The Millennium Dome has united British people young and old. Over the past few years everyone, including my 80-year-old grandma, my 11-year-old sister and a few drunk blokes (who didn’t know what day it was let alone how old they were) have moaned to me that the £750 million frittered away on the Dome should have been spent on schools and hospitals.

In fact the only way the big tent could possibly be as bad as people were predicting is if Mick Hucknall was singing in it every day. The people at Exposure had to see for themselves so, armed only with our complimentary tickets and a pair of gloves (we’d heard about the heating problems) we headed for Greenwich.

Here are the edited highlights of Exposure’s New Millennium Experience.

The Millennium Film: Blackadder Back and Forth in the state-of-the-art Skyscape cinema. Blackadder and Baldrick bounce through time reeking all sorts of havoc. The highlight is Blackadder striking a blow for students everywhere by punching Shakespeare in the face.

The Millennium Show is more impressive. It’s a musical featuring two people doing a spectacular, and mildly raunchy, dance hanging on ropes above the arena. Enough to give vertigo sufferers passive jitters.

We didn’t have time to get to all 12 zones (it’s big this Dome) but the ones we did fit into our tight schedule win the following awards:

The Surprisingly Good Zone Award: Living Island. This zone is meant to teach you about the environment but, even if you don’t care about global warming and stuff, you still get to play lots of fairground style amusements without losing any money. Which is nice.

The Cynical Advertising Zone Award: Talk. It claims to be an ‘extraordinary journey to discover the future of talk’ when in fact it is a giant advert for British Telecom (the sponsor). One of the videos in the zone seems to suggest that the major cause of wars is that people don’t spend enough time chatting away their differences on the phone. Subtle.

The Pointless But Lovely Zone Award: Rest. This is a giant igloo style construction complete with relaxing coloured lights projected on to the ceiling and strange new-age style aromas wafting around the place. (For Crouch End residents, it’s a bit like your living room).

The Patriotic To The Point Of Stupidity Zone: Self-Portrait. Features interesting quotes from ordinary people on what being British means to them. These range from the strange: “The friendship between pigeon fanciers bridges all cultural barriers around the world,” by James Cook, pigeon fancier, to the comically cynical: “Black pudding: it’s stolid, phallic and physically bad for you. Just like British culture,” by Jason, community artist. Sadly in the middle of this zone is a nonsensical exhibition which claims that Britain is best at everything from sport to comedy and invented the concept of justice. Hmmmmmmm!

Ridiculously Over-hyped Zone Award: The Body. This involves going up an escalator, and walking through the innards of a giant ‘mid-operative’ transsexual.

You’ve now entered the literal heart of the New Millennium Experience, a blood-red coloured room enveloped by a bizarre, loud throbbing sound (sponsored by Boots).

It’s not bad but it wouldn’t justify a 1,500 mile round trip from Inverness.

Overall the Dome is great if (like us) you get in for free. Unfortunately in the real world an adult ticket costs £20 and a family ticket is £57. For £20 young people (or me at least) expect to be turned upside down and catapulted into freezing cold water at 200 miles per hour, while having their insides churned in every conceivable way. You don’t get that in the Dome.

If the sponsors had coffed up enough for everyone to be able to get in free it would be great.

As it is, it’s a good day out for the well off but millions of people in Britain who don’t have money to chuck around will probably decide that that it isn’t worth spending as much as £100 (once you add on the cost of food and travel) to take their family to the Dome.

They’ll be right.

Reporter: David Floyd
Photographs: Dieter Perry (except Dome exterior)

Reprinted by kind permission of

Exposure Magazine

 

ps

The Dome is now closed. It was the most visited tourist attraction in the UK, but it failed to meet its targets, attracting only half the visitors it needed. Despite frequent government handouts it effectively went bust several times.

 

What becomes of the impressive building is still being debated - some kind of theme park, a business park (the government's favoured scheme) or the site of new housing are three of the tipped projects. If you want to go and gawk at remains, it's worth stopping at the Jubilee Line tube stations along the route - they took the coveted prize for the best architecture of 2000, which annoyed the Dome considerably.

A view of the dome can be had from the Waterfront at Greenwich or the river cruise that takes in the London Flood Barrier will give you good views - but do it on a clear and sunny day...

pps

The Dome is now, once again, open... and may finally have a chance to flourish as never before. The recent announcement of major concert events by Bon Jovi and Prince have revitalised the area with a new sense of flurried activity. The Dome is, as ever controversial.. renamed for it's current owners as the "O2 dome"....

so, watch this space... yaneverknow...

 

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