Greenwich plans big party for millennium: Matthew Brace travels to south-east London to find the significant reality of an imaginary line
Thursday 06 October 1994
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.
Life & Style blogs
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers
Airline food across the classes: Ever wondered what the other half are eating?
Coachella Festival 2015: from Kendall Jenner to Alexa Chung, stars and festival-goers parade their boho best
What do the emoji on Snapchat mean?
Huawei P8 review: best phones nobody's seen from the biggest company nobody's heard
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
Food banks: One million Britons will soon be using them, according to Trussell Trust
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling
BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate
- 1 Alan Rickman admits editing 'terrible' script with friends in Pizza Hut behind backs of writers on Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
- 2 Rarest Beanie Baby of them all could be sold for £62,500 on eBay
- 3 Driving while dehydrated can be just as dangerous as drink driving, study suggests
- 4 Ben Affleck asked TV chiefs to hide slave-owning ancestry, new hacked Sony emails published by Wikileaks claim
- 5 Farmer told to tear down mock-Tudor castle after hiding construction behind hay bales
£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...
£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...
£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...
£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...