Cambridge & the "Millennium"
Cambridge City Council has decided to follow the crowd and waste money
celebrating the "Millennium" a year early.
For a long while there was hope that they'd do nothing but in late 1998
they started putting out plans.
First up was a clock, stuck on the face of the
Guildhall, paid for by local
businessman Albert Gazeley and advertising his property company.
They had to wait to get planning permission from the Secretary of State as it's a Listed building,
which must have involved considerable work by Council officers.
There were plenty of complaints in the Cambridge Evening News about the pointlessness
and visual impact (debatable on such an ugly building)
but the Greater Cambridge Millennium Association got its way.
It has a mission to raise "Millennium awareness" (huh? as if we don't know) and to encourage relevant projects.
Apparently the clock is linked to the MSF Rugby radio time signal so as to stay accurate over its 300 days.
Day of "celebrations" - 6 March 1999
This was supported by various organisations such as Cambridge Building Society
and included an exhibition in the Guildhall on the following projects.
The clock was started then but it broke down a week later (and several times since).
Other plans for 1999/2000
£80,000 has been budgeted by the Council, including:
- £4,000 for another millennium clock (do they think people don't know what day & time it is?)
- £10,000 to Cambridge & County Folk Museum for recording life in the City (hurrah, a sensible project!)
- £30,000 for events on 31 Dec. 1999, including fireworks...
The (wrong) night
In mid-November the City Council wrote to residents of the Parkers Piece area giving them the bad news
and the CEN on 18-Nov had a centre-page spread describing what's planned for Parkers Piece.
So it seems the only sensible way of getting to this bash is to use the majority form of transport
throughout the Millennium - walking.
- The surrounding streets, including Regent St., will close at 12:00 on the 31st, which is when the
"festivities" commence, costing £100,000, some of which is from sponsors such as the University of Cambridge.
- As usual South Cambs. District Council belatedly chipped in too,
presumably because they couldn't be bothered to organise their own event.
- Residents will have to park in Queen Anne Terrace car park, which will be closed to the public.
- Motorists are supposed to use the other City Council car parks and the Beehive Centre car park.
- Taxis will cease at 20:00.
- Buses will cease at 14:00 (Sunday service before that).
- There's no mention of any extra provision for cycle parking.
- Normally fairgrounds aren't allowed on Parkers Piece but this time Thurstons will
have a "fun fair" on the triangle of grass which is never used for official (booked) sport pitches - in front of
the Police station.
- The festivities will last till 01:30 in the 1st, with the fun fair resuming later in the day.
In fact it'll be there from Wed. 29th to the 2nd.
- There'll be a big screen - not for anything sensible such as films but for pathetic
messages from the likes of other Cambridges around the world plus TV events.
So people want to stand in the cold for hours watching TV?
- There's the inevitable sad Q103 "road show" - no chance of simply having good local bands on a stage without the guff.
- 10-minute fireworks at midnight
- this is the one worthwhile bit: they're spending twice the usual amount in a high-level display taking
half the usual time (10 minutes).
- A catering area in the middle is indicated on the map but not described.
- (This is classic) "To quell people's fears of being ripped off, the Council is using [the Greyhound pub]
to provide a bar [100ft long] and is pegging the prices."
This must be some new meaning of not being ripped off...
- Half-litre Fosters and John Smiths cans £2.00
- Soft drink cans £1.00
- Sparkling wine per glass £1 (really a glass? plastic more likely)
- The City Council advise people to bring a blanket but not their own drinks (supposedly for safety reasons).
- A giant birthday cake will be cut to celebrate the birth of Jesus - pity it's years too late.
- There'll be the Churches' beacon and a British Gas one on top of the University Arms.
Would you trust BG to light a giant fire on your roof?
- Arguably the best bit of the waffle is a "wheelchair viewing area" near
Reality Checkpoint for those with a
sudden millennial compulsion to view wheelchairs.
There doesn't seem to be enough to entertain people (unless glued to the Road Show) for more than about two-three hours.
It's all desperately worthy but people may well stay away in droves due to the apparent
hassle of getting there and the dubious attractions once there (compared with easy alternatives such
as staying at home, watching the TV coverage and drinking sensibly-priced booze).
It'll be interesting to see how accurate the Police estimate of 30,000 - 40,000 attendance is.
As expected, Kimbolton Fireworks rose to the occasion and the
"Marshall Millennium Firework Display" was awesome, innovative and very loud, setting car alarms off and making buildings vibrate.
Imaginatively, they set the fireworks off from Fenners,
rather than take up space on Parker's Piece and have safety problems.
At that time the Police estimate of 40,000 seemed about right, with most attending just for the fireworks.
As soon as the fireworks finished, most people walked away, filling Mill Road, East Road etc. - a memorable sight.
Towards 31st December 2000
Many cities and towns applied to the Millennium Commission for funds for a similar event.
For instance Norwich wished a rerun as they felt the 1999 event was a flop (their laser light show was a disappointment).
Marshalls had already announced they wouldn't repeat the sponsorship.
The Commission responded by funding Peterborough but rejecting Cambridge's bid, saying they
wanted an even spread of funded events across the country.
* The New Millennium - 1st January 2001
- Millennium Celebrations official Web site