Greenwich plans big party for millennium: Matthew Brace travels to south-east London to find the significant reality of an imaginary line

London's tourist board is backing Greenwich's proposal to hold 'the best end-of-millennium party in the universe' to celebrate the dawn of 2000.

The borough has bold plans to stage 14 months of exhibitions, concerts and other major events from December 1999 to January 2001 and has been trying to bolster its claim to be the most appropriate venue for international festivities.

For more than 100 years Greenwich has been the world's time-keeper, after the formation of the Greenwich Meridian, an imaginary line by which time is measured.

Leading lights in the borough are trying to secure funding from the Government's Millennium Commission, a body set up to administer the pounds 1.6bn which will be donated from the National Lottery.

The London Tourist Board and Convention Bureau, responsible for handling at least 17.5 million visitors a year, has pledged its support for the festival, saying Greenwich was 'a suitable focus and location for this to take place'.

Robert Chenery, head of development at the bureau, said yesterday that the area was rich in heritage and was an obvious choice for the festivities. 'It's one of the most significant heritage sites, not only in London but also in the country and, to be honest, there are no similar proposals anywhere in London.'

The area boasts a number of historic monuments including the National Maritime Museum, the Old Royal Observatory and the Cutty Sark.

However, Greenwich does have its rivals. A consortium of the Kensington museums is commissioning work towards capital projects to boost their vision of a futuristic Albertopolis, and another group is trying to nurture development plans for an arts complex to be built alongside the existing South Bank complex.

Neither is planning a festival, but funds are being sought for capital projects which, if accepted by the Commission, could take money away from Greenwich.

Those pushing the Greenwich festival plans say nothing so spectacular will have been seen in the capital since the Great Exhibition of 1851 and the Festival of Britain a century later.

The new year celebrations for the night of 31 December 1999 will be a major musical event with concerts and fireworks televised live and broadcast around the world to millions of viewers.

Much activity during the 14-month celebrations will take place on the Greenwich Peninsula, a derelict wasteland forming the eastern wall of the Thames at Docklands, which the council considers a prime site for development.

A millennium clock is planned, which will stand on the line and count down to the new year. Also straddling the Meridian will be a planetarium. The National Maritime Museum stands to gain extra exhibition space in the shape of the Neptune Hall. The Royal Arsenal in Woolwich will be transformed into a heritage site, and a major building for leisure activities will be built on the peninsula.

Greenwich has made a presentation to the Royal Parks Review about using Greenwich Park for some of the festivities. Research carried out on its behalf by Price Waterhouse estimated that celebrations held there could attract 12 million visitors and make a profit of almost pounds 17m.

The council also recently released results of a survey which indicates that even with the minimum of activities going on, more than 3 million extra people will visit. This should help the borough's attempt to gain a below-surface station near the Cutty Sark for passengers using the planned Lewisham extension of the Docklands Light Railway.

The bid is being led by the Greenwich Waterfront Development Partnership, whose steering group includes Greenwich council, the Department of the Environment and the University of Greenwich.

The festival is one of four areas to which the money could be allocated.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

    £18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

    Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

    £16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

    Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

    £18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

    Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

    £28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

    Day In a Page

    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
    Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

    UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

    Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
    John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

    ‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

    Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
    Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

    Let the propaganda wars begin - again

    'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

    Japan's incredible long-distance runners

    Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
    Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

    Tom Drury: The quiet American

    His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
    Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

    Beige to the future

    Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

    Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

    More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
    Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

    Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

    The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own