London plans party for 2000

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

LONDON opened its computer files on the millennium yesterday, as John Gummer, Secretary of State for the Environment, spoke of the 'flowering' of the capital and criticised cynics and intellectuals who he claimed 'cannot celebrate anything'.

More than 2,000 organisations are being invited to submit plans for celebrating 2000. These will be entered into a computerised database, the London Millennium Study, which will enable link-ups between groups.

Launching the study at the top of the British Telecom Tower, Mr Gummer, who is also Minister for London, predicted the city's 'biggest and longest street party . . .' He said: 'This is the world's most popular capital city and Europe's increasingly important commercial and financial centre. As a nation, we are somewhat afraid of enjoying ourselves. There is a Puritan streak in us. I want us to recognise that London needs to be celebrated.'

Asked if other cities were not likely to outperform London because they had city-wide local authorities which could co-ordinate events better, he said the 'last thing' the capital needed was co-ordination. 'The trouble with Britain is that we go in too much for co-ordination and far too little for actually doing things. This is going to be the flowering of what London wants. We are interested in getting people to get themselves organised.'

The study is being promoted and paid for by British Telecom and several of the private-sector initiatives and agencies which have sprung up since the abolition of the Greater London Council.

The organisers are hoping for a 'rich diversity' of activities, from small initiatives by community organisations to larger cultural, artistic and sporting events. The database will be open to London groups, including boroughs, and will help them to plan spending or sponsorship and join up to create more ambitious projects.

The promoters of the study said groups would be able to identify 'themes for branding', which would 'add to the value' of their events.

Mr Gummer rejected criticisms that voluntary groups might resent commercialisation and said a major problem with Britain was cynicism and people who felt celebrations were 'not intellectual enough'.