Home > Dome from home for 5,000 activists
Dome from home for 5,000 activistsby Open-Publishing - Saturday 9 October 2004
by Tania Branigan
It might not boast the cachet of staying at the Ritz or Savoy, but 5,000 backpackers will be bedding down at one of the most exclusive addresses in London next week, turning the Millennium Dome into the world’s biggest youth hostel.
The much-mocked attraction is to be turned into a dormitory for thousands of activists and young people travelling from across the continent for the European Social Forum.
Like many of the capital’s residents, the mayor appears surprised - or perhaps just relieved - that someone has found a use for the great white elephant of Greenwich.
"I have always considered the dome to be one of London’s most beautiful structures and I knew it would be very useful at some point," Ken Livingstone said yesterday.
"Those who stay there will take back a view of London they will never forget."
There will be plenty of room for delegates from the "global justice" conference to unfurl their sleeping bags in the dome, which covers an area the size of eight football pitches. Its contents were auctioned off after its closure, but toilets remain and temporary showers will be installed.
The mayor’s office said it could not discuss the cost of the scheme as it was still in negotiations with English Partnerships, the agency overseeing the dome.
The fee is likely to run well into six figures, but should be covered by a £10 accommodation charge and the £25 fee for affiliation to the conference.
The Greater London authority has already arranged free travel passes for delegates and has given £400,000 to the forum from existing budgets.
The four-day event is believed to be the largest conference to take place in London. Organisers predict that around 20,000 individuals and delegates from trade unions, charities and community groups will attend hundreds of seminars and workshops.
It opens next Thursday, when speakers, including Mr Livingstone, Gerry Adams and Aleida Guevara, Che Guevara’s daughter, will address a rally at Southwark cathedral. The Guardian is a media partner for the forum.