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How To Make A Million Pounds In Ten Years Essay

You Watch the K Foundation Burn a Million Quid

The Guardian advert announcing a screening tour of Watch the K Foundation Burn a Million Quid

Directed byGimpo
StarringThe K Foundation
Distributed byK Foundation Inc.

Release date

23 August 1995

Running time

67 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom

K Foundation Burn a Million Quid was an action on 23 August 1994 in which the K Foundation (an art duo consisting of Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty) burned cash in the amount of one million pounds sterling in a disused boathouse on the Ardfin Estate on the Scottish island of Jura.[1] The money represented the bulk of the K Foundation's funds, earned by Drummond and Cauty as The KLF, one of the United Kingdom's most successful pop groups of the early 1990s.

The incineration was recorded on a Hi-8 video camera by K Foundation collaborator Gimpo. In August 1995, the film—Watch the K Foundation Burn a Million Quid[2]—was toured around the UK, with Drummond and Cauty engaging each audience in debate about the burning and its meaning. In November 1995, the duo pledged to dissolve the K Foundation and to refrain from public discussion of the burning for a period of 23 years, but Drummond spoke about the burning in 2000 and 2004. Initially, he was unrepentant,[3] but in 2004 he admitted to the BBC that he regretted burning the money.[4][5]

Collaborator Chris Brook edited and compiled a book, K Foundation Burn A Million Quid, which was published by Ellipsis Books in 1997. It compiles stills from the film, accounts of events and viewer reactions. One image in the book shows a house brick that was manufactured from the fire's ashes.


As The KLF, Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty were the biggest-selling singles act in the world for 1991.[6] They had also enjoyed considerable success with their album The White Room and a number one hit single – "Doctorin' the Tardis" – as The Timelords. In May 1992, The KLF staged an incendiary performance at the BRIT Awards,[7][8] and retired from the music industry shortly thereafter in typically enigmatic fashion.[9][10]

By their own account, neither Drummond nor Cauty kept any of the money they made as The KLF; it was all ploughed back into their extravagant productions. Cauty told an Australian Big Issue writer in 2003 that all the money they made as The KLF was spent, and that the royalties they accrued post-retirement amounted to approximately one million pounds:

I think we made about £6m. We paid nearly half that in tax and spent the rest on production costs. When we stopped, the production costs stopped too, so over the next few months we amassed a surplus of cash still coming in from record sales; this amounted to about £1.8m. After tax we were left with about £1m. This was the money that later became the K Foundation fund for the 'advancement of kreation.'[11]

Initially The KLF's earnings were to be distributed by way of a fund for struggling artists managed by the K Foundation, Drummond and Cauty's new post-KLF art project, but, said Drummond, "We realised that struggling artists are meant to struggle, that's the whole point."[12] Instead the duo decided to create art with the money. Nailed to the Wall was the first piece of art produced by the Foundation, and the major piece in their planned art exhibition, Money: A Major Body Of Cash. Consisting of one million pounds in cash nailed to a pine frame, the piece was presented to the press on 23 November 1993 during the buildup to the Foundation's announcement of the "winner" of their "worst artist of the year award", the K Foundation art award.[13][14]

Decision and burning[edit]

During the first half of 1994, the K Foundation attempted to interest galleries in staging Money: A Major Body of Cash, but even old friend Jayne Casey, director of the Liverpool Festival Trust, was unable to persuade a major gallery to participate. "'The Tate, in Liverpool, wanted to be part of the 21st Century Festival I'm involved with,' says Casey. 'I suggested they put on the K Foundation exhibition; at first they were encouraging, but they seemed nervous about the personalities involved.' A curt fax from... the gallery curator, informed Casey that the K Foundation's exhibition of money had been done before and more interestingly",[15] leaving Drummond and Cauty obliged to pursue other options. The duo considered taking the exhibition across the former Soviet Union by train and on to the United States, but no insurer would touch the project. An exhibition at Kilmainham Jail in Dublin was then considered, but no sooner had a provisional August date been set for it than the duo changed their minds yet again. "Jimmy said: 'Why don't we just burn it?' remembers Drummond. 'He said it in a light-hearted way, I suppose, hoping I'd say: 'No, we can't do that, let's do this...' But it seemed the most powerful thing to do."[15] Cauty: "We were just sitting in a cafe talking about what we were going to spend the money on and then we decided it would be better if we burned it. That was about six weeks before we did it. It was too long, it was a bit of a nightmare."[16]

The journey from deciding to burn the money to deciding how to burn the money to actually burning the money was a long one. Jim Reid, a freelance journalist and the only independent witness to the burning, reported the various schemes the K Foundation considered. The first was offering Nailed To The Wall to the Tate Gallery as the "1995 K Foundation Bequest To The Nation." The condition was that the gallery must agree to display the piece for at least 10 years. If they refused, the money would be burnt. A second idea was to hire Bankside Power Station, "the future site of the Tate Gallery extension and an imposing building downstream from the South Bank", as a bonfire venue. In typical KLF 'guerrilla communication' style, "posters were to appear on 15 August bearing the legend 'The 1995 K Foundation Bequest To The Nation', under which would have been an image of Nailed To The Wall on an easel and two flame-throwers lying on the floor. On 24 August a new poster would go up, exactly the same as the first except that this time the work would be burnt."[15]

The K Foundation's final solution for their one-million-pound "problem" was rather less showbiz, but dramatic nonetheless, the Foundation having decided that making a public spectacle of the event would lessen its impact. On 22 August, Reid, Drummond, Cauty and Gimpo touched down at Islay Airport in the Inner Hebrides and took a ferry to the island of Jura, previously the scene of a wicker man burning ceremony by The KLF.[15] Early in the morning of 23 August 1994, in an abandoned boathouse on Jura, Drummond and Cauty incinerated the money. The burning was witnessed by Reid, who subsequently wrote an article about the act for The Observer, and it was filmed on a Hi-8 video camera by collaborator Gimpo. As the burning began Reid said he felt guilt and shock. These feelings, he reported, quickly turned to boredom.[15]

The money took well over an hour to burn as Drummond and Cauty fed £50 notes into the fire. According to Drummond, only about £900,000 of the money was actually burnt, with the remainder flying straight up the chimney.[17] Two days later, according to Reid, Jimmy Cauty destroyed all film and photographic evidence of the burning. Ten months later, Gimpo revealed to them that he had secretly kept a copy.[15]


Watch the K Foundation Burn a Million Quid starts with a short description of the event, and then consists of Drummond and Cauty throwing £50 notes onto the fire. Burning the entire amount takes around 67 minutes. NME wrote:

At the start, Cauty is agitated and says he doesn't think the money will burn because it is too wet. The camera shows 20 thick bundles of £50 notes, each bundle containing £50,000 in new bank notes and sealed in cellophane. When the money ignites, Drummond starts to laugh as he and Cauty stand above a small fireplace throwing £50 notes on to the fire. Cauty constantly stokes the blaze with a large wooden plank and at one stage burns his hand on a flaming note. As the fire starts to dim, he scuttles around the floor sweeping stray notes into the flames. The cameraman shows a view from outside the building with charred £50 notes billowing out of the chimney.[16]

In November 1995, the BBC aired an edition of the Omnibus documentary series about The K Foundation entitled A Foundation Course in Art. Amongst the footage broadcast were scenes from Watch the K Foundation Burn a Million Quid. Thomas Sutcliffe, reviewing the programme in The Independent, wrote:

The Omnibus film about this intriguing pair was in part a rear-guard action in their continuing battle for recognition (and a victory – for some people, after all, art is what appears on Omnibus). It was also a peculiarly modern fable about what constitutes an artist – will the artist's say-so do, or do you need the validation of the galleries? "You can't simply decide you're going to become an artist," said one gallery owner haughtily, which left you wondering how else the vocation might operate. A lottery system? Secret-ballot election?

For my money (meagre though it is), the video which recorded the laborious process of immolation was a decidedly intriguing work – rather more provoking than some contemporary work I've seen. For established galleries, the medium used (video, bank-notes, fire) is obviously an embarrassment, but if poverty of material is not to disqualify artworks (bricks or lard, say) why should the expense of material?[18]

Screening tour[edit]

The first public screening of Watch the K Foundation Burn a Million Quid was on Jura on 23 August 1995 – exactly one year after the burning. "We feel we should face them and answer their questions" said one of the duo.[19] Two weeks later an advert appeared in The Guardian, announcing a world tour of the film over the next 12 months at "relevant locations".[20] The second screening was at In The City music industry convention on 5 September in Manchester. After the film was shown, Drummond and Cauty held a question-and-answer session with the theme "Is It Rock'n'Roll?".[16][21][22] A week later, the pair travelled as guests of alternative radio station B92 to Belgrade, where the post-screening discussion was titled "Is it a crime against humanity?" An unauthorised screening at the BBC Television Centre was curtailed and Drummond and Cauty were escorted from the building.[22]

On the weekend of 3 November 1995, the film was screened at several locations in Glasgow,[12] including at football matches involving Celtic and Rangers; a planned screening at Barlinnie prison was cancelled after the Scottish Prison Service withdrew permission.[23][24] Glasgow's artistic community broadly seemed to welcome the screenings.[25] A further public screening on Glasgow Green on 5 November was announced by various newspapers,[22][24][26] but there is no record of the showing having ever occurred. The K Foundation disappeared from Glasgow; they later issued a statement that on 5 November 1995 they had signed a "contract" at Cape Wrath in northern Scotland agreeing to wind up the K Foundation and not to speak about the money burning for a period of 23 years.[27]

Despite the K Foundation's reported moratorium, further national screenings of the film organised by Chris Brook took place as planned. At each screening, Drummond and Cauty announced they would not answer questions after the film; instead, they would ask questions of the audience. These screenings were held in Bradford, Hull, Liverpool, Cheltenham Ladies College, Eton College, Bristol, Aberystwyth, Glastonbury Tor and Brick Lane, London.[28]

The Brick Lane screening – on 8 December 1995 – had been previewed in NME, and was chaotically busy. It was originally planned for a car park, but freezing conditions and snow forced a rethink and the screening was moved indoors, to the basement of the nearby Seven Stars pub. Hundreds of people crammed in to watch the screening, which was eventually abandoned partway through due to the cramped conditions.[29] The NME preview had claimed that after the screening the film would be cut up and individual frames sold off to the public.[30] Gimpo, the owner of the film, had no intention of doing so, but after the screening was nearly overwhelmed by a mob of people wanting to take home a piece of the film.[31]

Gimpo has continued to show the film at events such as literary festivals and underground film evenings over the years since the initial tour. On 23 August 2007, after a screening in Berlin, Germany, the DVD briefly disappeared. A few hours later, the film was released on several BitTorrent trackers.[32]

Burning as a theme[edit]

Ritualistic burnings had already been a recurring aspect of Drummond and Cauty's work. In 1987, the duo disposed of copies of their copyright-breaching debut album—The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu's 1987 (What the Fuck Is Going On?)—by burning them in a Swedish field.[33] This event was pictured on the back sleeve of their second album, Who Killed The JAMs?, and celebrated in the song "Burn the Bastards".[34] During the 1991 summer solstice, they burnt a 60 feet (18 m) wicker man. This was chronicled in The KLF movie The Rites of Mu.[15]

As the K Foundation, Drummond and Cauty threatened to burn the K Foundation art award prize money (Gimpo was fumbling with matches and lighter fluid when, at the last moment, Rachel Whiteread accepted the prize).[12][35] In the seventh K Foundation press advert they asked "What would you do with a million pounds? Burn it?"[36]

Reaction and analysis[edit]

Jim Reid's piece appeared in The Observer on 25 September 1994. This is "one of the most peculiar stories of the year", he cautioned readers. "Peculiar because pretty much everyone who comes across this magazine is going to have trouble believing a word of it. Peculiar because every last dot and comma of what is to come is the truth." "It took about two hours for that cash to go up in flames", he added. "I looked at it closely, it was real. It came from a bona fide security firm and was not swapped at any time on our journey. More importantly, perhaps, after working with the K Foundation I know they are capable of this."[15]

The Daily Express ran the story on 1 October 1994. They reported that charred £50 notes were being found by islanders, who did not doubt the burning had really taken place. Drummond and Cauty had been seen eating in a hotel bar on Jura before leaving with two suitcases, the newspaper reported.[37]

The Times followed with essentially the same story on 4 October 1994, adding that the burning "[had] left many on the island bewildered, incredulous and angry". £1,500 had been handed in by a local fisherman to Islay police: "Sergeant Lachlan Maclean checked the money with both banks on Islay and with Customs and Excise, who pronounced it genuine. 'I telephoned Mr Drummond in London and told him the money had been found. I asked him if it was his. He said he would get in touch with his partner, Mr Cauty. So far he has not telephoned back'".[38]

The media returned to the story in earnest in October and November 1995, previewing and then reviewing Foundation Course In Art, and reporting on the K Foundation's tour screening Watch the K Foundation Burn a Million Quid.

An October 1995 feature quoted Kevin Hull, the BBC documentary maker responsible for the Omnibus item, saying he had found "the boys rather depressed, and almost in a state of shock". "Every day I wake up and I think 'Oh God, I've burnt a million quid and everyone thinks it's wrong'", Cauty told him.[26]

A piece in The Times on 5 November 1995, coinciding with the Glasgow screenings, reported that the K Foundation had no solid reason for burning the money or view of what, if anything, the act represented, but concluded "The K Foundation may not have changed or challenged much but they have certainly provoked thousands to question and analyse the power of money and the responsibilities of those who possess it. And what could be more artistic than that?"[23] In the same issue, the newspaper's K Foundation art award witness, Robert Sandall, wrote that the Foundation's award, million-pound artwork and the burning were all "entertaining, and satirically quite sharp", but "the art world has chosen not to think [of it as art].... The general view remains that the K Foundation's preoccupation with money, though undoubtedly sincere, simply isn't very original. Although they didn't blow their entire life's savings along the way, other artists, notably Yves Klein and Chris Burden, have been here before."[22]

The Guardian's TV reviewer was sceptical. "Snag is, the K men have always dealt in myth and sown a trail of confusion, so nobody quite believes they really burned the money. And if they did, they must be nuts. Confucius says: Aston Martin dealer will not accept suitcase full of ash as down payment."[39]

Later reaction[edit]

In the following years, the burning was mentioned regularly in the press, with Drummond and Cauty often relegated to a cultural status of "the men who burnt a million quid".

A February 2000 article in The Observer newspaper again insisted that the duo really had burnt one million pounds. "It wasn't a stunt. They really did it. If you want to rile Bill Drummond, you call him a hoaxer. 'I knew it was real,' a long-time friend and associate of his group The KLF tells me, 'because afterwards, Jimmy and Bill looked so harrowed and haunted. And to be honest, they've never really been the same since'".[3][40]

A 2004 listener poll by BBC Radio 6 Music saw The KLF/K Foundation placed second after The Who in a list of "rock excesses".[41]

Drummond's former protegé Julian Cope was unimpressed, claiming that Drummond still owed him money. "He burned a million pounds which was not all his, and some of it was mine. People should pay off their creditors before they pull intellectual dry-wank stunts like that."[42]


On 17 September 1997, a new film, This Brick, was premiered. The film consisted of one three-minute shot of a brick made from the ashes of the money burnt at Jura. It was shown at the Barbican Centre prior to Drummond and Cauty's performance as 2K.[43]

On 27 September 1997, K Foundation Burn A Million Quid (ISBN 0-9541656-5-9, ISBN 1-899858-37-7 paperback) was published. The book, by Chris Brook and Gimpo, contains stills from the film and transcriptions of various Q&A sessions from the tour. It also includes a timeline of K Foundation activity and sundry essays including one from Alan Moore. Publisher Ellipsis promoted the book with an advert modelled on those of the K Foundation – "Why did Ellipsis publish K Foundation Burn A Million Quid?" they asked.[44]

Initially, Drummond was unrepentant, telling The Observer in 2000 that he couldn't imagine ever feeling regret unless his child was ill and only "an expensive clinic" could cure him.[3] By 2004, however, he had admitted to the BBC the difficulty of explaining his decision.[4] "It's a hard one to explain to your kids and it doesn't get any easier. I wish I could explain why I did it so people would understand."[5]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^"The Boathouse, Ardfin (C) Andrew Curtis". Geograph.org.uk. Retrieved 2015-05-28. 
  2. ^"Quid" is a widely used British slang word meaning pounds sterling (singular or plural: "a quid", "a million quid").
  3. ^ abcAndrew Smith. "Burning question | From the Observer | The Observer". Guardian.co.uk. Retrieved 2015-05-30. 
  4. ^ abMcKevitt, Greg (30 April 2004). "What Drummond did next". bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 30 May 2015. 
  5. ^ ab"KLF Bill: I regret burning £1m". Sunday Mail. Glasgow. 25 July 2004. p. 27. 
  6. ^John Bush. "The KLF | Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved 2015-05-30. 
  7. ^McCormick, N., "The Arts: My name is Bill, and I'm a popaholic", The Daily Telegraph (London), 2 March 2000, p27.
  8. ^[1]Archived 16 December 2014 at the Wayback Machine.
  9. ^[2]Archived 3 February 2014 at the Wayback Machine.
  10. ^[3]Archived 17 July 2015 at the Wayback Machine.
  11. ^[4]Archived 5 December 2012 at the Wayback Machine.
  12. ^ abcDower, John, and Greer, Dave, "The K Foundation: Why we burnt a million pounds", Thee Data Base fanzine, 1 March 1996; based on an interview with Drummond and Cauty on Subcity Radio, Glasgow, 3 November 1995 (link 1, link 2)
  13. ^[5]Archived 20 February 2015 at the Wayback Machine.
  14. ^[6]Archived 5 June 2014 at the Wayback Machine.
  15. ^ abcdefgh[7]Archived 26 June 2015 at the Wayback Machine.
  16. ^ abc[8]Archived 15 October 2013 at the Wayback Machine.
  17. ^[9]Archived 4 April 2006 at the Wayback Machine.
  18. ^Sutcliffe, Thomas, The Independent (London) ISSN 0951-9467, 7 November 1995, TV section p24.
  19. ^Banks-Smith, Nancy, "From cash to ash", The Guardian (Manchester), 30 August 1995, page T.009. The words are attributed to the duo in general and not specifically attributed to Drummond or Cauty.
  20. ^[10]Archived 2 April 2015 at the Wayback Machine.
  21. ^[11]Archived 2 April 2015 at the Wayback Machine.
  22. ^ abcdSandall, Robert, "Money to burn", The Times (London) ISSN 0140-0460, 5 November 1995, Features p1.
  23. ^ abGibb, Eddie and Sandground, Peter, "K-why?", The Times (London) ISSN 0140-0460, 5 November 1995, Features p1.
  24. ^ ab[12]Archived 23 October 2013 at the Wayback Machine.
  25. ^Martin, Iain, "Barlinnie may get eyeful of Scotland's hottest million", The Times (London) ISSN 0140-0460, 29 October 1995, Home News p1
  26. ^ ab[13]Archived 23 October 2013 at the Wayback Machine.
  27. ^[14]Archived 17 July 2015 at the Wayback Machine.
  28. ^"Bill Drummond: Agent provocateur – Profiles, People". Independent.co.uk. 21 November 2005. Retrieved 23 September 2010. 
  29. ^[15]Archived 28 September 2011 at the Wayback Machine.
  30. ^[16]Archived 29 November 2014 at the Wayback Machine.
  31. ^[17]Archived 28 September 2011 at the Wayback Machine.
  32. ^Bezirke. "Nachrichten". BerlinOnline.de. Retrieved 2015-05-30. 
  33. ^"Thank You For The Music", New Musical Express, 17 October 1987.
  34. ^Who Killed The JAMs? review, Sounds Magazine, 13 February 1988.
  35. ^[18]Archived 17 July 2015 at the Wayback Machine.
  36. ^[19]Archived 5 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine.
  37. ^[20]Archived 5 December 2014 at the Wayback Machine.
  38. ^[21]Archived 15 October 2013 at the Wayback Machine.
  39. ^[22]Archived 3 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine.
  40. ^[23]Archived 17 July 2015 at the Wayback Machine.
  41. ^Barnes, Anthony (2004-06-20). "The Who top rock's hall of shame - News - Music". Independent.co.uk. Retrieved 2015-05-30. 
  42. ^"Julian Cope presents Head Heritage | Julian Cope | Q&A 2000Ce | Cope Musicians & Cohorts". Headheritage.co.uk. Retrieved 2015-05-30. 
  43. ^[24]Archived 3 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine.
  44. ^[25]Archived 25 April 2009 at the Wayback Machine.

External links[edit]

A still of the film from the book K Foundation Burn a Million Quid
Ellipsis' K Foundation-style advert promoting the book K Foundation Burn A Million Quid

1 Geopolitics: 'Rivals will take greater risks against the US'

No balance of power lasts forever. Just a century ago, London was the centre of the world. Britain bestrode the world like a colossus and only those with strong nerves (or weak judgment) dared challenge the Pax Britannica.

That, of course, is all history, but the Pax Americana that has taken shape since 1989 is just as vulnerable to historical change. In the 1910s, the rising power and wealth of Germany and America splintered the Pax Britannica; in the 2010s, east Asia will do the same to the Pax Americana.

The 21st century will see technological change on an astonishing scale. It may even transform what it means to be human. But in the short term – the next 20 years – the world will still be dominated by the doings of nation-states and the central issue will be the rise of the east.

By 2030, the world will be more complicated, divided between a broad American sphere of influence in Europe, the Middle East and south Asia, and a Chinese sphere in east Asia and Africa. Even within its own sphere, the US will face new challenges from former peripheries. The large, educated populations of Poland, Turkey, Brazil and their neighbours will come into their own and Russia will continue its revival.

Nevertheless, America will probably remain the world's major power. The critics who wrote off the US during the depression of the 1930s and the stagflation of the 1970s lived to see it bounce back to defeat the Nazis in the 1940s and the Soviets in the 1980s. America's financial problems will surely deepen through the 2010s, but the 2020s could bring another Roosevelt or Reagan.

A hundred years ago, as Britain's dominance eroded, rivals, particularly Germany, were emboldened to take ever-greater risks. The same will happen as American power erodes in the 2010s-20s. In 1999, for instance, Russia would never have dared attack a neighbour such as Georgia but in 2009 it took just such a chance.

The danger of such an adventure sparking a great power war in the 2010s is probably low; in the 2020s, it will be much greater.

The most serious threats will arise in the vortex of instability that stretches from Africa to central Asia. Most of the world's poorest people live here; climate change is wreaking its worst damage here; nuclear weapons are proliferating fastest here; and even in 2030, the great powers will still seek much of their energy here.

Here, the risk of Sino-American conflict will be greatest and here the balance of power will be decided.

Ian Morris, professor of history at Stanford University and the author of Why the West Rules – For Now (Profile Books)

2 The UK economy: 'The popular revolt against bankers will become impossible to resist'

It will be a second financial crisis in the 2010s – probably sooner than later – that will prove to be the remaking of Britain. Confronted by a second trillion-pound bank bailout in less than 10 years, it will be impossible for the City and wider banking system to resist reform. The popular revolt against bankers, their current business model in which neglect of the real economy is embedded and the scale of their bonuses – all to be underwritten by bailouts from taxpayers – will become irresistible. The consequent rebalancing of the British economy, already underway, will intensify. Britain, in thrall to finance since 1945, will break free – spearheading a second Industrial Revolution.

In 2035, there is thus a good prospect that Britain will be the most populous (our birth rate will be one the highest in Europe), dynamic and richest European country, the key state in a reconfigured EU. Our leading universities will become powerhouses of innovation, world centres in exploiting the approaching avalanche of scientific and technological breakthroughs. A reformed financial system will allow British entrepreneurs to get the committed financial backing they need, becoming the capitalist leaders in Europe. And, after a century of trying, Britain will at last build itself a system for developing apprentices and technicians that is no longer the Cinderella of the education system.

It will not be plain sailing. Massive political turbulence in China and its conflict with the US will define part of the next 25 years – and there will be a period when the world trading and financial system retreats from openness.

How far beggar-my-neighbour competitive devaluations and protection will develop is hard to predict, but protectionist trends are there for all to see. Commodity prices will go much higher and there will be shortages of key minerals, energy, water and some basic foodstuffs.

The paradox is that this will be good news for Britain. It will force the state to re-engage with the economy and to build a matrix of institutions that will support innovation and investment, rather as it did between 1931 and 1950. New Labour began this process tremulously in its last year in office; the coalition government is following through. These will be lean years for the traditional Conservative right, but whether it will be a liberal One Nation Tory party, ongoing coalition governments or the Labour party that will be the political beneficiary is not yet sure.

The key point is that those 20 years in the middle of the 20th century witnessed great industrial creativity and an unsung economic renaissance until the country fell progressively under the stultifying grip of the City of London. My guess is that the same, against a similarly turbulent global background, is about to happen again. My caveat is if the City remains strong, in which case economic decline and social division will escalate.

Will Hutton, executive vice-chair of the Work Foundation and an Observer columnist

3 Global development: 'A vaccine will rid the world of Aids'

Within 25 years, the world will achieve many major successes in tackling the diseases of the poor.

Certainly, we will be polio-free and probably will have been for more than a decade. The fight to eradicate polio represents one of the greatest achievements in global health to date. It has mobilised millions of volunteers, staged mass immunisation campaigns and helped to strengthen the health systems of low-income countries. Today, we have eliminated 99% of the polio in the world and eradication is well within reach.

Vaccines that prevent diseases such as measles and rotavirus, currently available in rich countries, will also become affordable and readily available in developing countries. Since it was founded 10 years ago, the Gavi Alliance, a global partnership that funds expanded immunisation in poor countries, has helped prevent more than 5 million deaths. It is easy to imagine that in 25 years this work will have been expanded to save millions more lives by making life-saving vaccines available all over the world.

I also expect to see major strides in new areas. A rapid point-of-care diagnostic test – coupled with a faster-acting treatment regimen – will so fundamentally change the way we treat tuberculosis that we can begin planning an elimination campaign.

We will eradicate malaria, I believe, to the point where there are no human cases reported globally in 2035. We will also have effective means for preventing Aids infection, including a vaccine. With the encouraging results of the RV144 Aids vaccine trial in Thailand, we now know that an Aids vaccine is possible. We must build on these and promising results on other means of preventing HIV infection to help rid the world of the threat of Aids.

Tachi Yamada, president of the global health programme at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

4 Energy: 'Returning to a world that relies on muscle power is not an option'

Providing sufficient food, water and energy to allow everyone to lead decent lives is an enormous challenge. Energy is a means, not an end, but a necessary means. With 6.7 billion people on the planet, more than 50% living in large conurbations, and these numbers expected to rise to more than 9 billion and 80% later in the century, returning to a world that relies on human and animal muscle power is not an option.

The challenge is to provide sufficient energy while reducing reliance on fossil fuels, which today supply 80% of our energy (in decreasing order of importance, the rest comes from burning biomass and waste, hydro, nuclear and, finally, other renewables, which together contribute less than 1%). Reducing use of fossil fuels is necessary both to avoid serious climate change and in anticipation of a time when scarcity makes them prohibitively expensive.

It will be extremely difficult. An International Energy Agency scenario that assumes the implementation of all agreed national policies and announced commitments to save energy and reduce the use of fossil fuels projects a 35% increase in energy consumption in the next 25 years, with fossil fuels up 24%. This is almost entirely due to consumption in developing countries where living standards are, happily, rising and the population is increasing rapidly.

This scenario, which assumes major increases in nuclear, hydro and wind power, evidently does not go far enough and will break down if, as many expect, oil production (which is assumed to increase 15%) peaks in much less than 25 years. We need to go much further in reducing demand, through better design and changes in lifestyles, increasing efficiency and improving and deploying all viable alternative energy sources. It won't be cheap. And in the post-fossil-fuel era it won't be sufficient without major contributions from solar energy (necessitating cost reductions and improved energy storage and transmission) and/or nuclear fission (meaning fast breeder and/or thorium reactors when uranium eventually becomes scarce) and/or fusion (which is enormously attractive in principle but won't become a reliable source of energy until at least the middle of the century).

Disappointingly, with the present rate of investment in developing and deploying new energy sources, the world will still be powered mainly by fossil fuels in 25 years and will not be prepared to do without them.

Chris Llewellyn Smith is a former director general of Cern and chair of Iter, the world fusion project, he works on energy issues at Oxford University

5 Advertising: 'All sorts of things will just be sold in plain packages'

If I'd been writing this five years ago, it would have been all about technology: the internet, the fragmentation of media, mobile phones, social tools allowing consumers to regain power at the expense of corporations, all that sort of stuff. And all these things are important and will change how advertising works.

But it's becoming clear that what'll really change advertising will be how we relate to it and what we're prepared to let it do. After all, when you look at advertising from the past the basic techniques haven't changed; what seems startlingly alien are the attitudes it was acceptable to portray and the products you were allowed to advertise.

In 25 years, I bet there'll be many products we'll be allowed to buy but not see advertised – the things the government will decide we shouldn't be consuming because of their impact on healthcare costs or the environment but that they can't muster the political will to ban outright. So, we'll end up with all sorts of products in plain packaging with the product name in a generic typeface – as the government is currently discussing for cigarettes.

But it won't stop there. We'll also be nudged into renegotiating the relationship between society and advertising, because over the next few years we're going to be interrupted by advertising like never before. Video screens are getting so cheap and disposable that they'll be plastered everywhere we go. And they'll have enough intelligence and connectivity that they'll see our faces, do a quick search on Facebook to find out who we are and direct a message at us based on our purchasing history.

At least, that'll be the idea. It probably won't work very well and when it does work it'll probably drive us mad. Marketing geniuses are working on this stuff right now, but not all of them recognise that being allowed to do this kind of thing depends on societal consent – push the intrusion too far and people will push back.

Society once did a deal accepting advertising because it seemed occasionally useful and interesting and because it paid for lots of journalism and entertainment. It's not necessarily going to pay for those things for much longer so we might start questioning whether we want to live in a Blade Runner world brought to us by Cillit Bang.

Russell Davies, head of planning at the advertising agency Ogilvy and Mather and a columnist for the magazines Campaign and Wired

6 Neuroscience: 'We'll be able to plug information streams directly into the cortex'

By 2030, we are likely to have developed no-frills brain-machine interfaces, allowing the paralysed to dance in their thought-controlled exoskeleton suits. I sincerely hope we will not still be interfacing with computers via keyboards, one forlorn letter at a time.

I'd like to imagine we'll have robots to do our bidding. But I predicted that 20 years ago, when I was a sanguine boy leaving Star Wars, and the smartest robot we have now is the Roomba vacuum cleaner. So I won't be surprised if I'm wrong in another 25 years. Artificial intelligence has proved itself an unexpectedly difficult problem.

Maybe we will understand what's happening when we immerse our heads into the colourful night blender of dreams. We will have cracked the secret of human memory by realising that it was never about storing things, but about the relationships between things.

Will we have reached the singularity – the point at which computers surpass human intelligence and perhaps give us our comeuppance? We'll probably be able to plug information streams directly into the cortex for those who want it badly enough to risk the surgery. There will be smart drugs to enhance learning and memory and a flourishing black market among ambitious students to obtain them.

Having lain to rest the nature-nurture dichotomy at that point, we will have a molecular understanding of the way in which cultural narratives work their way into brain tissue and of individual susceptibility to those stories.

Then there's the mystery of consciousness. Will we finally have a framework that allows us to translate the mechanical pieces and parts into private, subjective experience? As it stands now, we don't even know what such a framework could look like ("carry the two here and that equals the experience of tasting cinnamon").

That line of research will lead us to confront the question of whether we can reproduce consciousness by replicating the exact structure of the brain – say, with zeros and ones, or beer cans and tennis balls. If this theory of materialism turns out to be correct, then we will be well on our way to downloading our brains into computers, allowing us to live forever in The Matrix.

But if materialism is incorrect, that would be equally interesting: perhaps brains are more like radios that receive an as-yet-undiscovered force. The one thing we can be sure of is this: no matter how wacky the predictions we make today, they will look tame in the strange light of the future.

David Eagleman, neuroscientist and writer

7 Physics: 'Within a decade, we'll know what dark matter is'

The next 25 years will see fundamental advances in our understanding of the underlying structure of matter and of the universe. At the moment, we have successful descriptions of both, but we have open questions. For example, why do particles of matter have mass and what is the dark matter that provides most of the matter in the universe?

I am optimistic that the answer to the mass question will be found within a few years, whether or not it is the mythical Higgs boson, and believe that the answer to the dark matter question will be found within a decade.

Key roles in answering these questions will be made by experiments at Cern's Large Hadron Collider, which started operations in earnest last year and is expected to run for most of the next 20 years; others will be played by astrophysical searches for dark matter and cosmological observations such as those from the European Space Agency's Planck satellite.

Many theoretical proposals for answering these questions invoke new principles in physics, such as the existence of additional dimensions of space or a "supersymmetry" between the constituents of matter and the forces between them, and we will discover whether these ideas are useful for physics. Both these ideas play roles in string theory, the best guess we have for a complete theory of all the fundamental forces including gravity.

Will string theory be pinned down within 20 years? My crystal ball is cloudy on this point, but I am sure that we physicists will have an exciting time trying to find out.

John Ellis, theoretical physicist at Cern and King's College London

8 Food: 'Russia will become a global food superpower'

When experts talk about the coming food security crisis, the date they fixate upon is 2030. By then, our numbers will be nudging 9 billion and we will need to be producing 50% more food than we are now.

By the middle of that decade, therefore, we will either all be starving, and fighting wars over resources, or our global food supply will have changed radically. The bitter reality is that it will probably be a mixture of both.

Developed countries such as the UK are likely, for the most part, to have attempted to pull up the drawbridge, increasing national production and reducing our reliance on imports.

In response to increasing prices, some of us may well have reduced our consumption of meat, the raising of which is a notoriously inefficient use of grain. This will probably create a food underclass, surviving on a carb- and fat-heavy diet, while those with money scarf the protein.

The developing world, meanwhile, will work to bridge the food gap by embracing the promise of biotechnology which the middle classes in the developed world will have assumed that they had the luxury to reject.

In truth, any of the imported grain that we do consume will come from genetically modified crops. As climate change lays waste to the productive fields of southern Europe and north Africa, more water-efficient strains of corn, wheat and barley will be pressed into service; likewise, to the north, Russia will become a global food superpower as the same climate change opens up the once frozen and massive Siberian prairie to food production.

The consensus now is that the planet does have the wherewithal to feed that huge number of people. It's just that some people in the west may find the methods used to do so unappetising.

Jay Rayner, TV presenter and the Observer's food critic

9 Nanotechnology: 'Privacy will be a quaint obsession'

Twenty years ago, Don Eigler, a scientist working for IBM in California, wrote out the logo of his employer in letters made of individual atoms. This feat was a graphic symbol of the potential of the new field of nanotechnology, which promises to rebuild matter atom by atom, molecule by molecule, and to give us unprecedented power over the material world.

Some, like the futurist Ray Kurzweil, predict that nanotechnology will lead to a revolution, allowing us to make any kind of product for virtually nothing; to have computers so powerful that they will surpass human intelligence; and to lead to a new kind of medicine on a sub-cellular level that will allow us to abolish ageing and death.

I don't think that Kurzweil's "technological singularity" – a dream of scientific transcendence that echoes older visions of religious apocalypse – will happen. Some stubborn physics stands between us and "the rapture of the nerds". But nanotechnology will lead to some genuinely transformative applications.

New ways of making solar cells very cheaply on a very large scale offer us the best hope we have for providing low-carbon energy on a big enough scale to satisfy the needs of a growing world population aspiring to the prosperity we're used to in the developed world.

We'll learn more about intervening in our biology at the sub-cellular level and this nano-medicine will give us new hope of overcoming really difficult and intractable diseases, such as Alzheimer's, that will increasingly afflict our population as it ages.

The information technology that drives your mobile phone or laptop is already operating at the nanoscale. Another 25 years of development will lead us to a new world of cheap and ubiquitous computing, in which privacy will be a quaint obsession of our grandparents.

Nanotechnology is a different type of science, respecting none of the conventional boundaries between disciplines and unashamedly focused on applications rather than fundamental understanding.

Given the huge resources being directed towards nanotechnology in China and its neighbours, this may also be the first major technology of the modern era that is predominantly developed outside the US and Europe.

Richard Jones, pro-vice-chancellor for research and innovation at the University of Sheffield

10 Gaming: 'We'll play games to solve problems'

In the last decade, in the US and Europe but particularly in south-east Asia, we have witnessed a flight into virtual worlds, with people playing games such as Second Life. But over the course of the next 25 years, that flight will be successfully reversed, not because we're going to spend less time playing games, but because games and virtual worlds are going to become more closely connected to reality.

There will be games where the action is influenced by what happens in reality; and there will be games that use sensors so that we can play them out in the real world – a game in which your avatar is your dog, which wears a game collar that measures how fast it's running and whether or not it's wagging its tail, for example, where you play with your dog to advance the narrative, as opposed to playing with a virtual character. I can imagine more physical activity games, too, and these might be used to harness energy – peripherals like a dance pad that actually captures energy from your dancing on top of it.

Then there will be problem-solving games: there are already a lot of games in which scientists try to teach gamers real science – how to build proteins to cure cancer, for example. One surprising trend in gaming is that gamers today prefer, on average, three to one to play co-operative games rather than competitive games. Now, this is really interesting; if you think about the history of games, there really weren't co-operative games until this latest generation of video games. In every game you can think of – card games, chess, sport – everybody plays to win. But now we'll see increasing collaboration, people playing games together to solve problems while they're enjoying themselves.

There are also studies on how games work on our minds and our cognitive capabilities, and a lot of science suggests you can use games to treat depression, anxiety and attention-deficit disorder. Making games that are both fun and serve a social purpose isn't easy – a lot of innovation will be required – but gaming will become increasingly integrated into society.

Jane McGonigal, director of games research & development at the Institute for the Future in California and author of Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Happy and How They Can Help Us Change the World (Penguin)

11 Web/internet: 'Quantum computing is the future'

The open web created by idealist geeks, hippies and academics, who believed in the free and generative flow of knowledge, is being overrun by a web that is safer, more controlled and commercial, created by problem-solving pragmatists.

Henry Ford worked out how to make money by making products people wanted to own and buy for themselves. Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs are working out how to make money from allowing people to share, on their terms.

Facebook and Apple are spawning cloud capitalism, in which consumers allow companies to manage information, media, ideas, money, software, tools and preferences on their behalf, holding everything in vast, floating clouds of shared data. We will be invited to trade invasions into our privacy – companies knowing ever more about our lives – for a more personalised service. We will be able to share, but on their terms.

Julian Assange and the movement that has been ignited by WikiLeaks is the most radical version of the alternative: a free, egalitarian, open and public web. The fate of this movement will be a sign of things to come. If it can command broad support, then the open web has a chance to remain a mainstream force. If, however, it becomes little more than a guerrilla campaign, then the open web could be pushed to the margins, along with national public radio.

By 2035, the web, as a single space largely made up of webpages accessed on computers, will be long gone.

As the web goes mobile, those who pay more will get faster access. We will be sharing videos, simulations, experiences and environments, on a multiplicity of devices to which we'll pay as much attention as a light switch.

Yet, many of the big changes of the next 25 years will come from unknowns working in their bedrooms and garages. And by 2035 we will be talking about the coming of quantum computing, which will take us beyond the world of binary, digital computing, on and off, black and white, 0s and 1s.

The small town of Waterloo, Ontario, which is home to the Perimeter Institute, funded by the founder of BlackBerry, currently houses the largest collection of theoretical physicists in the world.

The bedrooms of Waterloo are where the next web may well be made.

Charles Leadbeater, author and social entrepreneur

12 Fashion: 'Technology creates smarter clothes'

Fashion is such an important part of the way in which we communicate our identity to others, and for a very long time it's meant dress: the textile garments on our body. But in the coming decades, I think there'll be much more emphasis on other manifestations of fashion and different ways of communicating with each other, different ways of creating a sense of belonging and of making us feel great about ourselves.

We're already designing our identities online – manipulating imagery to tell a story about ourselves. Instead of meeting in the street or in a bar and having a conversation and looking at what each other is wearing, we're communicating in some depth through these new channels. With clothing, I think it's possible that we'll see a polarisation between items that are very practical and those that are very much about display – and maybe these are not things that you own but that you borrow or share.

Technology is already being used to create clothing that fits better and is smarter; it is able to transmit a degree of information back to you. This is partly driven by customer demand and the desire to know where clothing comes from – so we'll see tags on garments that tell you where every part of it was made, and some of this, I suspect, will be legislation-driven, too, for similar reasons, particularly as resources become scarcer and it becomes increasingly important to recognise water and carbon footprints.

However, it's not simply an issue of functionality. Fashion's gone through a big cycle in the last 25 years – from being something that was treasured and cherished to being something that felt disposable, because of a drop in prices. In fact, we've completely changed our relationship towards clothes and there's a real feeling among designers who I work with that they're trying to work back into their designs an element of emotional content.

I think there's definitely a place for technology in creating a dialogue with you through your clothes.

Dilys Williams, designer and the director for sustainable fashion at the London College of Fashion

13 Nature: 'We'll redefine the wild'

We all want to live in a world where species such as tigers, the great whales, orchids and coral reefs can persist and thrive and I am sure that the commitment that people have to maintaining the spectacle and diversity of life will continue. Over the past 50 years or so, there has been growing support for nature conservation. When we understand the causes of species losses, good conservation actions can and do reverse the trends.

But it is going to become much harder. The human population has roughly doubled since the 1960s and will increase by another third by 2030. Demands for food, water and energy will increase, inevitably in competition with other species. People already use up to 40% of the world's primary production (energy) and this must increase, with important consequences for nature.

In the UK, some familiar species will become scarcer as our rare habitats (mires, bogs and moorlands) are lost. We will be seeing the effects from gradual warming that will allow more continental species to live here, and in our towns and cities we'll probably have more species that have become adapted to living alongside people.

We can conserve species when we really try, so I'm confident that the charismatic mega fauna and flora will mostly still persist in 2035, but they will be increasingly restricted to highly managed and protected areas. The survivors will be those that cope well with people and those we care about enough to save. Increasingly, we won't be living as a part of nature but alongside it, and we'll have redefined what we mean by the wild and wilderness.

Crucially, we are still rapidly losing overall biodiversity, including soil micro-organisms, plankton in the oceans, pollinators and the remaining tropical and temperate forests. These underpin productive soils, clean water, climate regulation and disease-resistance. We take these vital services from biodiversity and ecosystems for granted, treat them recklessly and don't include them in any kind of national accounting.

Georgina Mace, professor of conservation science and director of the Natural Environment Research Council's Centre for Population Biology, Imperial College London

14 Architecture: What constitutes a 'city' will change

In 2035, most of humanity will live in favelas. This will not be entirely wonderful, as many people will live in very poor housing, but it will have its good side. It will mean that cities will consist of series of small units organised, at best, by the people who know what is best for themselves and, at worst, by local crime bosses.

Cities will be too big and complex for any single power to understand and manage them. They already are, in fact. The word "city" will lose some of its meaning: it will make less and less sense to describe agglomerations of tens of millions of people as if they were one place, with one identity. If current dreams of urban agriculture come true, the distinction between town and country will blur. Attempts at control won't be abandoned, however, meaning that strange bubbles of luxury will appear, like shopping malls and office parks. To be optimistic, the human genius for inventing social structures will mean that new forms of settlement we can't quite imagine will begin to emerge.

All this assumes that environmental catastrophe doesn't drive us into caves. Nor does it describe what will happen in Britain, with a roughly stable population and a planning policy dedicated to preserving the status quo as much as possible. Britain in 25 years' time may look much as it does now, which is not hugely different from 25 years ago. Rowan Moore, Observer architecture correspondent

15 Sport: 'Broadcasts will use holograms'

Globalisation in sport will continue: it's a trend we've seen by the choice of Rio for the 2016 Olympics and Qatar for the 2022 World Cup. This will mean changes to traditional sporting calendars in recognition of the demands of climate and time zones across the planet.

Sport will have to respond to new technologies, the speed at which we process information and apparent reductions in attention span. Shorter formats, such as Twenty20 cricket and rugby sevens, could aid the development of traditional sports in new territories.

The demands of TV will grow, as will technology's role in umpiring and consuming sport. Electronics companies are already planning broadcasts using live holograms. I don't think we'll see an acceptance of performance-enhancing drugs: the trend has been towards zero tolerance and long may it remain so.

Mike Lee, chairman of Vero Communications and ex-director of communications for London's 2012 Olympic bid

16 Transport: 'There will be more automated cars'

It's not difficult to predict how our transport infrastructure will look in 25 years' time – it can take decades to construct a high-speed rail line or a motorway, so we know now what's in store. But there will be radical changes in how we think about transport. The technology of information and communication networks is changing rapidly and internet and mobile developments are helping make our journeys more seamless. Queues at St Pancras station or Heathrow airport when the infrastructure can't cope for whatever reason should become a thing of the past, but these challenges, while they might appear trivial, are significant because it's not easy to organise large-scale information systems.

The instinct to travel is innate within us, but we will have to do it in a more carbon-efficient way. It's hard to be precise, but I think we'll be cycling and walking more; in crowded urban areas we may see travelators – which we see in airports already – and more scooters. There will be more automated cars, like the ones Google has recently been testing. These driverless cars will be safer, but when accidents do happen, they may be on the scale of airline disasters. Personal jetpacks will, I think, remain a niche choice.

Frank Kelly, professor of the mathematics of systems at Cambridge University, and former chief scientific adviser to the DfT

17 Health: 'We'll feel less healthy'

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