Stephen Bayley must be laughing now, seeing his former tormenters at the Dome get their comeuppance. Even the gentle Martin Lambie-Nairn might allow himself a sigh of relief that his job as identity consultant on the project never progressed into a bigger deal. With no creative supremo to blame for the series of fiascos that have dogged the Millennium Dome, the responsibility for its shortcomings has fallen squarely on the shoulders of the New Millennium Experience Company’s erstwhile chief executive Jennie Page.
Predictions that it would all end in tears for the senior civil servant and her team have proved right, with more heads tipped to roll before the week is out. Bayley, who held the shortlived post of creative director at the Dome until his sudden departure last January, has also had his case for an overall creative head borne out, judging by recent comments.
So now the Dome team has what it probably could have done with all along, an executive head from the entertainment business. We can expect Page’s replacement, Pierre-Yves Gerbeau, to bring an understanding of what people really want and a strong commercial sense to the party – even if the balloons have just about all burst.
We are told that the Dome will not become another Disney under Gerbeau, despite his previous experience – not surprisingly as we’re also told no extra cash will be available to him and a Disney-style operation would demand high investment. But he must have some tricks up his sleeve. Why else would such a high flyer take on a job with so little hope of glory attached?
We can only hope that Gerbeau doesn’t rule out design as a means of remedying the Dome’s ills. He could do worse than pull together an advisory group of the UK’s finest from the creative industries, even if it is only for a one-off chat. Better still, he might find a partner from design for the duration of the Dome’s life to put a creative spin on all decisions from now on.
Terence Conran, Michael Wolff and Imagination’s Gary Withers would be prime contenders among the grandees, the latter particularly, given a long track record with the Dome. But what about the less obvious choices – Ben Kelly, for instance, architect Alex Ritchie of Blu, Rasshied Din or Pentagram partner Daniel Weil. All could make a contribution.
Even without extra budget there’s still a lot of cash to spend at the Dome and sound design advice might ensure that it is spent wisely. So start lobbying Gerbeau now to take the idea seriously. Design might come out of the Dome experience in a better light and a happier time might be had by all concerned.