Millennial show hit as ‘free-pitch’:

The design of the Millennium exhibition for the year 2000 is being condemned as “the ultimate free-pitch” by Millennium III, a consortium bidding to stage the celebrations.

Millennium III’s steering committee chairman Alan Bowles says the consortium will have invested 65 000 by the time the finalist is selected. This includes designs by “a major international architect”, he says. “It’s a lot of money – why doesn’t the Millennium Commission just choose a few contenders and pay their expenses?” he says.

Heritage Secretary and Commission chairman Virginia Bottomley has stated that she has “no feelings” about whether designers do or don’t receive fees for their creative input into bids.

“We want quality submissions from consortia with good financial backing,” Bottomley said this week. Heather Wilkinson, the commission’s deputy chief executive, added that “everyone has to take a risk up front”.

London group Imagination has been approached to join several consortia. According to marketing director Ralph Ardill, the group is “wary about participating in anything that resembles a speculative pitch”.

The deadline for exhibition ideas is in October. The emphasis at this stage is on whether consortia can provide financial backing. A shortlist will be announced, and the next stage will be “almost entirely focused on design”, according to a spokeswoman for the Commission.

The National Cycle Network received 42.5m this week, the largest grant in the Millennium Commission’s first round of awards. The Network’s organiser Sustrans will pay “low design fees” to one of the two UK consultancies it is currently interviewing to design its logo, according to a spokeswoman.

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