Comment: I'd put my money on the rough edges of the Wheel

WHERE IS Aesop when we need him? The Millennium Wheel and the Millennium Dome are the fable of the rough and the smooth. The Wheel is rough trade; its rival at the other end of London is smooth.

The Wheel admirably injects fairground giddiness into a segment of London which has never shaken off the deadly air of municipal drabness. No one in their right mind goes to the South Bank just for a good time. You go with ticket in hand for a concert or a play, or hope there's no queue for an art show. You scutter in, through the puddles and the concrete. As soon as you've had your shot of culture, you get back out.

Grandiose schemes for changing this drabness have got nowhere. But two brash intruders - part of no grand plan - have swaggered in: the vast aquarium in County Hall, and this glittery new Ferris wheel. They are starting to rough the place up, which is what it needs. If some idle or dissolute visitor looks across the Thames to the South Bank, it should have the come-on wink of a place where you just might enjoy yourself if you went over the water for half a day. The Wheel, especially, holds the promise of time well wasted.

The Dome, however, is an attempt to smooth out an environment which was already as rough as a fly-tip clinker. Its very existence would, it was hoped, cancel out the blight over what was, in pre-Dome maps, always called the Blackwall Peninsula (no mention of Greenwich). The Dome would be a pharmaceutical antidote to poisonous debris left behind by the biggest gasworks in Europe.

The pharmacist was Michael Heseltine. The Dome is where it is because he saw it primarily an instrument of east London regeneration. This urban crusade is what he hopes history will remember him for. If the Dome works, a bronze statue of Heseltine, twice life size, should be erected at the tip of the peninsula, golden locks flowing.

The Wheel is the outcome of an idea, pursued by a couple of obsessives. Though it's a feat of pure engineering, the concept came from two architects. They pursued it through all obstacles and got what they wanted.

Not so with the Dome. It was created back-end on: first the public quest for a site; then the quest, never resolved, for an idea; it has been completed with no creative director, only committees. The Crystal Palace, in Hyde Park in 1851, had Prince Albert (for high politics) and Henry Cole (for the vision). The Festival of Britain, on the South Bank in 1951, had Herbert Morrison (politician) and Gerald Barry (visionary). If Heseltine hadn't been busy at the time hoping to succeed John Major, the best thing would have been to give him his Greenwich toy to play with and ask him to get on with it.

The Wheel is like rough-necked William Brown putting one across on his older sister's ultra-smooth boy-friends. It's already been taken to people's hearts. As you go round London, it changes the cityscape. It rears up in the most unexpected places, cheering the dreariest of views, like a clockwork rainbow.

Its millennial rival is still surrounded by public agonising, which BBC2's fly-on-the-Dome series does nothing to dispel. But, even before it begins to turn, the Wheel is full of bounce. If you ring up the Wheel people, they are delighted to tell you that, after telephone sales opened on 3 December, they sold 15,000 individual tickets, on top of half a million sold as group packages (schools, coach parties, travel agents, corporate).

But the Wheel is also a spur-of-the-moment treat, like buying candy floss on a bank holiday beach. You can just to turn up and buy a ticket when the mood takes you, like going on the Prater big wheel in Vienna. (I don't remember Orson Wells and Joseph Cotten, in The Third Man, having to book in advance.) The South Bank wheel was reckoning on about 1.2 million riders (at 800 a time) by the year end. Now its organisers think it may be four million.

If you ring up the Dome people, mystery descends. Tickets went on sale in September, and they hope for 12 million before the year is out (35,000 a day in winter; 55,000 in the longer summer hours). But it's "policy", I'm told apologetically, not to say exactly how many tickets have gone. They'll issue sales figures only after each month of operation.

Hmm! This nervousness only underlines the Wheel's showbiz chutzpah. When I rang the Dome, like any customer, to see how early I could get in, I was told I could book (you can't just turn up) any day from 4 January, "No problem".

Neither the Wheel nor the Dome is yet open for users. For all its problems, I wish the Dome luck. But if I went down to Ladbroke's, I'd put my money on the success of the Wheel. You don't have to sweat to convince people it might be fun. They can tell just by looking at it.

The moral of the fable: If you put the rough up against the smooth, the rough may not always win - but that's the way to bet.

Arts and Entertainment
Matthew Healy of The 1975 performing on the Pyramid Stage at the Glastonbury Festival, at Worthy Farm in Somerset

music
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe Withnail and I creator, has a new theory about killer's identity
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
tvDick Clement and Ian La Frenais are back for the first time in a decade
Arts and Entertainment
The Clangers: 1969-1974
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Rocky road: Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino play an estranged husband and wife in 'San Andreas'
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Nicole Kidman plays Grace Kelly in the film, which was criticised by Monaco’s royal family

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emilia Clarke could have been Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades of Grey but passed it up because of the nude scenes

film
Arts and Entertainment
A$AP Rocky and Rita Ora pictured together in 2012

music
Arts and Entertainment
A case for Mulder and Scully? David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in ‘The X-Files’

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Impressions of the Creative Community Courtyard within d3. The development is designed to 'inspire emerging designers and artists, and attract visitors'

architecture
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May on stage

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

    Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

    Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
    Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
    Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

    The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

    Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
    The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

    The future of songwriting

    How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
    William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

    Recognition at last

    Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
    Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

    Beating obesity

    The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
    9 best women's festival waterproofs

    Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

    These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
    Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

    Wiggins worried

    Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back
    Thurston Moore interview

    Thurston Moore interview

    On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
    In full bloom

    In full bloom

    Floral print womenswear
    From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

    From leading man to Elephant Man

    Bradley Cooper is terrific