1999, and the year 2000 could have been just another year in our lives. Except it wasn’t. Concerns were being raised worldwide that the computer industry would not be able to cope with the change from 1999 to 2000. Y2K was the shorthand term for “the year 2000”. It referred to a widespread computer programming shortcut that was expected to cause extensive havoc as the year changed from 1999 to 2000. Instead of allowing four digits for the year, many computer programs only allowed two digits (e.g. 99 instead of 1999). As a result, there was immense panic that computers would be unable to operate when the date descended from “99” to “00”. Would it all come crashing down?

Well, it obviously didn’t. But this was not achieved without a great deal of work done by major companies, who decided to resolve the problems by upgrading their systems and business processes. The smaller businesses were pressurised to do the same so that the supply chain was not interrupted. Needless to say there was an enormous increase in sales of new hard and software in the last years of the 1990s.

Was Geddington worried? Well, not that you would have noticed, instead they decided to celebrate the new New Year, and new century, with a massive party. (At this stage it’s probably best to mention the view that some people had, that the new century actually started on 1 January 2001. The same view holds that the new decade starts, not on 31.12.2019, but 31.12.2020. The argument? That Anno Domini began with year one, not year zero.)

One person had had the foresight to book the Village Hall for Friday 31st December 1999. Then he had the generosity to hand the booking over for a village event which was then organised and which eventually became known as the Geddington Amazing Millennium Experience.

After public meetings in 1998 and 1999, a committee was formed (of course!). The Minutes of the first meeting, 26 February 1999, showed the newly formed committee officers as: Chairman Lloyd Marlow, treasurer Pam Dennis (now Hopkins) and secretary Jane Rowley. Other members were: Kay Marlow, Joy Tingle, John Hughes, Paul Hopkins and Kristi Marshall. During the year, other committee members included Hartley Plumb, Paul Richardson, Richard Paragreen, Nicola O’Brian, Mr & Mrs Chew, Jane Tysoe, Jackie & Gordon Binley and David Featherstone. In addition there were many other residents who gave their help in a huge variety of ways. Over the following months the general layout and programme were set out, and supplies ordered.

By August, the main details of the party had been pretty well finalised. So what were they? First of all the layout: there were 3 connected marquees set up in the Village Hall car park, with a covered scaffold which led to the Hall’s entrance. Inside the Hall was a Disco, a huge TV with a connection to the BBC and the Big Ben countdown, a play area for children with ‘goodie’ bags for each child, balloons and a net (to be released at midnight). In the marquees: 400 chairs and 26 x 5′ x 2.6″ tables had been allocated spaces, one blower heater, rolls of white polystyrene sheeting to line the marquees (kept the heating in a treat!), red cord carpet, paper tablecloths, a quiz, thousands of fairy lights and dozens of extension cables. Outside there was Herries fencing stretching from the changing rooms to the brick wall and across to the VH entrance, this in order to secure the site (there were 3 volunteers on site for security detail, for the 3 nights up to 31 December), there was event insurance and a skip for later use! And finally, fireworks of course! Over £2000 worth. Viewing for guests was done from the Tennis Courts, although many non-paying residents could see them from the bridge, well, why not, it was that sort of night!

The very rough layout below shows how the guests could access the marquees and Village Hall. The public entrance lead into the 1st marquee (tent 1), which was attached to the 2nd marquee (tent 2), which was attached at right angles to the 3rd marquee (Scouts), and then guests could walk through a covered scaffolding into the Village Hall. Due to the very tightness of space, tables 15, 16 and 17 (shown on the Table Plan) couldn’t be set up until the guests at all the other tables were seated! To put it succinctly once in, it was extremely difficult to move around, or get out. Just as well everyone had brought their own food and drink. (Click on each image to enlarge.)

It was never meant to be a fund-raising event, but such were the skills, the enthusiasm, the generosity of so many people and businesses, plus the euphoria of this special night, that over £600 was left after expenses. This was divided between The Newsletter, the St Magdalene Church, the Samuel Lee Charity, Age Concern (local branch), Mums & Tots, but the largest proportion went to the Village Hall, who had offered it free of charge! A letter of thanks and a commemorative badge (do you still have yours?) were sent to a list of people, organisations and businesses who willingly gave their help to one of the biggest parties this village has seen in living memory.
The list included:
Mr & Mrs Chew, Geddington Parish Council, Village Hall Committee, Stryder Publishing, Lynsey, Glen Armer, Rob Bye, Andrew Plumb, Philip & Paul Sant, Leonara, Burwells, John Wilkinson, John Cole, Pete Rowney, Kettering Scouts, Geddington Scouts, G.A.M.E., G.S.S., G.V.F.B., Sealed Air and Steve Crane.

I started off this post with the words: “1999, and the year 2000 could have been just another year in our lives. Except it wasn’t.” Well it certainly wasn’t. It’s difficult to describe the enormous importance that this date meant to people at that time. Not only was it not just another year, not only not just another century, but this date put the world, as we know it, into another Millennium. There aren’t that many people alive today who will see in another century, let alone another Millennium! Just saying.

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