At the twelfth stroke, Thames will be set on fire

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The Independent Online

Details of the plans for the millennium celebrations along the Thames in London were unveiled by the Government last night.

Details of the plans for the millennium celebrations along the Thames in London were unveiled by the Government last night.

Music from around the world will be played on five stages over 12 hours by 46 acts. They will pause only for 39 tonnes of fireworks to illuminate the capital.

The organisers say London's celebrations will be the biggest in the world because the city is "the home of time". The chimes of Big Ben - with its four faces illuminated by giant pulsating spotlights - will be used to time the fireworks ignition.

On the 12th bong, a "river of fire", 200 metres high, will streak up the Thames at the same speed as the planet rotates. It will take just 10.8 seconds for the flames to travel the two and a half miles between Tower Bridge and Vauxhall Bridge.

Harvey Goldsmith, the promoter, who is helping to organise the day's activities, said: "The river of fire is going to be absolutely spectacular. It will be our offering to the world. The fireworks will be the best ever seen in Britain."

Fireworks will follow 30 seconds after the river of fire, and will be launched from 16 barges between the Tower and Vauxhall bridges, filling the sky for 15 minutes.

Artists appearing on the five stages include the Jamaican reggae singer Bim Sherman, Cubana and the DJ Patrick Forge.

All performers appearing have been chosen to reflect London's ethnically diverse population. But despite the styles of music ranging from Asia to Cuba, and most places in between, the musicians all live in the capital. They will be joined by 20 drumming ensembles, wandering musicians and street theatre acts.

The stages, decorated with huge painted silk clothes, will be at Jubilee Gardens in the shadow of the Millennium Wheel, Ministry of Defence Green, Royal Festival Hall and Gabriel's Wharf.

Victoria Embankment under Waterloo Bridge which will be transformed into a club space where some of the capitals DJs will entertain the crowds until 2am when all events are planned to end.

The Queen and Tony Blair will be using lasers during the celebrations to start special events: the Prime Minister will use one to start the London Eye wheel on its inaugural revolution and the Queen will fire a laser from the Tower of London to light the biggest of 12 beacons - one is situated at each of the stages and one on each bridge - to mark the end of the century.

The Queen has also given permission for The Mall to host its first fairground. It will be one of two fairs - the other will be in Potter's Field - and both will have a mixture of modern and traditional rides. Prices for the rides are capped at £1.50.

Visitors to London will also see three illuminated sculptures, each more than 20ft high - a figure of the giant Atlas carrying the world, a winged horse and a Pied Piper.

Attractions will include a Millenni-Mum, a huge sculpture of a mother holding her child which will be on the south bank of the Thames by Oxo Tower Wharf.

The giant street party is being funded by corporate sponsorship and by a £1.8m grant from the Millennium Lottery Commission.