7.6m bill for Millennium job

Imagination has confirmed to a Parliamentary Select Committee it was paid more than 7.6m for its work on the Millennium celebrations over 18 months. Barely any of its creative proposals remain in current plans.

The group has also gone public for the first time on its reasons for leaving the project. Imagination director Paul Mackay told the committee the consultancy quit the Greenwich project last March, “when we felt we saw the quality and the vision being eroded over time… because we felt that, at that time, there was not a credible, experienced operating company”.

Criticism of the handling of the project is unlikely to be helped by the revelation of the Millennium Commission’s payment levels to Imagination. There are still no details of the Dome’s content, nor of who will design it.

An Imagination spokeswoman points out that for the first 11 months of its involvement, when the project was still in the private sector, Imagination worked on a partial recovery of costs basis.

The consultancy was reimbursed for some of its expenses incurred in staff time, bills from other consultancies and materials. All expenditure has been consistently audited, and Imagination’s profit from the venture is closer to 1m, says the spokeswoman. Only in the last seven months of its tenure was the consultancy profiting from its work.

Much of Imagination’s time was spent developing elements of the infrastructure of the Greenwich site. These include “everything from plumbing to power”.

But, despite buying the intellectual property rights to Imagination’s creative proposals for a nominal 1, the New Millennium Experience Company confirms it has ditched the principal ideas. These include a time theme, the world’s largest clock face, two badger mascots called Milly and Lenny, and a three-year programme based in the regions, prior to the centrepiece event in 2000.

The three-year programme was one of the key sections of Imagination’s plans. It was intended to involve the population in the main exhibition and thus encourage attendance. This was taken into account in Imagination’s forecast of ten million visitors. Mackay told the committee that current forecasts of 12 million visitors are “a little ambitious”.

The NMEC has now promised to identify the 12 design consultancies appointed to develop interiors for the Greenwich Dome “imminently”. The company is understood to be waiting for the last two to return signed contracts. The bulk of creative input for the project will come from the 12, says an NMEC spokesman. He still declines to confirm the widely-reported appointments of architects Zaha Hadid, Eva Jiricna and Muf, and branding and events group Park Avenue.

NMEC chief executive Jennie Page was due to give her evidence to the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee as Design Week went to press. She was unable to comment on the issue.

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