Public Sector: O2 success down to public sector

The O2, formerly known as the Dome, has been living up to its headlines of late, turning a former white elephant into a soar-away success.

As the venue's latest attraction the Spice Girls might put it: 'Let's make the headlines loud and true - say you love me and I'll say I love you too.'

Clearly, fun-goers and thrillseekers alike do now love the place.

Anyway, enough of quoting the Spice Girls in a PRWeek column (a first, surely?). The real issue is what this says about the private sector compared with the public sector when it comes to delivery.

I remember dragging my two-year-old daughter and reluctant wife to the Millennium Experience in 2000. The results were predictable - bafflement, confusion, frustration, some tears, and, above all, a sense that here was the public sector at its worst.

I actually worked on the fringes of that muddle when I was at the Design Council and it was plain that, try as we might, we simply could not communicate a sense of excitement and inspiration about the Dome, because of the painful way the whole thing was being put together.

Truly creative, exciting, daring and inspiring experiences simply cannot be achieved through the machinery of government. And no amount of good PR will persuade anyone otherwise.

What government can do is set the appropriate framework to deliver the vision, for example through a special purpose vehicle, joint venture or even more hands-off allocation of grant or lottery money, and then hand it all over to those unencumbered by bureaucracy or the need to pass every penny through some long-winded taxpayer justification process.

One could argue that government created the land and space for the O2 finally to happen. And it would be nothing without public sector infrastructure such as transport to support it.

But I will leave you with this thought: my eldest daughter, now nine, is this week going back to the Dome to visit the Tutankhamun exhibition and is really, really excited by the idea. And she didn't even mention the Spice Girls.

Luke Blair is director at the London Communications Agency

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