Millennium celebrations are back in the news, though not yet making headlines. Try as they might, the media failed to spark much controversy over the “new Britannia” Millennium Experience marque launched last week. The grotesque female form created by Dome identity man Martin Lambie-Nairn with sculptor Mark Reddy is only a badge for a one-off event, so what does it matter as long as it works on a T-shirt or commemorative mug? We’re not getting worked up about the ludicrous Gallic cock symbolising the World Cup, so why this?
Even revelations that Reddy previously created a similar motif lack the drama of Stephen Bayley’s resignation in January as creative director on the Greenwich event. The identity could have been memorable, but is, in essence, a transient emblem for a short-lived show.
Last week Michael Heseltine spoke up for the Millennium Experience – his brainchild – at the opening of the British Council show 12 for 2000. The critics will, he says, change their tune after the Greenwich event, hailing it a triumph as their forebears did the Great Exhibition of 1851 and the 1951 Festival of Britain. He’s probably right, and the inspiring content of 12 for 2000, from a Thames bridge by Sir Norman Foster and Anthony Caro to a humble village hall tea set, represents the UK achievements we can look forward to beyond 2000, showing up the much vaunted Millennium Products so far identified by the Design Council to grace the Dome as lacking in spirit.
Curated by Design Week columnist Hugh Pearman, the British Council show is let down by Studio Myerscough’s clumsy Sixties-style design. You have to look beyond the lightbox cubes to the projects within to grasp their meaning. There is a tenuous link between that clutter and the way the Dome project is being run. As we wait to see the next batch of schemes for the Dome’s interior, reports are that the designers involved are still awaiting direction from the New Millennium Experience Company (see News, page 3). Signed up to secrecy, none will comment publicly. Nor, it seems, are the groups involved allowed to talk among themselves and they are reduced to covert chats to try to piece the project together. Some remain unclear as to their remit, we’re told, and time is short. Teamwork is taboo and budgets are allegedly way over target.
This is unacceptable, given the Government’s stance on openness, the money involved and the creative talent being so abused. Someone must take control now if the project is to have any semblance of good design management, providing a model for the 21st century.