Millennium Exhibition

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While with Blenheim I recruited an outside team to bid to run the proposed UK national millennium event (what would descend into becoming the Millennium Dome!). I worked up how we could use the Greenwich site, because everyone immediately recognised this would be the selected site, despite at this stage there being other sites shortlisted – Stratford (East London), Derby Pride Park and/or the NEC at Birmingham. The trick was how to make it memorable. I got the principals at Blenheim to agree that they would lend their name to it.

We used the roman numerals to call the show MM! – a salute to 2000.  The area would have pavilions and halls, which we named as AuditoriuMM! StadiuMM! and ForuMM!

We created a mascot, Melanie Mallard, or Melanie M – say the latter aloud to see why.

Melanie M

I assembled a team of outside specialists to develop the various elements for an approach. Mark Prisk (ex-Euromissions) for property/land, Roger Hamilton (Footprints) as facilities designer, David Ryan and Neil Crofts (Racing Car Show) for innovative exhibition features, Marc Gregory (music industry) for the AuditoriuMM!, Keith Nicholson (Saatchi & Saatchi) for marketing, Harvey Goldsmith impresario for ForuMM! – we still needed to appoint someone for StadiuMM! and a publicist.

A spiral route running through the site was used to emulate a watch spring. We had researched an item of interest for every single year from 1000 to 2000, and found someone able to prepare gunmetal paving slabs that would reproduce these factoids as a Millennium Walk through the venue.

This also meant that where you were along that spiral could define the period theme adopted for any features and food & beverage units. Special scenarios were proposed to be themed as Norman (1100), a Medieval Village green (1250), Shakespeare’s Stratford (1550), Town Square and Dockside (1750), Victorian Promenade and Pier (1850), High Street (1965), High Tech Paradise (2000), Space Station (2100), Restaurant at the end of the Universe (3000). Rank was prepared to become involved in a number of these, so represented our second partner organisation.

The exhibition space was designed to include a series of exhibition halls describing the shape MM! (at top of sketch below).  

Our proposed site plan for MM!

The central feature was to be the GeoChron shaped like a desktop globe. It would rotate, with a series of Jumbotrons connected to up to three or four locations the twenty-four time zones around the world (those square shapes around the equator on the sketch below). There would be live links to the Great Barrier Reef, the Great Wall, the Taj Mahal, Stonehenge, Times Square… so that attendees could choose whether to attend the Australian, Chinese, Indian, British or American party at the appropriate time.

The GeoChron

At each of the remote locations we would seek to establish a Mini-GeoChron that would be donated to that nation, each site could edit material from all around the world, but it would inevitably focus the attention on Britain as the central event, thanks to its location at the meridian. BT was prepared to work with us to provide the equipment and satellite links, and we would use local agents to seek sponsorship at each site.

BT and Rank’s executive teams were happy for us to use their names in our bid, but both would need a subsequent board discussion to be able to commit formally.

I approached Virgin senior management and they were keen to become a partner in our approach. Really Useful Group also agreed that they would be interested in working with us for musical and theatrical elements at the event. But somehow this became known to the Evening Standard who produced a double-page-spread suggesting that Richard Branson and Andrew Lloyd-Webber were vying to run the millennium event. Sadly, both of the individuals were overseas and were disturbed by negative press before they had formally announced their interest. They retreated to the same degree of support as BT and Rank.

That left my proposal as having only Blenheim’s overt support. But the week before I had to submit the final proposal, Blenheim had its half-year series of meetings with the city. These meetings prompted them to reassure investors that they were focusing on the basics. They couldn’t therefore announce a millennium adventure the next week, so now they decided they would only be a background supporters too.

So, I had to submit my proposal essentially as ‘Bob Denton Enterprises’ with a list of potential partners. The Millennium Commission came back and said the notion was good enough for us to be short-listed provided at least one of the five potential partners was prepared to put their name onto the submission. I spent several weeks trying to get someone to do so, none of them would.

In the end only one applicant agency was short-listed, Imagination, for its Millennium Dome. However, they were soon edged out and their idea taken forward by the Millennium Commissioners themselves. After the year, these individuals were identified as involved in several nefarious activities. Perhaps I had dodged a bullet?

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