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Millennium Critical Mass report
slow progress and punctures
from firstname.lastname@example.org 6th Jan 2000
Travelling along the South Bank at 5pm, I was struck by two impressions. One was the total lack of any community participation in the celebrations - we were to be provided with official entertainment, sponsored by well-known corporations.
Even the Millennium Beacons had the British Gas logo prominently displayed. The other was the dismal scale of those entertainments - I saw a total of four stages, each no bigger than your front room, and they had anticipated three million visitors.
A club on a boat on the Embankment had put up a poster announcing that due to 'returns' there were still a few tickets left for their party at 100 pounds each. No-one was queuing up for them. People were standing around for hours, bored shitless and getting wasted on counterfeit champagne.
We arrived at Waterloo before 8pm, and set up the sound system. Des assembled his latest kinetic sculpture. Announcing that we were about to set off, a number of people replied with an emphatic 'no you're not'. But we persuaded them to tag along behind, anticipating that we wouldn't be able to move at above pedestrian speed.
If only - Waterloo Bridge was so rammed with people that the police were heard worrying about the effect of the weight on the bridge, and this with over two hours to go. By the time we made it to the other side of the bridge, the police had formed a wall of safety yellow at the junction with the Strand, and were moving in vans to form a barricade.
Des and a few others escaped via the underpass, which for some reason hadn't figured in the crowd control plans. We were stuck solid at the junction, and there was no way the police would let us through. So we backed up a little, and the party began. Matt played drumn' bass while someone stepped forward from the crowd to volunteer as an MC.
The millennial moment came and went, accompanied by a lot of fireworks. The sky and river were choked with smoke, undoing any benefit of a motor-traffic free day to the atmosphere.
Presumably because there was little official enjoyment left to do, everyone decided to leave at once, and a crush ensued. Teenage policemen panicked, and sent people in illogical directions while preventing the release of the crowd pressure.
Broken glass carpeted the road, and punctures seemed inevitable, but we made it back to base. I scanned the radio for reports of apocalyptic cults and erroneously fired Russian missiles, but there were none.
For more info on Critical Mass, go here.
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