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Today’s bright idea #1

August 25th, 2013 · Posted by Skuds in Life · 8 Comments · Life

Sometimes I have ideas. I never do anything with them. In many cases this is probably just as well – I am thinking here of the Zimmer frame/pogo stick hybrid that would never have got funding from the Dragon’s Den. Other ideas get ridiculed by everyone who hears them but years later I find that somebody else has actually gone and done it – like with the see-through toaster so you can see when your toast is done.

From now on, I think I shall put my bright ideas here for discussion/public ridicule. If one of them turns out to be brilliant and somebody else makes a few million from it I will be very surprised, but not too bothered because I was never going to do anything about it.

Today’s bright idea: a UK Expo.

I’m currently reading a book set at the 1958 Expo in Belgium and it got me thinking about why we haven’t had one here. Britain basically invented the idea with the Great Exhibition of 1851, which was then copied by the French. We had another one in 1862 but nothing after that.

Since that 1862 exhibition there have been Expos or World Fairs 13 times in the US, 6 times in Belgium, and multiple times in Japan, South Korea, Spain and Italy.

There is an international body that sanctions ‘official’ expos every five years and we could apply and take our chances, but we could also just decide to do it on the build-it-and-they-will-come principle.

So why would we want an Expo? Well remember the Olympics? Remember the day or two of shock and surprise at getting awarded the 2012 games? Remember the 7 years of cynicism and dread that it would all be a disaster, all wiped out when the opening ceremony turned out not to be shite after all and then we had a month of feeling good about everything. We could have all that but in something that lasts a couple of months or more.

There would be opportunities for employment in creating the Expo site, and running it during the event. There would be increased tourism, including lots of free-spending people visiting on expenses on behalf of overseas businesses and governments.

There would also be loads of opportunities for volunteering, which was a huge success last year, and opportunities for British companies to show off their products and capabilities to a worldwide audience, as well as the prospect of improving an area, as the games were supposed to do to Stratford.

It would cost money of course, but a lot of that would be getting spent on the sort of infrastructure projects that would boost jobs and boost the economy anyway, and that would be measured against how much money such an event could bring in (albeit in less measurable ways). Do it right and you could get other countries paying to build their pavilions, some of which could be adapted for other uses afterwards.

In the years leading up to it there would be Olympic levels of cynicism, which would be a boon to the comedy and satire industries.

The whole thing would preferably not be in London again, but regenereate some other area that needs it.

It could work, as long as G4S are not allowed anywhere near it.


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8 Comments so far ↓

  • Danivon

    There was the Festival of Britain in 1951, which was less about inviting overseas exhibitors and more about promoting Britain.

    And the British Empire Exhibition of 1924 that left the Wembley Stadium.

    It could be done. Birmingham would make sense as a venue (once city of a thousand trades, soon to be linked by HS2).

  • Skuds

    The 1951 festival left us with the RFH, which led to the Southbank complex – though I do wonder what happened to that Skylon thing. Probably broken up for scrap.

    For some reason neither of those events are listed as official Expos (or were retrospectively recognised) but I’m naturally suspicious of these organisations that set themselves up to allocate large events – I’m thinking of FIFA and the Olympics lot who seem a bit impressed by their own importance, and come to some dubious decisions, hence thinking we could and should just do it.

    I imagine something a bit like that bit of Epcot where they have the different countries round the lake.

    The centrepiece could be a great big hall for big concerts and spectacles that could be converted afterwards into a new home for parliament, away from Whitehall and in a building that is actually suitable for its purpose.

  • Danivon

    According to wikipedia, Skylon was toppled into the river and then sold for scrap. One of the first things Churchill did when he got back into power in 1951 was to stop the FoB and order the site cleared.

    He and the Tories saw it as Labour propaganda to sell the Attlee government vision rather than the vision of Britain they would have presented. There was a smidgin of truth in it, but the postwar picture of Britain was changing so much it would have been silly to present us as we saw ourselves prewar. Churchill could be a sour and resentful man sometimes.

    If it’s going to be the new home for Parliament, why not send it to Coventry? (they even have an empty football stadium near the M6)

  • Skuds Sister

    Sounds like a great plan. Especially the part about sending it all ‘oop North’. Never mind HS2 (which we could maybe display on the Expo white elephant stall) it could actually lead to decent levels of investment on the North itself rather than just in ways for people from the South-East to get here quicker….

  • Skuds

    Think of HS2 as a way to connect t’North to Europe instead, if that helps?

    • Skuds Sister

      We already have that. East coast mainline to Kings Cross then cross the road to St Pancras. And for the North-West its hardly a long trip from Euston….

      • Skuds

        I have taken the train to Newcastle, York and Peterborough before. Good – but not as impressive as a proper high speed trains.

        Of course, high speed freight with lots of good connections would be the real transformational thing. Or even just something like the Channel Tunnel trains that you can load with lorries and send them 400 miles at 200mph then let them do the last bits by road. With the price of fuel these days it could even be made economical.

        • Skuds Sister

          Ah yes, freight and cost. The two things that they should be telling us about…..