© london transport museum collection
Cinema, by Mark Fernand Severin, 1938
- Medium: Mixed media
- Dimensions: Width: 635mm, Height: 1016mm
- Reference number: 1995/4121
The range of entertainment on offer in London provided countless vibrant and enticing subjects for transport posters. Rather than advertising specific venues or events, posters usually promoted general activities such as shopping or going to the theatre. Many aimed to encourage travel to the city in the evenings and at weekends. Others encouraged regular commuters to stay in the city after work, rather than travelling home at rush hour. In the 1930s, posters were also issued with listings of specific events scheduled for that week.
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Theatre & cinema
London's West End was often promoted by the Underground for its numerous theatres and cinemas. Posters encouraged passengers to travel there in the evenings and weekends. Others encouraged commuters to watch a film or see a show after work, rather than travelling home at rush hour. Theatres on the outskirts of London, such as Kingston and Hammersmith, were also occasionally advertised. At Christmas, London Transport issued posters specifically to promote seasonal pantomimes. These were particularly popular in the 1950s.
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London's transport system
By 1914 the Underground Group ran most of the Tube lines, three tram systems and the main London bus company, the LGOC. The posters publicise all these transport modes. Outside the Underground Group were the Metropolitan Railway and London County Council (LCC) Tramways, which ran separate poster campaigns. All these companies were merged into London Transport (LT) in 1933. The four main line railway companies also used posters to promote their London suburban services. Transport for London (TfL) replaced LT in 2000 with wider responsibility including taxis, streets, river services and some overground rail.
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Giving passengers useful information to help them on their journey has always been a major purpose of posters. The least successful are those that are difficult to read because they rely on too much text or have a confusing layout. To convey an important message quickly a poster should be concise and use a strong visual image but few words. Most London Transport posters are models of clarity but in the 1950s in particular the copywriter seemed to take precedence over the artist and the results often look as cluttered and wordy as Victorian posters with no illustrations had once done.
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