One Amazing Day

On a bright and sunny Friday morning in January I met David Daniell, Sir Rowland Whitehead and Roy Sully at the extremely plush and rather trendy North Greenwich tube station. Our mission - to visit the Faith Zone and discover whether or not the Society's efforts in securing a place for William Tyndale in the Dome had been successful.

As you come up out of the underground the Dome comes into view. It really is a majestic construction and the industrial landscape surrounding it only serves to make it look more impressive and other-worldly, particularly against a clear blue sky.

We proceeded to the turnstiles aided by at least a dozen staff who helpfully guided us with smiling faces in case we got lost in the 200 metres between the station and the gates. Walking to the main entrance we passed several friendly flowerpot-headed people, a small party of medieval singers and musicians and a brightly coloured brass band. Our senses awoken by these unusual encounters we entered the Dome. My first impression was of a fairground, quieter than you might expect - as though not all the stallholders had arrived yet but with the same magical feeling and the potential for explosion into noise and bustle. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, the volume of people did not quite make for the full fairground atmosphere but the jumble of bright colours and haphazard shapes of the various self contained zones was pleasing and intriguing. I wanted to explore.

We made our way purposefully to the Faith Zone and met David Ireson in one of his many guises, this time as roving reporter for his local radio station. The Faith Zone is a serene white tent-like construction with the air of many a modern art space. Although I entered with slight trepidation I was delighted with what we found inside.

The largest part of the zone is devoted to a series of short films, made by Nick Holden-Sim at the BBC. These films cover the themes of Origins, Healing, Education, Justice, Freedom and Mission. Real people talking about their current experience of these themes explain their inspiration from events and characters throughout the history of Christianity in Britain. Unsurprisingly, the Tyndale Society contingent paused time in front of one screen flanked by two six foot display panels: one carrying an image of St Matthew's Gospel from the Tyndale Bible and the other on the history of the Reformation and Tyndale. T he excellent accompanying film (about 4 minutes duration) was narrated by Vicki Hackett, an actress with the Riding Lights Theatre Company. It told simply and effectively the story of a man called William Tyndale who sacrificed his life to bring the word of God to the people of Britain in a language they could understand. Riding Lights continue this work in their own way through the performance of plays across the country, from schools to prisons, placing God's message in a contemporary context to which their audiences can relate. We were pleasantly surprised by the prominence given to Tyndale and his Bible and we are greatly indebted to the work of Sir Rowland for his considerable efforts in this respect. Our mission complete it was a happy group who left the exhibit some considerable time and several showings of the film later.

Christianity is not the only faith represented in the Zone and overall the theme is one of co-operation. The centre-piece which forms the pinnacle of the Faith Zone's tent is a beautiful sculpture by James Turrell called Night Rain, a light space. This calm and subtly changing space provided a place of contemplation which almost escaped the poise pollution pervading the Dome.

After a brief foray to the Sky Dome for our fix of Blackadder (I was delighted to note that all but one of my fellow visitors were as keen to see Baldrick and Edmund's most recent antics as I was) we were back inside the Dome in time for the Millennium Show. I was expecting to see a watered down down of the performance given on New Year's Eve but we were treated to the full works. As the lights and curtains came down on the fairyland-like domescape acrobats launched themselves from the entrances while insect-like trapeze artists fell from the sky and bounced around on stilts. Various different complicated structures were wheeled in and out and hauled into the air, ribbons fell from the ceiling, fireworks, smoke and even trampolines got a look in. It was big, loud, colourful and very kitsch. I loved it!

I lost everyone after the show but managed to while away plenty of time looking at the Millennium Jewels, journeying to the centre of the earth on the Home Planet ride and joining several hundred other people lying on the floor in the darkened bubble of the Rest Zone. In some of the zones you could be excused for suspecting you had somehow been transported into a living version of an overemotional BT or British Airways advert but that might be taking too cynical a view of the sponsors. The Dome does celebrate the millennium in Britain, it does celebrate our country, its character, its faiths and its future but occasionally it does seem a bit half-hearted. At times I felt manipulated, at others confused by the offerings but all day I was interested and excited about the prospect of what was coming next.

I have now had two amazing days at the Dome and am looking forward to my next visit. I have sat on a beach and watched Punch and Judy, seen a computer aided graphical representation of the blood flow in my hand, experimented with how Margaret Thatcher would look with a symmetrical face, singularly failed at having my cornea or vein patterns recognised by sophisticated security systems, looked with interest at the voting boxes scattered around the Dome asking pertinent questions about life in the Future and not been able to find the slips you vote with. And there are still several zones I have not visited. I still have not worked out why the organisers would promote a machine turning plastic cups into pencils in a place where only paper cups are to be found in the myriad of eating establishments. I have not seen myself age yet, visited the chapel, eaten the ubiquitous MacDonald's or benefited from enough time in the Rest Zone.

Charlotte Dewhurst

As you will probably already know the Tyndale Society is visiting the Dome on Tuesday 6th June including a trip on the River and supper. Details were sent out earlier it, April. Further information from the Secretary.

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