Former Dome chief attacks 'Stalinist' Mandelson

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The Independent Online
THE Millennium Exhibition at Greenwich, south London, could be created for pounds 100m, not the proposed pounds 750m, it is claimed today.

Stephen Bayley, who resigned as creative director of the project last week, has launched a coruscating attack on the exhibition's management and, in particular, the minister responsible, Peter Mandelson.

In a series of telling blows delivered in an interview in this morning's Sunday Telegraph, Mr Bayley takes apart the plans for the Dome, intended to be the centrepiece of Britain's Year 2000 celebrations, and raises serious questions about the administrative ability of Mr Mandelson.

The minister without portfolio is accused of presiding over a Stalinist dictatorship and constantly shifting the plans to assuage perceived public opinion. So great were his misgivings, says Mr Bayley, that he is worried the project might turn out to be "crap".

Mr Bayley says he had "serious belief in the idea as a whole, but no confidence in the management delivering it". A founding director of the Design Museum in London, Mr Bayley is a much-respected figure in the design world, whose views normally carry much weight. He had been unhappy with the Greenwich project for some time - he says he tried to resign last October over a proposal to create "fluffy koalas" wearing Union Jacks - but the clincher was Mr Mandelson's recent trip to Disney World in Florida. "I don't do theme parks. There's no point in doing something like Disney. There's no point in doing a rock concert or West End show because we do those very well. And anyway, who needs to spend pounds 750m to do a West End show?"

He paints a picture of a management that has no firm view of what the Dome should contain. "If Mandy went down to a voodoo sacrifice in Brixton tonight he'd come back tomorrow saying 'We must have voodoo sacrifices in the Dome.' "

Advice from the likes of himself, Lord Rogers, the architect, and Sir Terence Conran, the design guru, maintains Mr Bayley, is ignored. He goes on: "The whole way in which it is being run is pure East Germany. I get memos from the Millennium Commission talking about the 'creative task force'. It's awful... and absolutely scary."

Instead of creating an exciting showpiece, koalas wearing Union flags were included because the Millennium Commission "didn't want to have Mandy having to answer to truculent pensioners in Cheltenham", claims Mr Bayley.

The Dome, he says, is costing far too much. "One of the first things I said to the organisers right at the beginning was 'Give me pounds 40m and I'll give you the most stunning exhibition under the sun.' I could do the whole lot for pounds 80m, and for pounds 100m you could do something world-class."

Mr Mandelson's supporters have leapt to the minister's defence, saying that the disillusioned Mr Bayley was frustrated that his advice was being rejected more often than it was accepted. Mr Mandelson is said by an ally to have had only one meeting with Mr Bayley - "perhaps if [Mr Bayley's] involvement had been more significant he would have met him on more than one occasion".