Tuesday 9 July 2024

Blairism, the dogs & working death. (Part three) (draft)

Patiently Traven waited for them to speak to him, thinking of the great blocks whose entrance was guarded by the seated figure of the dead archangel, as the waves broke on the distant shore and the burning bombers fell through his dreams.

Terminal Beach, JG Ballard

‘The island is a state of mind’, or the Expansion of the Visitor Economy. The Millennium Dome, as I recall smaller and smaller snippets, was terrifying, it was also very realistically my first expressive sense of being a Child of Blair.  I am going to talk about it in the most fragmentary way I can recall. I was 6/7 again. Child of Blair. It was terrifying, then & to some extent is exciting now (terrifying & exciting I now know are cousins of sorts). It represents the premature cultural implosion of Blair’s entire ideogram. 

His soon corrupted (realface) dropping to the pulpit floor; bungling his New Britain erected from the aggregate contributions of the poor through the National Lottery. His marquee (literally) made of spin, remains a massive pantheon to the ‘human ego, the Ozymandias of its time.’ 

The Millennium Commission was the public body, was set up to celebrate the turn of the millennium & of the many commissioners Peter Brooke, Baron Brooke of Sutton Mandeville, Thomas "Robin" Valerian Dixon, 3rd Baron Glentoran, Richard Walter John Montagu Douglas Scott, 10th Duke of Buccleuch and 12th Duke of Queensberry, KT, KBE, CVO, DL, FSA, FRSE, FRSGS. The whole lead up to the Dome was clattered with dismissals, resignations and general managerial disarray. 

A large white marquee with twelve 100-metre-high (330 ft) yellow support towers. Observable from the moon. The architect was Richard Rogers (a joint venture company, McAlpine & Laing). Spot a theme. Land reclamation. The land was previously derelict and contaminated by toxic sludge from East Greenwich Gas Works that operated from 1889 to 1985. The clean-up operation was seen by the then Deputy Prime Minister Michael Heseltine as an investment that would add a large area of useful land to the crowded capital. The by-products of the gas industry; ‘the tar; sulphate of ammonia; the trains; the phenol’.

Increasingly, it appeared that this blighted Greenwich Peninsula was somehow cropping all of it talented Creative Directors, as one noted; ‘then I was told we could not have foreigners! It got worse, and I left after six months of high-pressure misery, deceit and bungling…Peter Mandelson was moaning the other day that the millennium had left no permanent remains worthy of note, neglecting to add that it was entirely his fault that this was so.’ 

Bayley goes on, in a Ballardian description of hellish preamble to the Dome: Years of slovenly processing activity by British Gas had left the area irredeemably polluted by carcinogens. Trucks leaving the site had to pass through wheel-washers to cleanse their tyres of contamination. Breathing apparatus was available for contractors. As if there were not enough pollution in the air, the deadly cocktail was complemented by the amusing decision to build the Millennium Tent over an exhaust vent of the Blackwall Tunnel. Looking back, we should have seen all this as a portent of horrors to come.

Triumphalist pomp of New Labour, a polymer tent supported by tensioned cables arranged radially around a dozen 100m masts made of open steelwork subdivided into 14 zones: "Who We Are" (Body, Faith, Mind and Self-Portrait), "What We Do" (Work, Learning, Rest, Play, Talk, Money and Journey) and "Where We Live" (Shared Ground, Living Island and Home Planet).

Tony Blair said the Tent would be on the first page of his second manifesto, later economised. A white elephant at a disused gasworks in Greenwich. Sun, May 1997. The remote location helped minimise the humiliation. A social and environmental disaster of which the state government of Amazonas would be proud. George Monbiot, Guardian, June 1997. Proposals of different levels of reality came and went. We will say to ourselves with pride: this is our Dome, Britain's Dome. And believe me, it will be the envy of the world. Tony Blair, February 1998. Even God doesn't like the Millennium Dome... Daily Mirror, June 1999 when it was hit by lightning. 

Peter Mandelson, now an East German Stalinist, both the Prince of Darkness & presider in Chief of Cool Britannia grapheme. The opening night happened, 31 December 1999. Zaha Hadid refused to come unless by limousine. Thousands of VIPs. Newspaper editors and the CEOs and chairs of sponsoring corporations, of which there were hundreds. In the winter cold, at the tube station in Stratford, east London, from where they were to take the train to the dome. “You could blow it up,” said columnist Boris Johnson later in the year. 

I, though not a columnist nor a PR dissident, experienced the thing as a child. Child of Blair. My notions or ideas, being shrunk to the scuttling experience of the new, as that new. It was a bereft spectacular container, attachment to vacuous statements of modernity, hammering focus groups to deliver meaningless platitudes & all with the biting tokenism to regeneration. This was not the decamping venture of Bankside, the former liberties of the Clink and Paris Garden. Bankside Power Station being the true, singular convertible success of that era. Tate Modern. Whatever is said in the gantries of criticism, it remains free to enter & that is absolutely and irrecoverably the very reason I still carry on with this injurious hobby. Seeing Richter’s CAGE series remains a coveted instance in many other European countries & so herein lies amongst the carcinogens; a prospective brownfield site where the line of the meridian zero degrees longitude will be converted as a cultural event. GMT. Etc. 

This is where the millennium would begin. (Again, a pedant speaks: the millennium actually started on Caroline Island, Kiribati).

And so herein lies : 

with regimental ties for wicks 

the Molotov Prince of Darkness Astras speaks: 

Moving forward as a beacon to the world, the richness of the British character. Ergo. UrCreative. UrCompassionate. Outward looking. A triumph of confidence over cynicism, 

boldness over blandness, excellence over mediocrity. 


One harped, cupola withering blimp 

settled at the mouth of the peninsula, 

a vanished complex tangles  

to dragging strays over shingle 

what invented future means 

in shining leaden water? 

Blair had publicly aligned himself with a vision of Britain as a creative, dynamic country: food and furniture by Terence Conran, buildings by Richard Rogers, art by Damien Hirst, music by Oasis. The dome & its contents would be its expression. Major corporations would sponsor different elements – a process that had started under Heseltine. 

New Labour was friendly to capitalism, that business was part of one BIG NATIONAL FAMILY. Hark. 

back under Enterprise Culture

its scrying glass extruding deadlands, 

the last Council-Operated High-Rise 

contains within itself indemnified 

& everyone is left on carcinogenic marshes

under what mild oath unrevoked 

the Committee members haircut congealed in Tip-EX 

& the Sun dances 

just like in the moonlight 

O & when that moon is big & bright 

it’s a supernatural delight, 

when everyone is dancing in the moonlight!

Molotov Astras people sized 

& you go down with the building inside

you’re holding the bottle at its neck, 

you chuck it hard at the window, 

at the base Index Multiple Deprivations, 

a regional quota breeds out vapour trails 

Public Consultations Hedonic Pricing 

Montego Estate, 1997. British Leyland. Rover. Driven by Tony Blair into 10 Downing Street. Listening to Bitter Sweet Symphony by the Verve. Over & Over again. Until Cherrie decides the only salvation is Angels by Robbie Williams. Euan in the back. Aged 13. Now an MBE businessman who runs Multiverse. It provides internships for school leavers. Nine apprenticeship programmes that range from Level 3 (the equivalent of three A-Levels) to Level 6 (the equivalent of a university degree). The company was judged to be "Outstanding" in its most recent (July 2021) inspection by Ofsted. I am not a writer, I am a poet. political, commercial, cultural, individual –a Child of Blair. Inside a skull is a set by Tommy Cooper. Laughing brains with fez’s on. He died in 1984. Surely there is going to be an episode of My Parents are Aliens in the next room. No. Okay. Don’t worry, Quantum Cloud outside by Gormley. The steel sections were arranged using a computer model with a random walk algorithm starting from points on the surface of an enlarged figure based on Gormley's body that forms a residual outline at the centre of the sculpture. Gormley is Blairism par excellence & it is obvious & clear that this is the case as to be somewhat whimpering in the delivery. Of course he is. From points on the surface of an enlarged figure based on. Tony Blair.

Of course. I am not a writer, I am a poet.

Cost £43m, covers 87,000 square metres; less than 20kg per sqm, the lightest building in the world. Spawning the Jubilee line & definitely decontaminating the land. Without a doubt.  Around 120 tons of benzene and other hydrocarbons was removed from the soil. Following its opening there was a public apology, "management problems". 

The faith zone, possibly the most quintessential of the various ‘management problems’ suffered in large part due to being one of many stratigraphic groups used to compose it. The Lambeth Group, a commission of clerics.  Curving plasterboard wall indented with crosses, each one carrying a TV screen in its centre. But one element I do remember, was the animatronic pubic lice that scaled the inside of the dome. Supposedly, during a meeting between Hirst & Mandelson, he remarked that body zone louse was his favourite. In the catalogue it was identified only as "a parasite".

I have since painted the two version of the louse available. Some years later when the disassembly of parts went to auction, the pricings also appeared. Giant hamster and cheese £3,000.   "Time cogs" engraved crystal dish £1,700.   Piaggio Vespa scooter, (incomplete) £1,250.   Mannequin wearing England soccer shirt, head in hands £900.   A brain, from the body zone £700.   Heart from the body zone £1,500.   "Time machine" brass-faced clock and two Blackadder paintings £650   The eye from the body zone £500.   Front half of a flower power Mini ("no tax or MoT") £450.   A snowman costume, hat and scarf £180.   A spotted glass floor tile £120.   10 hamster cages £25.   "Theo" millennium show costume £20.   Oversized metal chair £15.  Prices exclude 10% buyers' premium and 17.5% VAT.

& the plastic-clad buildings 

of TMO’s Client aspirations 

on big sorry reams the stated aims 

cantilevered platforms 

narrowing logarithmic scales 

where you go to grow concrete, disappears 

as flashes of your behavioural map discrete 

micro-billeted polymers that count as a skin

new entrepreneurials again

but the best picnics are on Agars Plough, 

& how could you forget massive gazebos 

& Moët out the proverbial bucket! 

the tête-à-têtes in the garden 

shelters on the grouse moor,

a nice isocost in the eyrie

blood coursed through the night rain opposing

the broadfields beneath them 

its private equity in brownfields 

to cashflow cowabunga 

there are perks in 

chains of lead you can feel it

So Blair. New entrepreneurials again:

& sorry is the hardest word  

but you learn from your mistakes, remember? 

the architecture of moonlit colonnades, 

the custodial moonlit amphitheaters, 

the moonlit night-club interiors 

as disinterred by Edwin Lutyens on old drugs 

& re-thought as a underground bungalow 

& exit into anti-ligature moonlit prisons 

with calico print on the walls

& elbows in the topiary garden dancing

a low octane hallucination

around flight you can feel it

when that moon is big & bright