Millennium Point

Millennium Point is a multi-use complex in Birmingham, situated in the developing Eastside of the city centre.

The complex was officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II on 2 July 2002, although it had been in use since the previous year.

Design


Millennium Point is a Millennium Commission project, and was designed by Nicholas Grimshaw and Partners. Construction is estimated to have cost £114 million, and £50 million funding was granted by the National Lottery.

The building is constructed mainly as a cuboid, with a cylindrical offshoot holding the IMAX cinema. This annexe glows different colours at night. The front fascia is mainly glass, and is covered in long slats with the logo of Millennium Point revealed behind.

Facilities
Education


The purpose of the complex is primarily educational; and as such is home to the Birmingham Thinktank Science Museum. The largest tenant of the building is currently the Faculty of Technology, Engineering and the Environment (formerly Technology Innovation Centre) – the technology faculty of Birmingham City University. The university also operates the Birmingham School of Acting on site. Faculties of Matthew Boulton College, the University of the First Age and the Young People's Parliament are located in smaller units, as is teachers' network Tide~ global learning.

Leisure


A major attraction to Millennium Point is the Birmingham IMAX cinema, which extends into the complex's atrium (known as the "hub"). Facilities that complement the cinema (and surrounding businesses) include a licensed bar and a café.

Millennium Point is the location of Birmingham's annual "Christmas Lights Switch On" event. The 2008 event saw fairground rides and live music, including performances by Alesha Dixon, Alphabeat and Scouting for Girls, with Lemar switching on the lights. Previous events have hosted sets by Leona Lewis and McFly.

In 2009, the Christmas Lights Switch-On was cancelled over safety concerns. Larger than expected numbers turned up and were locked out of the event due to overcrowding. Subsequently, the locked out crowd broke down the fencing causing a stampede, leaving dozens injured and the event cancelled.

In May 2006, the atrium of the building was used to host a theatrical extravaganza From Ithaca With Love, a modern retelling of Homer’s The Odyssey, which was the launch event of the New Generation Arts Festival. Produced by Simon M Woods and adapted and directed by Malachi Bogdanov the event required the blacking out the roof and windows and incorporated both a speed boat and Lotus car.

In June 2006 the front car park was converted into a viewing area for the 2006 FIFA World Cup. On 19 July, the screen was strengthened to withstand strong winds but eventually collapsed. Subsequent games were shown on a smaller, temporary screen.

At around the same time, and over a period of two days, 20,107 people drew around their feet on A4 pieces of paper and placed them outside Millennium Point to create the longest display of footprints.

In 2008, Millennium Point hosted the Hello Digital arts festival. The focus was interactive multimedia, and numerous performances of the Birmingham ElectroAcoustic Sound Theatre were held.

Problems


In 2004 glass panels fell off the front of the building. This resulted in green webbing and metal barriers being placed around one half of the building while investigations took place. The unsightly webbing stretched the full height of the building and remained in place for some time. You can see the metal barriers in the first picture on this page, though the webbing had been removed by the time the picture was taken.

Future developments


Millennium Point is set to become the "hub" of the Ventureast development. The front car park will be transformed in to the City Park and a replacement multi storey car park will be built to the rear of the building fronting Jennens Road. The area at the side used as a car park will be built on as part of the development and the area immediately behind the building will be turned into a social square known as "Exchange Square".

2009 Birmingham Millennium Point incident


The 2009 Birmingham Millennium Point incident occurred on 14 November 2009 when hundreds of people broke through a temporary crowd control barrier causing various injuries to fans during the Christmas Lights Switch-On held outside Millennium Point in Birmingham, England while JLS were performing.

Council preparation


Because a free pop music concert and fireworks show was planned, sections of Millennium Point were fenced off and either marshals and/or police stationed at a few points so as to prevent any minor crimes, like pickpocketing. Trouble breaking out may have been contributed by party goers becoming over excited, plus the unofficial presence of alcohol.

Birmingham City Councillor Martin Mullaney later stated it was a failure of the fencing at Millennium Point which was the main problem, since the wind broke the solid-steel fencing down during the night and it was then replaced with Heras fencing as used on building sites, and extra security personnel.

According to reports, about 20,000 to 21,000 (officially) or 27,000 people (police estimates) turned up for the show at Millennium Point, which had been expecting to attract just 5,000 fans, not the 15,000 and 20,000 Birmingham City Council had expected to turn up. The venue had a capacity of 5,000 people and it was recognised that things would become a overcrowded.

The event


The free event, organised by 96.4FM BRMB and Birmingham City Council, was to start at 2 pm, followed by the Christmas lights switch-on at 7.30 pm and finishing with a fireworks display.

Crowds began to swell at about 1:30 pm in Jennens Lane as a crowd of about 20,000 to 21,000 began to push at the mostly portable barrier fencing. At the end of the JLS performance, an additional approximately 7,000 largely ticket-less fans tried to force themselves into the venue before the Sugababes could start their act, and the police were overwhelmed. Both the remaining sheet metal safety fencing, plastic laminated hessian fencings and portable barrier fencing had collapsed and or ruptured open, allowing additional access to the site. Some of the fans apparently became angry with the way the concert was being marshalled and began to throw umbrellas, drink bottles and cans at the police and marshals. Several children were taken to safety by fans, marshals and emergency staff alike, once the crush began.

The rest of the concert and lights switch-on were immediately cancelled as paramedics set up a special triage area to treat the injured. Birmingham City Council stated: "due to safety concerns an emergency meeting was held and a joint decision was made between Birmingham City Council, BRMB, Millennium Point and the Emergency Services to cancel the event following JLS’s performance.

Aftermath


Sixty four concert-goers were injured in total: four critically, two of whom had major crush injures. Two persons were crushed under a metal barrier as it collapsed in the stampede and another two were knocked to the ground by the initial surge according to West Midlands Police. West Midlands Ambulance Service confirmed there had been no fatalities at the crush. The 4 most seriously injured victims suffered from serious crush injuries. Scottish pop star Calvin Harris had expressed his concerns over the lack of provision for the growing crowds during his performance.

The Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport Ben Bradshaw and the city council's Cabinet Member for Leisure, Sport & Culture, Martin Mullaney blamed the tragedy on bad weather and a failure of the fencing for the incident. However, local MP for Perry Barr, Khalid Mahmood pointed toward the Birmingham City Council's lack of preparedness. Steve Hollingworth, assistant director of sports and events at Birmingham City Council said the event had been organised and prepared properly. Mahmood said the council should have made access to the event by ticket holders only and that ticketless fans should not have been admitted and compared the situation to the 1989 Hillsborough football stadium disaster, where 96 Liverpool fans were crushed to death.

All parties agreed that the late surge of fans from outside of the main event was poorly handled and that the council could have erected plasma TV screens outside the event for those unable to get in.

An independent report by a health and safety consultant placed the final blame on Birmingham City Council's choice of fencing. The usual solid fencing was deemed unsafe in the high winds and so was replaced by see-through temporary fencing that morning. Despite this, the report concluded that pre-planning for the event was "satisfactory". It was believed that members of the public could see spaces in the crowds appearing through the see-through fence and decided to climb over resulting in the fence collapsing and causing the subsequent surge and injuries.

It had similarities to both the more lethal events that happened at the Love Parade concert in Duisburg in North Rhine-Westphalia on 25 July 2010, in which 21 died and 340 were injured. and the Roskilde Festival accident in Denmark a few years earlier.

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