Attraction deficit syndrome? Let them eat chocolate

At £50, Cadbury World was going to have to be good

Share

When the Millennium Dome was still a pimple on a drawing board, Birmingham was mooted as the ideal site for it. The upside-down wok would have been a huge hit in the West Midlands, as expectations are much lower outside London. I should know, because I've just been to Birmingham's most popular tourist attraction, Cadbury World.

When the Millennium Dome was still a pimple on a drawing board, Birmingham was mooted as the ideal site for it. The upside-down wok would have been a huge hit in the West Midlands, as expectations are much lower outside London. I should know, because I've just been to Birmingham's most popular tourist attraction, Cadbury World.

Every year, upwards of half a million people visit the themed chocolate venue. It would take a heart harder than mine not to feel a surge of merriment at the sight of the Cadbury's Creme Egg-shaped cars parked outside the entrance, not to be joyous in the sheer bounty of product recognition (everything is painted Cadbury purple), not to experience a giddy euphoria at the overwhelming smell of confectionery as you go in. It's hard to maintain a gloomy countenance when everything is so damned chocolatey, but there's nothing like a really long queue, though, to puncture the fragile membrane of enjoying a family day out. So, after the long, shuffling line and parting with the best part of £50, I was on my mettle. Cadbury World was going to have to be good.

Before they've even torn your ticket, every member of your party is handed two pieces of confectionery. "Wow, mum, look" shrieked my charges. "FREE chocolate!" The Dome organisers could pick up a tip here.

The ecstasy of eating free chocolate prevented the children from remarking on the sheer dullness of the displays, which culminated in being bolted into a plastic car that juddered past a lot of smiling, plastic cocoa beans. Obviously, this had been constructed as a ride to Santa's Grotto, ending, as it did, in a snow scene wherein the cheery beans cavorted on cotton wool.

By the time we left, we'd spent more than 50 minutes at Cadbury World. Health and Safety regulations decree that we had seen no actual chocolate production; what we'd learned about its history and manufacture could fit on a Flake wrapper. With souvenirs, brochures and drinks, I was £90 worse off. But, eavesdropping in the car park, I heard other families eulogising about their visit. This is because, like airlines, Cadbury World has realised a great truth about keeping punters quiet and happy: namely, give them food at every opportunity. For a chocolate factory, it's also good marketing, instilling brand loyalty with the idea of the manufacturer as kindly benefactor.

The irony is that the Cadbury who built the factory here was just that. Cadbury World is in Bournville, the utopian suburb created by George Cadbury at the close of the 19th century. The Cadbury family, like the Rowntrees and Frys, were Quakers. Historically excluded from politics and the universities - and prevented from joining the Armed Services by their pacifist conviction - their excellence in business was disproportionate to their numbers. The pursuit of wealth was not inimical to Quakers, despite the abstemious lifestyle that they preferred. They were radical liberals who used their money for social improvements such as adult education, penal reform and housing.

George's father did not allow himself to sit in an armchair until he was 70, and George himself practised a rigid abstinence from all luxury. Today, chocolate is marketed as the ultimate affordable luxury, and the British consume £3.7bn worth of it every year. I don't like to imagine what George would think of Cadbury World. But if you do find yourself cajoled into its precincts, at least you'll be able to visit Bournville; a haven for anyone interested in architecture, and as pleasant and radical today as it was when it was built. It's too late, of course, to construct a model village along the lines of Bournville around the Dome. But it's not too late to start handing out sweeties there.

* Janet Street-Porter is on holiday.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: 3rd Line Virtualisation, Windows & Server Engineer

£40000 - £47000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 3rd Line Virtualisation / Sto...

Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Service Engineer

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A successful national service f...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Fixed Term Contract

£17500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently require an experie...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Andy Coulson  

Andy Coulson: With former News of the World editor cleared of perjury charges, what will he do next?

James Cusick James Cusick
Jack Warner  

Fifa corruption: Strip Qatar of the World Cup? Not likely

Tom Peck
Syria civil war: Meet the military commander who says his soldiers will not rest until every inch of their war torn country is free of Islamist 'terrorists'

‘We won’t stop until Syria is back to normal’

Near the front lines with Islamist-controlled towns where Assad’s troops were besieged just last month, Robert Fisk meets a commander confidently preparing his soldiers for battle
The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation may undermine Hillary's chances

The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation...

... and how it may undermine Hillary's chances in 2016
12 best olive oils

Extra-virgin, cold-press, early-harvest, ultra-premium: 12 best olive oils

Choosing an olive oil is a surprising minefield. Save yourself the hassle with our handy guide
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back