guys, my husband handed me back the sheet and asked me to take a look. Like it might be a ball from some obscure American sport that I, the nerd, am going to recognize. Sure guys.

But, being a good sport (the only sport I’m good at), I looked at number 10. It took me about two seconds to place the balls in this particular picture. I grabbed a pen and wrote: Quidditch!

You see what happens when you watch too much sports? You miss out on getting the 10th answer. I say this not to make it sound like I get every single Harry Potter question, but I was the only American at a table with four British men, and I got the answer to the most British British thing ever…in my opinion. Honestly, Harry Potter was one of the movies or shows that shaped my view of the UK before I moved here.

Unsurprisingly, Harry Potter shaped a lot of British views as well, and London proves it! A visit to King’s Cross Station in London will allow you to browes at the official Harry Potter Shop and visit Platform 9 3/4, where you can get your photo taken as you drive your baggage carts through the solid wall. There are Harry Potter themed afternoon teas. You can visit Warner Bros. Studios for a tour.

Speaking of Warner Bros., this year is the 20th anniversary of the release of the first Harry Potter film. Naturally London is celebrating this iconic and oh so British film. Leicester Square, located in the West End, has been filled with theaters since 1670 and is the entertainment center of London. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone premiered at the Odeon Leicester Square in November, 2001. The historic square is hosting a fitting tribute to the Harry Potter series; a pathway located in the central green of the square is flanked on either side by large wands from the films. Every night the tips of each wand light and the theme from the films can be heard gently on the wind. Nearby the display of wands, which will be removed on November 1st, is the location of the permanently installed Harry Potter statue.

It took us three tries, three Saturdays in a row to actually catch the wands lighting and the music playing. The first Saturday we made the trek from North London, the wands hadn’t been set up yet (my bad, I misread the dates). The second week we thought we’d planned better. Went to SoHo, had a romantic dinner, and then strolled to Leicester Square. Until we hit the wall of people that inhabit the square on a Saturday night. After fighting our way through the crowds, we found the gates to the little park closed and the wands unlit. Fair enough, with the amount of people in Leicester Square the wands would have been damaged. Fear not, I told myself, there’s always next Saturday.

Last Saturday we finally made it. We planned it like a military operation. Wands light at six. Dress warm. Be on the tube at 5:21 to make it to Leicester Square by six, check. Find a good spot for pictures, check. We were in position by ten minutes to six, so we waited. And waited. And waited. By 6:20 I was ready to find someone, anyone, that worked for the park or the city of London just so that I could punch them in the head. But before I could find anyone, miraculously the wands began to light. Softly at first, and glowing white. Gradually the lights began to change from white, to green, to red and finally purple. It really was quite a sight. And there may have been music playing, but all I heard was lots of loud people. So after taking some pictures and reading about the display, my husband and I strolled out of Leicester Square and away from the crowds glad that we’d come to celebrate Harry Potter.

Well, I was glad but my poor husband missed the football.


Sidney Fraser
Sidney Fraser

Sidney Fraser is an American transplanted to a new life in London, where she explores fannish and geeky places, events and creations, which she relates in the continuing True and Proper Adventures of Sidney Fraser.