Focus: New Year's Eve, 1999: celebrate at your peril

Time for the ultimate party? Or to hide under the bedclothes? And what does it all mean anyway? We canvassed opinion
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Indy Lifestyle Online
Alan Bleasdale

Playwright

I AM slightly amused and generally terrified about the millennium, and in particular the bug, and the suspicion that planes will fall out of the sky. My eldest boy and his wife are travelling next year and I have made them swear that they will not get on a plane between 30 December and 12 January. My family come from all over the country, so it's likely that we'll all get together and have a big party, with two weeks' supply of food and a primus stove at the ready.

Ann Widdecombe

MP

I DON'T know what official duties I will have on the millennium, but any celebration I will have will be primarily Christian. That is, after all, what it is all about. It means nothing if you don't take into account it's 2,000 years since the birth of Christ. The mass hysteria and commercial hype is unsurprising when you consider that every Christmas we celebrate the dawn of redemption with retail figures.

Gillian Wearing

Artist

I WILL probably not be celebrating it in any extravagant way. I never seem to get my act together. It's always a last-minute thing for me, and I can't imagine the millennium will be any different. When I was 15 or 16 I used to love going down to London and jumping in the fountain at Trafalgar Square. I'm probably a bit too old for that now. Everything is going to be overcharged everywhere anyway. So I think the roof of my studio will be good - I can watch the fireworks from there, which will be nice. I'm looking forward more to the eclipse next year than the millennium. Things created by nature rather than man are more meaningful to me.

Tasmin Little

Violinist

IT'S DEFINITELY a time to be sociable rather than introverted. The spiritual aspect is not that important to me; all that "who will see the dawn first" thing is rather insignificant. We'll all see it in the end and in a sense everyone will have their own dawn. At the start of any New Year you think back on the past and it'll will be magnified next year. What depresses me is that we are making the same mistakes, only in different ways. There's still hunger, poverty and war. Nothing's changed, we've just got more technologically sophisticated. The danger is that we are losing sight of the divine simplicity of life. The new millennium is not just about how we can progress and get faster, higher, better. It's about the need to slow down.

Lorna Fitzsimons

MP for Rochdale

It's just too far ahead to contemplate. No doubt I will celebrate it and I'm certainly not dreading it, but how I will mark it is too dependent on things outside my control to say. I think with the millennium there is a danger that people will have too much pressure on them to have fun and therefore will feel even worse if they don't. It will just exacerbate people's personal circumstances of isolation, loneliness. I hope it does go with a bang. It's an opportunity for people to seize the day and change direction; a ready-made turning point, whether personally or on a wider social scale. Whether or not it's a permanent one depends on the sustained effort of the people themselves.

Sue MacGregor

Radio 4 presenter

AT THE moment I'm considering three options to deal with the millennium: to remain in London and see it in with friends; to go to the Austrian Alps and sit on a mountain; or to cross the international dateline towards Australia. So, two of my options involve beating everyone else to it and one involves celebrating it with my friends. I haven't yet decided which is the preferable option, to ignore the hype or join it.

Joan Bakewell

Broadcaster

MY INCLINATION is to let it roll. The expectation is so great that people are bound to be disappointed. I will probably do something to do with family; it's certainly momentous enough for us all to meet up. I think you could hardly live the day without acknowledging it, but I certainly don't want to get drunk and dance in the Dome. In Christian terms it's a really a sort of grand Christmas Day, although Christ is getting a bit left out at the moment. Otherwise, to my mind, it's a day like any other.

David Gower

Former England cricketer

AS THE new millennium is really in 2001, it is only a good excuse for a party. I'll be in Cape Town for the England tour of South Africa. Business as usual. But then, business as usual has always allowed us to celebrate. I remember some great new years on tour when I was playing. I'm pragmatic and there's no spiritual content for me, although I'm a Christian of sorts. My ideal millennium new year would be out in the African bush on safari. Either that or seeing the dawn in sitting on the rim of Ngorongoro, an extinct volcano, watching the sun rise and illuminate the crater.

Sir Joseph Rotblat

Scientist

THE millennium has symbolic significance. I was born in the early years of the century and never believed I'd reach the year 2000. I'm 90 now and hopeful I'll still be alive to see it. The first thought of the new millennium must be of the continuation of mankind and of the millions of years of evolution which could end because we can't resolve our quarrels. Abolition of nuclear weapons and war should be the focus. It is certainly possible, not just the pure utopia that people think it is. This will most likely happen in the first two or three centuries of the new millennium.

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