Great Britain is making a major bid to be the world's premier
millennium destination, spending more than $8 billion on upgrading
and creating new visitor attractions, galleries, museums and
architectural projects. Throughout the country more than 40
projects, costing from $70 million to $320 million each, have been
This massive effort is backed by a worldwide marketing campaign
called "Britain -- Now is the Time." British Tourist Authority
(BTA) chairman David Quarmby has said there are three aspects to
the campaign: "The theme of time and the importance of Greenwich
and Greenwich Mean Time (GMT); the Millennium Dome, now under
construction in Greenwich, and the regeneration of Britain's
cultural and environmental assets."
British tourism officials say the country occupies a unique
place in the history of time and, therefore, has a special claim as
the ultimate millennium destination. As the site of the prime
meridian, the point from which longitudes worldwide are reckoned,
the village of Greenwich in southeast London is the historic home
of time. The prime meridian -- longitude zero -- divides the globe
into the eastern and western hemispheres. Each new year officially
starts when clocks on the prime meridian pass midnight on Dec.
The centerpiece of Great Britain's millennium celebration will
be the Millennium Dome, opening in Greenwich on Jan. 1. It is
expected to draw as many as 60,000 visitors a day throughout the
London tourism officials, in fact, are promoting the British
capital as "London Millennium City," and hoping to attract some 15
million overseas visitors during the year to a host of new and
But visitors venturing beyond London will also find a wealth of
millennium attractions, including science and discovery projects,
city waterfront makeovers, botanic gardens, museums and even a new
network of bicycling routes.
The following is a sampling of millennium attractions in London
and throughout Great Britain.
The Millennium Dome, large enough to hold Trafalgar Square and
all the buildings around it, is being constructed on the Greenwich
Peninsula along the Thames River. It will contain 14 attractions
arranged around a central performance area. These 14 separate
exhibition zones will showcase British ideas, style and technology
and examine the choices mankind will face in the 21st century.
Dome attractions will include Our Own Story, featuring
multimedia images from Britain's towns and cities, and the
Skyscape, an entertainment venue with two cinemas and Great
Britain's largest live performance stage. A new extension to the
Jubilee Underground Line, called North Greenwich, has been
constructed to take visitors to the Dome. The trip from Waterloo
Station will be 12 minutes and from Charing Cross it will take 14
minutes. There will also be connections with the Docklands Light
Railway and the main rail services, as well as ferry service along
the Thames from Waterloo to the Millennium Pier at the Dome.
Admission to the Dome will be by pre-booked tickets, available
through tour operators and ticket agencies. The Dome will operate
throughout 2000. After that, options include converting it to a
convention center or sports facility.
The new Tate Gallery of Modern Art is scheduled
to open in May 2000 on the south bank of the Thames, opposite St.
Paul's Cathedral. To be housed in the former Bankside Power
Station, it will contain the original Tate Gallery's collection of
international 20th century art including works by Picasso, Matisse,
Dali, Moore, Duchamps and Warhol. The galleries will be arranged
over three levels, with plans also calling for a shop, cafe,
auditorium and film and seminar room.
Meanwhile, the original Tate Gallery, located two miles up river
in the Millbank building, will re-open at the same time following a
project to add six new galleries for exhibitions and nine new or
renovated galleries for its permanent collection of British art
from 1500 to the present. It will be known as the Tate
Gallery of British Art.
The Millennium Bridge, set to open in April
2000, will span the Thames, linking the new Tate Gallery of Modern
Art with St. Paul's Cathedral. It will be the first pedestrian-only
bridge to be built across the Thames this century.
The 450-foot-high British Airways London Eye
will be the world's highest observation wheel and London's fourth
tallest structure when it opens in January on the south bank of the
Thames. Passengers will board one of 32 enclosed capsules, each
accommodating 25 people, for a 30-minute ride over the city. Views
will encompass a 30-mile radius, including St. Paul's Cathedral,
the Houses of Parliament and the Millennium Dome.
The National Portrait Gallery is scheduled to
complete an expansion by June. The project includes a new Tudor
Gallery, Balcony Gallery, roof-top restaurant and lecture
A major redevelopment focusing on the former Reading Room and
the two-acre Great Court is expected to open at the British
Museum in September. A steel and glass roof will be placed
over the courtyard, opening up the inner court to the public. The
museum's ethnographic collection, which had been housed at
Burlington House, will be returned and displayed in its Sainsbury
Vinopolis -- the City of Wine, an attraction
celebrating the world of wine, has opened in London on Bankside on
the Thames River. Built on the site of an old Roman wine store, it
is adjacent to Shakespeare's Globe Theatre and opposite St. Paul's
Cathedral. The attraction includes the Wine Odyssey, a multi-media
tour of the world's wine cultures, dealing with the history of wine
making, its culture, grape varieties and vineyards. The tour passes
through 20 dramatically themed rooms and culminates in the Grand
Tasting Halls where visitors can sample wines from around the
Also part of the City of Wine are four restaurants featuring
wine by the glass along with views of the River Thames. Shopping
will feature a selection of wines from around the world plus
special wine tasting events, seminars and facilities for corporate
parties and functions.
The Story of Time exhibition will open Dec. 1
at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich and run through Sept.
24. Housed in the 17th century Queen's House, the exhibition is a
combination of art and science that will challenge visitors'
perceptions of time and reflect the ways cultures have expressed
their understanding of time.
The exhibition will feature 300 objects from around the world
including paintings by Titian and Dali, the earliest known watch,
10th century manuscripts and a photograph taken by the Hubble space
telescope. The exhibition will also examine theories about the dawn
of time, the measurement of time from sundials to the atomic clock
and artifacts relating to eternity.
The National Maritime Museum completed an
expansion project which added 12 new galleries.
More than 50 of London's most important historic institutions
along the Thames River will stage special exhibitions and other
events for the London String of Pearls Millennium
Festival to take place throughout 2000.
Among the highlights of the festival, the Banqueting House, one
of Britain's earliest classical buildings, will stage 17th century
concerts at lunchtime from January through November; the Horse
Guards Building in Whitehall opens to the public for the first time
in July; a new series of medieval-style mystery plays will be
staged in and around Southwark Cathedral from April to July, and
the Tower of London will feature a variety of new exhibits, gun
salutes, parades and pageants.
The new Royal Artillery Museum, is planned to
open in 2001. It will house the Royal Artillery's collection of
uniforms, photographs, books, manuscripts and guns spanning more
than 600 years of artillery history. The facility will tell the
story of the development of artillery and will recreate the
experience of being a gunner in different wars using the personal
recollections of those who served in the Royal Artillery.
ELSEWHERE IN GREAT BRITAIN
The Museum of Scotland has opened in
Edinburgh's historic Old Town. The new museum is the first
dedicated to the history of Scotland: the land, its people and
their achievements from its beginnings to contemporary times.
The Big Idea, planned to open in the spring in
Ayrshire, Scotland, will be Great Britain's first attraction
devoted to the process of inventing. Dealing with 1,000 years of
"Big Ideas," the attraction will include interactive exhibits.
The National Botanic Garden of Wales, scheduled
to open in April, is the first national botanic garden to be built
in Great Britain in 200 years. The garden is located at Middletown
Hall, near Carmarthen, South Wales. Its centerpiece is the largest
single span glass house in the world, which will house flora
representing five regions from around the world.
Attractions will include an interactive Bioverse Center;
all-season flower collections; plant worlds as diverse as those of
New Zealand and China in the Woods of the World area; traditional
Welsh orchards; the Biomass Energy Center; an Aquatic Laboratory;
an herb garden, and Bioscope -- a subterranean multi-media visitor
The Lowry, set to open in April in Manchester,
is a new waterfront complex in Salford Quays. It will feature a
1,650-seat theater, a gallery presenting works by the artist L.S.
Lowry, a children's Hands On Gallery and a National Industrial
Centre for Virtual Reality.
Also part of the project is a new footbridge and public plaza
that is expected to act as a catalyst for further development on
The York Millennium Mystery Plays will be held
from June 22 to July 22. The plays, known throughout medieval times
as the Corpus Christi Play, were traditionally performed outdoors
in York from the 14th to the 16th century and later revived as part
of the Festival of Britain in 1951.
Now the plays will be staged for the first time in York Minster,
the largest Gothic cathedral in northern Europe. Based on the
Bible, the plays relate the story of man's spiritual journey from
Creation to the Day of Judgment.
Magna will be a new visitor attraction set
within the former steelworks at Rotherham in South Yorkshire. It is
planned to open in April of 2001. The attraction will relate the
story of steel as a foundation in building the modern world.
Exhibitions and special effects will explore the elements which
combine in the steelmaking process: earth, air, fire and water.
A modern Bath Spa is being constructed near the
historic city of Bath's famous Roman Baths and is slated to open in
the summer of 2001. The new facility, where visitors can bathe and
recuperate in therapeutic waters, will be housed in a contemporary
building designed to complement the city of Bath's 18th century
The Eden Project, scheduled to open in April in
Cornwall, will demonstrate the relationship between plants and
humans. A "global garden," the project will be based in a china
clay pit overlooking St. Austell Bay and will contain thousands of
plants from temperate zones and the tropics. Included will be giant
conservatories called biomes, exhibition and conference space and
catering and retail facilities.
A new National Cycle Network will make it
possible to reach virtually every part of England, Scotland and
Wales by bicycle. With the first routes opening by June, the
network will eventually cover 8,000 miles throughout Great Britain
The network is being developed by a charity called Sustrans (the
name comes from "sustainable transport") with a $68 million grant
from Great Britain's National Lottery Millennium Fund. The network
will extend from Dover in southeast England to Inverness in
northern Scotland. The 3,500 miles to open in 2000 have been dubbed
the Millennium Routes.
The routes will go through most major towns and cities as well
as forests. Half of the routes are being constructed along old
railway lines, canal towpaths and riversides, with the remainder on
quiet, minor roads and traffic-controlled town roads.