MEX Press Comments

Strange that almost none of what follows relates to what I, as a
local resident, have found when asking Dome visitors what they
thought of the ‘Experience’. No-one has yet said to me that their
Dome visit was anything less than ‘excellent’ and ‘well worth the
entrance fee’.. even those who have had the added expense of B&B
or hotel for the night as a consequence of living at the other end of
the country.

The comments below are the result of what another ‘free lunch’
does to those who have spent the past two years knocking the very
concept of the Dome for six…

What we really think of the Dome

by Evening Standard reporters

© Associated Newspapers Ltd., 7th January 2000 (taken from the This Is London Web site)

* Tony Blair, Prime Minister (quoted in the Daily Mail): “I
defy anyone who sets foot in the Dome not to be awed by its sheer
scale, variety or range of attractions. Like anything bold or
innovative or simply new in Britain, the Dome has had to see off the
cynics – those who would take the easy option, those who lack the
confidence in the British people, those who despise anything modern,
those who are made uneasy by success. Once people see it, they will
flood to visit it and be part of a great British achievement.”

* Lord Falconer, Minister for the Dome (Sun): “It is
important to remember that the Dome is spearheading the regeneration
of not just one of the poorest parts of London, but the whole
country. Another lasting legacy will be the memories of the millions
who visit the Dome. Memories of having seen what will earn the
billing The Greatest Show On Earth.”

* JG Ballard, novelist (New Statesman): “I was struck by
how ugly it is. It resembles a sinister abattoir disguised as a
circus tent. It should have been at least half-a-mile in diameter,
the largest structure on the planet, a wonder of the modern world.
Instead, it looks like the last tired effort of 20th century science

* Jeremy Irons, actor who did the voice-over for the Dome’s
TV commercials (Daily Express):

“The Dome is a cobbled-together tent. It suffers from the problems
of the Nineties. It’s all about style, but no substance. I would like
it to represent something that reflected the last millennium, the
brilliance and individuality of this nation.”

* Michael Gove, journalist (Times): “For anyone lucky
enough to make it into the Body Zone the eye room is a particular
attraction. It is designed, with a subtle use of moving human images,
to make you cry. But you don’t have to make it to the eye room to be
moved to tears by the Dome. The queues will do that for you.”

* Nigel Nicolson, journalist (Sunday Telegraph): “It seems
to lack a message. It also lacks a theme beyond the vaguest
expression of hope that our lives will be, or should be, happier than
in the past. But it virtually ignores the past. The terrible thought
occurred to me that, after all this effort, all this expense, all
this thought, the Dome is great fun and a miracle of engineering, but
it does not say anything so brilliant as the Festival of Britain 50
years ago.”

* Anthony O’Hear, Professor of Philosophy at Bradford
University (Daily Mail): “The pity is that what has been organised is
so naff. William Morris, 150 years ago, spoke of the Great Exhibition
of 1850 as ‘wonderfully ugly’. In that sense, the Dome is well up to
the standard of its illustrious predecessor. Go if you are invited,
but don’t make a special effort.”

* Andrew Pierce, journalist (Times): “It was meant to be a
monument to all things Tony Blair. For ministers it was the symbol of
both New Labour and their popular invention, New Britain. The Dome
was to be the living embodiment of Tony’s big tent politics –
impressive, imperial and yet inclusive. But Tony’s Big Tent has
already turned into a remarkable circus.”

* Lynda Lee-Potter, journalist (Daily Mail): “Thousands of
irate visitors have spent endless hours in never-ending queues. The
shamefaced organisers admit it has been chaos. At least they can be
cheered by the fact that killjoys like me who said nobody would ever
go to such a ghastly building have been proved totally wrong.”

* Charles Spencer, theatre critic (Daily Telegraph): “Right
up to opening night, and indeed on opening night itself, it looked as
though the Dome could prove a complete fiasco … But once you
arrived, you realised that somehow a near-impossible victory had been
achieved. I saw it through the eyes of my six-year-old son, who was
completely gobsmacked. Nevertheless, big thrills are in short supply,
and I would urgently recommend building a state-of-the-art funfair
outside. After all, the fair in Battersea Park was one of the most
enduring and best-loved legacies of the Festival of Britain.”

* James Dalrymple, journalist (Independent): “This big baby
is a winner all right. It will bring wonderment, excitement and
enchantment to the millions who will come from all over Britain and
from every corner of the world. And, as the word spreads about how
good it is, nobody will want to be left out. It will be the place
where folk memories of the deep-est and best kind are embedded for an
entire generation. Someday we will all want to tell our grandchildren
we went to the Dome AD2000. Gather together those who mean the most
to you. And roll up for the biggest and best show on earth.”

* John McEwen, journalist (Sunday Telegraph): “The Dome is
a hell-hole. When its contents were first revealed, the Daily
Telegraph’s art critic, Richard Dorment, exhorted his readers to join
him in a ‘mighty oath’ never to darken its doors. How right he was.
It turns out to be the biggest fake orgasm in the history of
passionate pretence. It is a ballet of banalities short on plot and
big on technology. Inside every zone, often all-too visibly
sponsored, we are nagged and nannied by sound-bites and bullet-points
and interactive games to worry about our communities, the
environment, education, until it all blurs – Blairs – into one.”

* Ann Leslie, journalist (Daily Mail): “Did we – thank
heavens, not out of our taxes – really spend £750million on
this? OK, it’s very, very big and from the outside looks like an
upturned porridge bowl with curious yellow custard sticks poking out.
But what is it actually for? Is it just so that everyone can have fun
with its video games in a once-derelict part of London, and drench
their nostrils in the smell of fast-food outlets and from time to
time say, ‘Goodness me, it really is big!’ Overblown,
intellectually-feeble celebrations of banality, of soggy-minded New
Agery, full of empty words like ‘new’, ‘community’,
‘inconclusiveness’, blah-blah-blah seem to be the underlying theme of
the Dome. If it were dedicated to simple fun, like Disney World and
Epcot (which I loved), it would do it much better and with greater
flair. But it seems determined to conform to New Labour’s
self-righteousness and nannying tendencies. You must visit the Dome
because Tony says It Will Do You Good! Verdict: Not my idea of ‘one
amazing day’.”

* Hugo Young, journalist (Guardian): “‘The fantastic thing
is that millennium celebrations in this country go on for a year and
not just today,’ (the Prime Minister) warbled on Saturday. At the
centre of this permanence is the Dome, where he, and I and 10,000
others, spent the previous night. Having been there at the moment for
which it was built, I still think it’s an emblem not of British
brilliance … but of a desperate, empty, national grandiosity from
which, because its origins were locked in political bipartisanship,
there’s been no escape. Why did they do it? It carries awe. The size
of the place is pretty breath-taking. Derelict land is occupied by a
structure anyone might wonder at. Some of the zones are ingenious and
new. The show, on the night, was tacky, but it was undeniably

* Polly Toynbee, journalist (Guardian): “This is not an
I-told-you-so column. Quite the contrary. I don’t. I was not among
the multitude who wished the Dome ill, hoped it wouldn’t open on
time, or complained of its monumental cost. Governments are for bread
and circuses … but, alas, this is not a Great Exhibition. It is a
deep disappointment. It doesn’t work on any level, from the most
mundane purchase of a cup of coffee to any bit of really good fun. I
hate to join the chortling ranks of Dome rubbishers in the Right-wing
press or the Left-wing puritans who think money should never be spent
on extravagant fun and display. Both lots gleefully proclaim that all
this vacuity symbolises the emptiness of Blairism, which of course it
doesn’t. Success or failure, it never needed to symbolise anything
much, but, alas, I have to admit the Dome is a lemon by any

* Simon Jenkins, journalist (Times): “I watched a small
girl sitting in the Play Zone. She was at a computer keyboard where
she was making music. As she sent each note into the piano it shot
upwards across a large screen in fractured shards of coloured light.
The faster she played, the more dazzling was the light. The music was
made colour, sound was made sight in a frenzied kaleidoscope of the
senses. Across the girl’s face spread a look of total wonderment. She
rose from the piano and seemed to walk on air. For her the Dome had
met its purpose. There are hundreds of such incidents taking place
every minute. Some are sophisticated, some banal. Some work for all,
some for some, some possibly not at all.”

* Brian Reade, journalist (Mirror): “For the past 30
months, I have viewed it as a monstrous carbuncle. Within 10 minutes
of stepping inside this fantastic structure, I felt over-awed. And
quite ashamed of myself … For the first time, instead of looking at
a political statement through the eyes of a cynic, I looked at a
wondrous playground through the eyes of a child. And I realised that
the Dome will be a winner for one simple reason. Every kid on earth
who visits it will have their imagination fired, their mind
stretched, their senses dazzled, and will pronounce on it the highest
accolade known to child: ‘That was boss.'”

* Charles Moore, editor (Daily Telegraph): “The fact is,
there is nothing beautiful in the Dome (except perhaps the prayer
tent). It is ugly, sometimes tacky, joyless, confusing,
uninformative, unhistorical, oddly insular (though intergalactic),
without Disney-like gusto on the one hand or museum-like grandeur on
the other. I saw no interesting inventions, works of art, designs,
manufactures, or jokes. There is no overarching theme. The Dome is
not vile, and there are some things for children to enjoy. But when
you compare the expense of £750 million and the aspiration to
lead the entire world into the new millennium with the mediocrity on
show, you could weep.”

* Anne Atkins, agony aunt (Daily Mail): “Believe me I did
not set out to pan the Dome, I have better things to do with my time
… but what saddened me was that it seemed to sum up much about new
Britain. Flash, expensive and with some talent – but without focus,
without content, without meaning, and, above all, without wit.
Verdict: Fun in parts. But on a scale of one to 10, one child gave it
minus two.”

* David Lister, art critic (Independent): “At the end of
the day I was left thinking what I thought when I heard it was
costing £750 million. Is it worth it? It’s a mildly interesting
day out in a not very alluring, and often not very sophisticated,
environment. Unlike with Disney or the Science Museum, I have no
great desire to go again.”

* Bruce Anderson, journalist (Spectator): “We should surely
be able to create a monument which would resound down the ages and
still stand triumphant at the next millennium – if there is one. All
we can come up with is the Dome. A resounding monument indeed – to
triviality and meretriciousness. We are stuck with something which
looks like a large expired beetle left to decompose. The Dome was a
wasted opportunity, and that is true of much of the 20th century’s
social policy.”

* Suzanne Moore, journalist (New Statesman): “The Dome is a
perfect example of what happens when everyone tries too hard. The
Dome has been loaded with so much significance that, instead of being
an airy, light creation, it is terribly heavy. Yet what has captured
the public imagination? The beautiful, entirely shallow and frivolous
London Eye. Everyone loves this giant wheel because it doesn’t try to
tell us who we are or anything about the way we live now.”

* Susannah Herbert, journalist (Daily Telegraph): “If you
believe the blurb, the Dome was designed to answer three questions:
Who are we? Where do we live? And what do we do? We left none the
wiser. But we all wanted to go back.”

© Associated Newspapers Ltd., 7th January 2000

Last updated, March 10th, 2000

Web’d by David Riddle

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