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Friday, April 3, 1998 Published at 10:24 GMT 11:24 UK

Special Report

Cool Britannia hits the street
image: [ Old and new: Powerhouse::uk is surrounded by some of Britain's finest old buildings ]
Old and new: Powerhouse::uk is surrounded by some of Britain's finest old buildings

They're changing the guard at Horse Guards Parade.

London's famous parade ground is the venue for a major new exhibition of British innovation and creativity.

Powerhouse::uk is a forum for showing off the cream of young British talent in the fields of design, technology, fashion and science.

Organised by the Department of Trade and Industry, it is the latest push in the Government's drive to re-brand Britain as a dynamic and diverse economy.

The exhibition in London has been timed to coincide with the Asem 2 summit of Asian and European leaders in the capital.

[ image: The UK sign  at the entrance to the exhibition]
The UK sign at the entrance to the exhibition
Conference delegates joined British Prime Minister Tony Blair at the official opening ceremony.

From Saturday the show will open to the public for two weeks.

The message, for those who thought "Cool Britannia" was nothing more than hollow marketing talk: "Don't believe the hype, come and see for yourself."

Housed in a purpose-built, space-age structure of inter-linked inflatable pods, the exhibition is split into four themes: lifestyle, communication, networking and learning.

Even the location of powerhouse::uk is a radical statement of Britain's two diverse characters.

[ image: Inside the exhibition]
Inside the exhibition
Erected in Horse Guards Parade - home to the daily Changing of the Guard - the futuristic, silvery structure sits deep in the heart of establishment Britain; just a stone's throw from Downing Street and Whitehall.

The man behind the powerhouse::uk structure, celebrated British architect Nigel Coates, set it apart from the Millennium Dome project, under construction in Greenwich, south London.

"This is quite different. Everything here is connected to business in some way," he said. "What you see here represents the variety of British talent. Some of the products here are not made in Britain but they have British creativity behind them."

John Battle: "Setting our stall out on a world stage" (0'28")
Trade and Industry minister John Battle said the exhibition was an example of Britain "setting out its stall better".

"We've been a creative nation in the past throughout the whole of the Industrial Revolution and well into the 20th century. But sometimes we do not shout about it enough," said Mr Battle.

[ image: Nothing is left to chance: Even the public seating is designer-led]
Nothing is left to chance: Even the public seating is designer-led
But Ian Peters, of the British Chambers of Commerce, said Britain still had a long way to go in pursuit of a long-term stable economy.

"The problem really is that over many years the UK has not invested as long-term as it should," said Mr Peters.

"The main reason is the volatility in the economy and the historically high interest rates we have had.

"What we now need is a lower level of interest rate and a stable economy, and we believe that will bring industry in from the rest of the world to invest long-term."


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