Imagination impresses millennium sponsors

A “thrilling” presentation of Imagination’s millennium exhibition design concepts to business chiefs has helped secure vital funding for the ailing project. Airports operator BAA has pledged up to 10m, subject to a sound financial plan emerging.

Imagination’s managing director Gary Withers and marketing director Ralph Ardill gave what National Heritage Secretary

Virginia Bottomley describes as “a thrilling presentation” to heads of 35 of the UK’s largest companies.

The meeting was called last week by Deputy Prime Minister Michael Heseltine in response to doubts over the lack of funding pledged for the Greenwich-based project by the private sector.

The Millennium Commission has earmarked 200m of National Lottery money, but a further 300m is needed from other sources. With 150m anticipated from selling TV rights and tickets, businesses are being asked for around 150m. With Imagination’s design themed around time and based on 12 pavilions arranged in a circle like the hours on a clockface, the project would need 12m to sponsor each pavilion.

That kind of figure may rule out 12 sponsors funding a pavilion each. But BAA’s pledge is welcome momentum for both the commission and Imagination.

And British Airways chairman Sir Colin Marshall has also pledged support, although he is waiting for backing from his board before releasing a specific figure. But he did say after the meeting that Imagination’s “very impressive” designs will “produce an outstanding exhibition”.

An Imagination spokeswoman says: “Everyone is very positive about the way the meeting went.”

Imagination staff involved in the project are now more confident than they were two weeks ago when it looked like the project may have been doomed. The group is embarking on more presentations to potential sponsors.

Imagination is denying suggestions that it is holding a recruitment drive to cope with the millennium workload.

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