Britain on Wednesday launched a campaign to sweep away its old image as a theme park of castles and pretty villages and present itself to the world as a hotbed of design and creativity.

It set up a 33-member panel of designers, business leaders and athletes and told them to come up with ways of projecting a modern identity for the new millennium."Britain is now a dynamic, self-confident, outward-looking society, proud of its place as a leading partner in Europe and a pivotal nation in the world," said Foreign Secretary Robin Cook.

The task of Panel 2000, Cook said, amounted to a full frontal attack on the myth of a tired Britain stuck in decline.

"Some see us as no more than the sum of our past - a heritage theme park of castles and villages. All too often our innovativeness and creativity in information technology, design business and a range of other areas is insufficiently recognized," Cook told a news conference.

Members of the panel include fashion designer Stella McCartney - daughter of former Beatles Sir Paul McCartney - British Airways chairman Sir Colin Marshall, opera singer Ruth Mackenzie and athlete Judy Simpson.

Embassies abroad will be used to showcase modern design and a short video promoting Britain as a multiethnic, vibrant society which gave birth to pop stars like The Spice Girls and Oasis is being sent to diplomatic missions around the world.

Cook brushed aside suggestions that the Labor government, elected almost a year ago, was hijacking the "Cool Britannia" bandwagon that started rolling 18 months ago when London was dubbed the most fun city of the moment.