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Coordinates: 51°30′37″N 0°7′49″W / 51.51028°N 0.13028°W / 51.51028; -0.13028

Leicester Square at night in 2005: a view towards the northeast corner.
For the British guitarist, see Lester Square.

Leicester Square (pronounced /ˈlɛstə/) is a pedestrianised square in the West End of London, England. The Square lies within an area bound by Lisle Street, to the north; Charing Cross Road, to the east; Orange Street, to the south; and Whitcomb Street, to the west. The park at the centre of the Square is bound by Cranbourn Street, to the north; Leicester Street, to the east; Irving Street, to the south; and a section of road designated simply as Leicester Square, to the west. It is within the City of Westminster, and about equal distances (about 400 yards / 370 metres) north of Trafalgar Square, east of Piccadilly Circus, west of Covent Garden, and south of Cambridge Circus.



Leicester Square in 1750, looking north. The large house set behind a forecourt at the northeast corner is Leicester House, then the residence of Frederick, Prince of Wales.
Leicester Square in 1880, looking north east.

The Square is named after Robert Sidney, 2nd Earl of Leicester, who purchased four acres (1.6 hectares) in St. Martin's Field in 1630; by 1635, he had built himself a large house, Leicester House, at the northern end. The area in front of the house was then enclosed, depriving inhabitants of St. Martin's Parish of their right to use the previously common land. The parishioners appealed to King Charles I, and he appointed three members of the Privy Council to arbitrate. Lord Leicester was ordered to keep part of his land (thereafter known as Leicester Field and later as Leicester Square) open for the parishioners.[1]

The area was developed in the 1670s. It was initially fashionable and Leicester House was once residence of Frederick, Prince of Wales but by the late 18th century, the Square was no longer a smart address and began to serve as a venue for popular entertainments. Leicester House became home of a museum of natural curiosities called the Holophusikon in the 1780s and was demolished about 1791–1792.[1]

In 1848, Leicester Square was the subject of the land-law case of Tulk v. Moxhay. The plot's previous owner had agreed upon a covenant not to erect buildings. However, the law would not allow purchasers who were not 'privy' to the initial contract to be bound by subsequent promises. The judge, Lord Cottenham, decided that future owners could be bound by promises to abstain from activity. Otherwise, a buyer could sell land to himself to undermine an initial promise.[2] Arguments continued about the fate of the garden, with Tulk's heirs erecting a wooden hoarding around the property in 1873. Finally, in 1874 the flamboyant Albert Grant (1830–1899) purchased the outstanding freeholds and donated the garden to the Metropolitan Board of Works, laying out a garden at his own expense. The title passed to the succeeding public bodies and is now in the ownership of the City of Westminster.[3]

By the 19th century, Leicester Square was known as an entertainment venue, with many amusements peculiar to the era including Wyld's Globe which was built for the great exhibition and housed a giant scale map of the Earth.[4] Several hotels grew up around the square making it popular with visitors to London. A large theatre, the Alhambra, built in 1854, dominated the site,[5] to be joined in 1884 by the Empire Theatre of Varieties. The square remains the heart of the West End entertainment district today.

During the Labour government's 1979 Winter of Discontent, garbage collectors went on strike. Leicester Square was used as an overflow dump, earning it the nickname of "Fester Square".[6]




The Shakespeare fountain and statue
Bust of Hogarth

In the middle of the Square is a small park, in the centre of which is a 19th century statue of William Shakespeare surrounded by dolphins. The four corner gates of the park have one bust each, depicting Sir Isaac Newton, the scientist; Sir Joshua Reynolds, the first President of the Royal Academy; John Hunter, a pioneer of surgery; and William Hogarth, the painter. The most recent addition is a statue of film star and director Charlie Chaplin. On the pavement are inscribed the distances in miles to countries of the former British Empire.


Tom Cruise's handprints

Leicester Square is the centre of London's cinema land, and one of the signs marking the Square bears the legend "Theatreland." It is claimed that the Square contains the cinema with the largest screen and the cinema with the most seats (over 1600). The square is the prime location in London for major film premieres and has seen the likes of James Bond films, animation films such as Shrek and even co-hosts the London Film Festival each year. Similar to Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, the square is surrounded by floor mounted plaques with film stars names and cast handprints.

The Square is also the home for tkts, formerly known as the Official London Half-Price Theatre Ticket Booth. This booth is jointly operated by TKTS and Tickets for theatre performances taking place around the West End that day are sold from the booth for about half the usual price. The popularity of the booth has given rise to many other booths and stores around the Square that advertise half-price tickets for West End shows. It is claimed that at least some of these booths operate fraudulently. Despite having names like 'Official Half-Price Ticket Booth', they are not official and they do not always advertise the booking fees which commonly come with purchasing tickets.

The Square is home to several nightclubs, making it often very busy, particularly on Friday and Saturday evenings.

Major cinemas

Leicester Square's Odeon.
Leicester Square's Empire a rainy night in May 2003
  • Odeon Leicester Square, which dominates the east side of the square, had the first digital projector in Europe (1999), hosting most premieres with capacity for 1683 people, arranged in circle and stalls.
  • The adjacent Odeon Mezzanine has five smaller auditoria (capacities of 50–60 each).
  • Empire, on the north of the Square, is the next-largest cinema, with 1,330 seats in the main screen (the only THX certified screen in the square), as well as eight smaller screens, with 349, 96, 58, 49, 48, 42 and 23 seats. Eight of the screens are digital. The main screen and one smaller one can also play 3D films. Many premieres are hosted here.
  • Odeon West End, on the south side, contains two screens, which can seat 1,000 each, and is used for smaller premieres.
  • Vue, on the north side, near the north east corner, was previously the Warner Brothers Village, a multiplex that hosted only Warner Bros. film premieres. Together with the rest of the Warner Village chain, it was bought out by Vue in 2004.

Other cinemas

Clubs, bars, restaurants

Just off Leicester Square


Global Radio has its headquarters on the east side of Leicester Square, close to the Odeon Leicester Square. The building houses the radio stations 95.8 Capital FM, Classic FM, Xfm London, Choice FM, Gold, Heart and LBC.

In what was formerly Home (a seven-floor superclub launched in 1999, which went into receivership[7] after having its licence revoked by police for one month[8] in March 2001 because of drugs issues, and at which Paul Oakenfold was a resident D.J.), is now an MTV UK television studio, used for the UK version of Total Request Live and the Russell Brand–fronted show 1 Leicester Square. It was also used for the first series of BBC Saturday morning show TMi.

Other attractions

Leicester Square Christmas Fair.

The square regularly hosts a fair each winter and a stage is erected for performances connected to other events such as Chinese New Year.


The main electric substation for the West End is beneath the Square. The electrical cables to the substation are in a large tunnel ending at Leicester Square, and originating in Wimbledon, at Plough Lane, behind the former Wimbledon FC football ground, before which the cables are above ground. [9].

The square is set to change in its appearance over the next few years as Westminster Council is planning a new design. The envisioned changes will not significantly alter the square's character but will, amongst other things, enhance its function as a backdrop for film premieres.


See also

External links

London/Leicester Square travel guide from Wikitravel

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to London/Leicester Square article)

From Wikitravel

Trafalgar Square
Trafalgar Square

The area around Leicester Square, often called West End, is the entertainment heart of London. The area also includes Chinatown, Piccadilly Circus and Trafalgar Square.



Chinatown is centrally located in the West End, along and around Gerrard Street off Leicester Square. It spreads into Wardour Street at one end and Newport Place at the other. London's Chinatown may not be quite as large as those in San Francisco or Vancouver but it is still a great place to dine out in the evening, authentically Chinese and definitely different from anywhere else in London.

Leicester Square

This smallish London square is the site of most British film premieres and the square itself is surrounded by terrifyingly-expensive cinemas - tickets for an evening screening will cost upwards of £10. At night, Leicester Square becomes exceptionally busy with tourists, visiting the surrounding clubs and bars. In the north-west corner of the square is the Swiss Centre - unaccountably popular with tourists, the building is nowadays home to Sound nightclub, and boasts a carillion in the corner which depicts a Swiss mountain scene and plays tinny versions of Beatles hits on the hour throughout the day. The TKTS half price ticket booth is on the south side of Leicester Square for cheap tickets for theatre performances.

Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square is a large public square commemorating Lord Horatio Nelson's victory against Napoleon's navy at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. The central monument within the square is a single tall column on which the figure of Nelson stands gazing over London and is one of the great iconic images of London. His monument is surrounded by four colossal lions and a series of large fountains. Much more than just an open plaza, Trafalgar Square is famous as the location of a large number of important buildings and institutions that surround the square and fill the streets surrounding it. Trafalgar Square also marks the northern end of Whitehall, the centre of British government.

In 2003 and 2003 Trafalgar Square was renovated and expanded to link up directly with the National Gallery on the north side of the square - a great improvement to the traffic which once completely encircled this, the largest public square in the West End. The early 18th century church of St Martins in the Fields stands at the north-east corner of the square. Just by the church, Charing Cross Road gives access to the fabulous National Portrait Gallery, and leads on further to Leicester Square, Soho and the famous collection of bookstores on the road itself. To the south, Whitehall leads to Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament and 10 Downing Street.

Christmas time sees the erection of a large Christmas Tree within the square, the annual gift of the people of Oslo, capital of Norway, as a token of gratitude for Britain's help in WWII. Trafalgar Square is also traditionally the scene of lively celebrations for Londoners on New Years Eve, though an increasingly heavy police presence has meant that some antics (drunks leaping into the fountains) have all but disappeared. More recently, Trafalgar Square has served as an outdoor venue for concerts and VIP appearances, courtesy of the Mayor of London's Office, which is keen to see Londoners use their public spaces better. Visitors to the square on an ordinary day may also discover small-scale demonstrations and public speakers - the Square is a convenient gathering place near to, but not threatening, the seat of British Government down the road at Westminster.

By tube

Leicester Square is served by a tube station of the same name actually located just off the north east corner of the Square on Charing Cross Road. The station is on both the Northern and Piccadilly Lines and acts as a convenient place to start any exploration of London's West End.

Chinatown is a short walk from both Piccadilly Circus (Piccadilly and Bakerloo Lines) — walk east along Shaftesbury Avenue, before turning right at Wardour Street, watch for the ornamental gates — and Leicester Square (Piccadilly and Northern Lines) stations.

The nearest tube station to Trafalgar Square is Charing Cross on the Northern and Bakerloo Lines.

Piccadilly Circus is served by a tube station of the same name.

By train

Charing Cross mainline station serves the south-eastern region of England.

Get around

Walk. This is a small district which lends itself perfectly to exploration on foot.

  • Chinese arches (Paifang), at each end of Gerrard Street and at the entrance to Macclesfield Street. The three ornamental Chinese arches are worth a look.  edit
  • Chinese culture. The main sights to see in London's Chinatown are the expressions of Chinese culture and Eastern ambience in Chinatown, and for a good Chinese meal. There are few souvenir shops for tourists and no museums or temples.  edit
  • Chinatown phone booths. Chinatown does incorporate some entertaining combinations of British and Chinese culture, such as the phone booths with pagoda-style sloping roofs.  edit
  • Edith Cavell Memorial, St Martin's Place WC2 (just off Trafalgar Square). Statue in honour of the World War I nursing heroine.  edit
  • Leicester Square Garden. Relax and unwind in the garden, and gaze at the activity going on all around, while listening to the buskers, street entertainers and preachers performing in the area.  edit
  • National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, WC2 5DN, +44 )20 77472885, [1]. 10AM- 6PM daily, Fridays to 9PM. Houses the British national collection of western European art dating from the 13th to 19th centuries. A truly awe-inspiring collection, notable works include Hans Holbein's The Ambassadors, Van Gogh's Sunflowers and Constable's The Haywain. The vast majority of art is free of charge to visit. Temporary exhibitions are generally fairly costly, but invariably well researched and presented. The audioguides are very comprehensive, have comments on most of the paintings in the museum, and are free though this fact is not advertised. A donation is suggested. In addition to courses, workshops, lectures and other events, the National Gallery has free talks and tours every day. Free.  edit
  • National Portrait Gallery, St Martin’s Place, WC2H 0HE, +44 20 73060055, [2]. Daily 10AM-6PM, Thu and Fri until 9PM. The National Portrait Gallery is just around the corner from the National Gallery and is an entertaining way to learn about British history since the Tudors. Visitors walk around the gallery chronologically, viewing portraits of notable figures from British history - from Henry VII, painted by Hans Holbein, to Blur, painted by Julian Opie. Free except some non-permanent exhibitions.  edit
The National Gallery, London
The National Gallery, London
  • Piccadilly Circus, (tube: Piccadilly Circus''). At the junction of five major roads, Piccadilly Circus is the home of the famous aluminum statue of Eros, which sits atop a fountain. The north side of Piccadilly Circus holds an enormous display board of electric advertisements, including Britain's biggest illuminated display (the widest in the world), advertising a popular soft drink.  edit
  • St Martins in the Fields, 8 St Martin's Pl, WC2, [3]. A classical church that stands opposite the National Gallery. Since WWI, the homeless have sought shelter at this church, a tradition that continues to this day.  edit
  • Trafalgar Square, (Nearest tube: Charing Cross). The main, central square of London, Trafalgar Square is associated with celebration and demonstration - it is the site of London's lacklustre New Year celebrations, and in 2003 was the site of the triumphant homecoming of the British Rugby team from the World Cup, and a center for demonstration against Britain's involvement in the Iraq War. In recent years, the square has been associated with the many hundreds of pigeons that used to be found here, but London's Mayor Ken Livingstone passed a bylaw in 2003 making it illegal to feed them. Nelson's Column, surrounded by the four bronze lions can be found here, on the south side of the square. The north-west plinth in the square has been vacant since 1841, and controversial contemporary sculpture has been displayed here in recent years.  edit



Leicester Square square hosts most high-profile London cinema premieres, on which occasions it is fenced and crowded beyond comfort by people desperately trying to take a look at their celebrity of choice.


  • Empire, 5-6 Leicester Sq, WC2 (tube: Leicester Sq), +44 20 7437 1234. M-F until 5PM £5, M-F after 5PM £7.50, £8.00, £9.00, Sa Su - £7.50, £8.00, £9.00.  edit
  • Odeon Leicester Square, Leicester Sq, WC2 (tube: Leicester Sq), [4]. Also includes the Odeon Mezzanine and Odeon West End M-F until 5PM £5.00, £6.00, £6.50 M-F after 5PM £10.00, Sa Su £11.00.  edit
  • Warner Village West End, Leicester Sq, WC2, +44 20 7437 4347, [5]. F-S £10.00, M-F until 7PM £7.00, M-Su after 5PM £10.00, Sa Su until 5PM £10.00.  edit


  • Curzon Soho Cinema, 99 Shaftesbury Ave, W1D 5DY, [6]. Voted "London's Number 1 Cinema" by Time Out readers, great bar and a fantastic art-house program.  edit
  • Prince Charles Cinema, 7 Leicester Pl (Down a side street to the north, just up from the Häagen-Dazs), [7]. The cheapest and in some ways most interesting cinema in the area. They do not screen the latest films but usually have an interesting selection, including foreign and art house films and often have theme nights. Get hold of the program at the door or on the internet and consider buying the discount-granting yearly membership if you plan to come back a few times. M £1.99, Tu-F £2.50, Sa Su £3.50.  edit
One of the ornamental gates or paifang located at the entrance to Gerrard Street in London's Chinatown
One of the ornamental gates or paifang located at the entrance to Gerrard Street in London's Chinatown

Along with neighbouring Covent Garden this is the capital of London's theatreland and the most famous London theatres are in this district. Check individual theatre websites of the official London theatreland website [8] for current programmes and never neglect the official half price ticket booth in Leicester Square itself:

  • TKTS (half price ticket booth), Leicester Square (tube: Leicester Sq. Booth is on the south side of the square in the clock tower building), [9]. M-Sa 10AM-7PM, Su 11AM-4PM. Tickets can only be bought in person so do not try to contact by telephone. At times, there may well be long queues, so be prepared.  edit

Please note that most of the booking office numbers given below will only work from within the United Kingdom. If you want to make a booking from overseas, use the relevant website.

  • Apollo Theatre, 39-45 Shaftesbury Ave, W1D 7EZ, +44 870 890 1101, [10].  edit
  • Comedy Theatre, 6 Panton St, SW1Y 4DN, +44 0870 060 6637, [11].  edit
  • The Criterion Theatre, 2 Jermyn St, SW1Y 4XA, +44 0844 847 1778, [12].  edit
  • Garrick Theatre, 2 Charing Cross Rd, WC2H 0HH, +44 0870 890 1104, [13].  edit
  • Gielgud Theatre, 39-45 Shaftesbury Ave, W1D 6AR, +44 0844 482 5130, [14].  edit
  • Her Majesty's Theatre, 57 Haymarket, SW1Y 4QL, +44 0844 412 2707, [15].  edit
  • Leicester Square Theatre, 6 Leicester Pl, WC2H 7BX, +44 0844 847 2475, [16].  edit
  • The Lyric Theatre, 29 Shaftesbury Ave, W1D 7ES, [17].  edit
  • The Palace Theatre, 109-113 Shaftesbury Ave, W1D 5AY, +44 0870 890 0142, [18].  edit
  • The Phoenix Theatre, Charing Cross Rd, WC2H 0JP, +44 0870 060 6629, [19].  edit
  • Piccadilly Theatre, Denman St, W1D 7DY, +44 0844 412 6666, [20].  edit
  • Prince of Wales Theatre, (Coventry St, W1D 6AS), +44 0870 850 0393, [21].  edit
  • Queen's Theatre, 51 Shaftesbury Ave, W1D 6BA, +44 0870 950 0930, [22].  edit
  • Theatre Royal Haymarket, 18 Suffolk St, SW1Y 4HT, +44 0845 481 1870, [23].  edit
  • Wyndham's Theatre, 32-36 Charing Cross Rd, WC2H 0DA, +44 0844 482 5120, [24].  edit
  • Chinese New Year Festival. Worth seeing, though Gerrard St can get unbelievably crowded, as the dragon dancers pass along the street to collect goodies hung from windows above the shops. In recent years, the festival has expanded south into Leicester Sq and Trafalgar Sq to try to alleviate the congestion.  edit



Charing Cross Road and the tiny Cecil Court which leads off it, have long been the centre of the specialist and antiquarian book trade in London. There are less outlets than previously as spiralling rents pushed out a lot of the traditional booksmiths but a lot still remain. Any booklover will be in heaven here.

  • Any Amount of Books, 56 Charing Cross Rd WC2H 0QA (tube: Leicester Square), +44 20 7836 3697, [25]. Rare and second-hand books. Specialise in scholarly academic works and art-related titles.  edit
  • David Drummond at Pleasures of Past Times, 11 Cecil Court WC2N 4EZ (tube: Leicester Square), +44 20 7836 1142. Specialises in books and other memorabilia related to the performing arts and old children's books.  edit
  • Paul J Hilton, 12 Cecil Court WC2N 4HE (tube: Leicester Square), +44 20 7379 9825. Antiquarian and general books, especially first edition English literature.  edit
  • Henry Pordes Books Ltd, 58-60 Charing Cross Rd WC2H 0BB (tube: Leicester Square), +44 20 7836 9031 (), [27]. Secondhand, antiquarian and all out-of print books.  edit
  • Quinto Bookshop & Francis Edwards, 48a Charing Cross Rd WC2H 0BB, +44 20 7379 7669 (), [28]. Huge collection. Francis Edwards have been in business here since 1856.  edit


All sorts of food are available. While London's Chinatown boasts some of the city's best Chinese food, quality and value vary enormously between individual restaurants. While some consistently win awards, others seem to be regularly being refurbished following visits from the local Environmental Health department. Unless you're on an extreme budget, it is worth paying a little more for quality food and service. Be careful especially with the common all you can eat deals.

  • Café in the Crypt, Trafalgar Sq, [29]. In the basement of St Martin-in-the-Fields church is the Café in the Crypt which offers reasonably-priced cafe food that you can eat amongst the brick-vaulted ceilings, pillars and gravestones.  edit
  • The Portrait Restaurant, at the National Portrait Gallery, +44 20 7312 2490. Offers spectacular food accompanied by spectacular food on the 5th floor of the National Portrait Gallery. A must do dining experience.  edit
  • Tokyo Diner, 2 Newport Place (At the eastern end of Lisle St, near the Prince Charles Cinema). noon-midnight. Offers excellent and well-priced Japanese food.  edit
  • Zipangu, 8 Little Newport St (Just around the corner from the Tokyo Diner). Japanese restaurant, serving good sushi and sashimi. Quite small, so you might want to book if you are going in a large group, but the little nooks on the ground floor are great for an intimate dinner. £10 main.  edit
  • China China, 3 Gerrard St, +44 20 7439 7502. At the budget end of the scale, China China at the eastern end of the north side of Gerrard Street offers Hong Kong diner style meals of cold meat on hot rice. around £5 for a generous portion.  edit
  • Friendly Inn, 47 Gerrard St, +44 20 7437 4170, [30]. Offers cheap fare on the southern side of Gerrard Street. The restaurant lives up to its name with very enthusiastic serving staff, but unless you stick to the set menus, the cost of the meal can soon increase.  edit
  • Lee Ho Fook, 15-16 Gerrard St, +44 20 7492 1200. The best known restaurant in Chinatown, as immortalised in Warren Zevon's song Werewolves of London. The restaurant plays on this tiny crumb of fame, displaying a much-faded image of the singer in its window. Meals here are relatively costly by local standards, and generally not reported to be outstandingly good.  edit
  • Luxuriance Peking Cuisine, 40 Gerrard St, +44 20 7734 0262. This family-owned business that started up in 1980 is famous for its freshly cooked crispy aromatic duck, seafood banquet and pork spare ribs. The interior is comfortable, relaxed and modern.  edit
  • New World, 1 Gerrard Pl, +44 20 7734 0396. A well-decorated and plush-looking restaurant which serves excellent dim sum on trolleys from midday until around 6PM. Good quality evening food is available thereafter, and the service is very good overall.  edit
  • Wong Kei, 41-43 Wardour St, W1 (opposite the western end of Gerrard Street), +44 20 7437 3071. A Chinatown institution. Popular with Londoners and visitors alike and possibly the best value Chinese restaurant in the whole of London. Spread across four floors, this restaurant is infamous for its surly, abrupt service and this has become part of the experience of dining there. Depending on how drunk you look, the higher up the building you will be sent. Tea is complimentary, though somewhat bland. Set meals present excellent value for money, some being under £5. The sweet and sour pork is remarkably good.  edit


There are relatively few decent places to drink in this district and visitors would do better to head north into Soho or east in Covent Garden, for a better selection of bars and pubs. However, if your legs are weary, there are a number of convenient drinking places:

  • 1997, 19 Wardour St. Cosy place to visit if you are not feeling in an alcoholic mood. They provide a good selection of iced and pearl tapioca teas which are often hard to come by outside of Hong Kong.  edit
  • Cork and Bottle Wine Bar, 44-46 Cranbourn St, +44 20 7734 7807. More of a wine bar than a restaurant, the extensive wine list featuring selections from Australia and California. They offer reasonable cuisine to wash down this full bodied wines.  edit
  • De Hems, 11 Macclesfield St, W1D 5BW (North from halfway along Gerrard Street). Dutch-themed pub with an excellent selection of beers. It is often crowded, but has a good atmosphere and a comedy club.  edit
  • Geisha Bar, 75 Charing Cross Rd WC2H 0NE, [31]. A well-known wine bar that also features an extensive and imaginative cocktail menu.  edit
  • Trash Palace, 11 Wardour St W1D 6PG, +44 20 7734 0522. Fantastic small gay bar, mixed music and a laid back mixed crowd.  edit
  • Waxy's O'Connor's, 14-16 Rupert St, W1D 6DD. Irish themed pub with a fibreglass tree inside it. It is almost invariably unbearably crowded. The smaller Waxy's Little Sister opposite it, however, is generally quieter and more relaxed.  edit


Very few visitors actually stay in this district and the options which are available are not particularly good value. This is a district to visit, not to stay in.

  • Radisson Edwardian Leicester Square Hotel, 3 St. Martins St, WC2H 7HL, +44 20 7930 8641 (), [32]. Small hotel furnished in a sleek, contemporary design. From £148.  edit
  • Thistle Picadilly, Coventry St, W1D 6BZ, +44 845 3058330, [33]. Affordable and centrally located but a tired property. From £159.  edit
  • The Trafalgar, 2 Spring Gardens, SW1A 2TS, +44 20 774 1500, [34]. Hilton's first boutique hotel in London. From £240.  edit
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