Sunday, 1 March 2009

The Millennium Doom

I had a rather heated argument with my housemate the other day. Not on politics, religion or Masterchef, but about the Millennium Dome of all things. Nine years later it continues to rear its ugly head over the British consciousness. Will it ever let us go so that we can be free and skip gaily through the fields of freedom?

For those of you not familiar with this, the Millennium Dome was pretty much all the newspapers talked about from 1998 to 2000 (once Princess Diana had finished being dead). For some dumb reason (culture apparently) the government decided to build a giant dome costing 600 million pounds. Of course in this day and age of 'yeah failing bank, have a million trillion quid' this doesn't seem as bad, but at the time it was unprecedented.

For the millennium then, the citizens of this fine country got a big dome. Unfortunately the government hadn't a clue what to do with it - Peter Mandelson the minister in charge, even suggested leaving it empty. Part of me hopes it was a joke, of course the other part knows how inept governments can be. Really, to celebrate the millennium the government could have used the money to give everyone in the country a tenner and we'd have been far happier. Better that than some awful tourist attraction.

This was where the argument with my housemate comes in. He tried to tell me that it was the biggest attraction in Britain that year thus it was a success. But really, you're always going to get people gaggling at a train wreck. At the end of the day it didn't pull in nearly half the visitors it wanted, and ended up using 600 million of public money. On an awful tourist attraction!

And I know this, because I went there!

The Autumn of 2000 was a crazy time, full of... whatever I was doing at that time. So for some reason we went all the way to London on a trip to the Millennium Dome, to get the experience of the Millennium and the best Britain had to offer!

Everything I do is done by design. I plot my motions years in advance. And thus what you see here is not an accidental photograph, but a scintillating diatribe on the pavements of the dome. Clean, don't you think? Suspiciously clean....

Even from the outside you could see that this giant dead mutant ladybird was a bad idea. Perhaps the government could have just flipped it upside-down and make a giant stir-fry in it?

The leaflet! It's obvious that no-one working on the dome had heard about 'layout'. Look at it - there's a ruddy great arena in the middle and exhibits randomly plonked around the outside, making it impossible for anyone without a GPS to get around. Also take notice of that freaky red balloon building on the left - that was literally a freaky red balloon building, not quite sure what it was for. Actually, a lot of the 'exhibits' seemed to have been designed to resemble various hats.

The leaflet is a laugh in itself. Just listen to the desperation creeping in trying to flog the Dome and its many, many features:

"...a British beach scene full of arcade games. Laugh at the jokes and think about hidden messages."

Dear God.

"...rediscover the excitement of movement and look forward to future journeys..."

The journey home?

"See some of the finest diamonds in the world - the 2003 carat Millennium Star and eleven exceptionally rare blue diamonds..."

...Only that the diamonds were hidden in a dark, poorly-lit corner, and more prominence was given to a lump of plastic that was supposed to represent the diamond in it's pre-cut state.

"...find out how the Dome collects water and recycles it to flush the site's 900 toilets."

Damn thrilling

The Dome was meant to house the pinnacle of state-of-the art equipment, displays to amaze and astound, to educate in a fun way. Take the below astounding picture for example. It's an optical illusion - at first, it looks like some circles - but press a button - and a light bulb is turned on behind it! WOW! Also check out me and my youthful appearance. Those were the days!

Oh, and they had an ant farm.

With all their incredible light bulbs, it's hard to see where the hell £600 million could have gone... but wait - what's this? Pointless TV screens and dead workers?

It's quality British merchandise.

Of course, the most hyped up part of the dome was "The Body Zone." Even those who had mercilessly mocked the Dome (i.e. everyone) had said that the Body Zone was quite good - were they on drugs or something? Certainly I would have liked some of them to make my stay more pleasant.
The first thing to note about the Body Zone is that it's a freaky man-woman. That, I can deal with. What was totally scary though was the entrance. You enter via the hip into a dark tunnel and on the wall is what looks like a bellybutton ring - only it's not a bellybutton. Oh god yes. There were children in there! Looking on the ceiling there are lice. Moving further up there's a massive video screen of sperm moving to a drumbeat. Some definite psychological problems can be observed just by standing there and taking in the atmosphere.

For some reason, a giant heart was deemed suitable enough to fill an area the size of the local hall. A giant, beating heart. It beats. I paid money to come here. There are even fake recorded screams to make it sound exciting. But there was one last thing that makes everything that preceded it seem positively sane. What could be this retarded? Well, inside the knee section is:

A skull full of brains!

It's all about education, folks. Even better is that the brains tell jokes. The usher by this section told people "right, move through here quickly - one joke per person"

I was afraid to take this picture actually in case they took out their batons and beat me up. Let's look at the middle brain more closely:
Yes, it's Tommy Cooper's brain. It's wearing a fez, and it has his voice. Since the aforementioned comedian is dead, are we to assume that the Millennium Dome Committee dug up Cooper's grave and removed his brain, then installed it into the knee of a giant hermaphrodite. Because that would rock.

The Blackadder special they showed there was a bit crap too, but everyone's seen that by now.

I'd been away from home for nearly twelve hours, leaving the cat on his own. He gave me a hint on my return...
He's so much fatter now you know! Uh, I mean cuddly...

1 comment:

  1. Wow. So it really was that awful? I kinda wish I'd gone just to mock it, but I was younger then, too.