What Does British Daylight Saving Time Have to Do with Coldplay?

A lot, actually.

First, some history. The British move their clocks ahead one hour this coming Sunday, marking the transition to British Summer Time, the UK’s equivalent to our Daylight Saving Time. What’s special about this year is that this marks 100 years of BST, a concept first put forward by William Willett in 1905.

Mr. Willett loved to play golf and was most annoyed that his evening rounds were cut short by dusk. “If only we could delay the setting of the sun,” he said. That proved impractical, so he came up with another solution. Move the clocks ahead so that the sun rose and set later, extending daylight just enough to get in a couple of extra holes.

His original proposal was the advance the clocks by 20 minutes a week over four weeks in the spring, adding a total of 80 minutes to the day. But that was messy, especially when it came to coordinating time with other countries. Besides, if the British wanted Greenwich Mean Time to become the baseline for time zones around the world, it didn’t make sense to advance the clocks in such a matter. Still, Willett would not be dissuaded. He lobbied to change the clocks until the day he died in 1915.

Then the British Horological Institute stepped in with a solution connected to British involvement in the Great War: Advance the clocks by an even 60 minutes to help with the war effort. The theory was that the extra daylight would help conserve coal when it came to generating electricity. When the hate Germans and the Austro-Hungarian Empire announced they were making the switch on April 30, 1916, that sealed it for Britain. BST/DST has been a feature in the UK and Europe ever since.

(By the way, 80% of the world’s population doesn’t use any form of DST. Saskatchewan still sits it out.)

So what does this have to do with Coldplay? William Willett is a great-great-grandfather of Coldplay’s Chris Martin.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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