Notebook - Rosie Millard

Would we have the Baltic, the Frieze Art Fair or the Wapping Project without the Beast of Bankside?

And so Tate Modern, the embodiment of the democratisation of high-end art, a building with the alchemy to create international tourism out of international modernism, celebrates its fifth birthday with awed recognition across the media. Quite right, too. The Beast of Bankside, which

has welcomed 22 million visitors since it opened in May 2000, has made such an impact that it is almost impossible to envisage the country's cultural life without it, or remember what it was like before it arrived. It is probably not an overstatement to suggest that Tate Modern has profoundly altered how we engage with art, enabling us to take

in our stride things that might previously have seemed outlandish: from looking at a giant artificial sun while lying on the floor, to a serious critique of photography or video as fine art. The notion of putting a national collection into a power station has reverberated across the country. Would we have the Baltic (a former flour mill) without Tate Modern - or, for that matter, the Frieze Art Fair (offshoots of which took place at London Zoo last October)?

Downriver at the Wapping Hydraulic Pumping Station, Jules Wright - director of the Wapping Project, also five this year - acknowledges the legacy of Big Brother Bankside. "People relate to us because of Tate Modern," says the husky-voiced former theatre director. "We are like a smaller version."

Perhaps. The Wapping Project has no public service ethos because it uses no dosh from the taxpayer. Without public funding, Wright still manages to stage an impressive programme of contemporary art, sculpture, dance and film. That is largely thanks to an in-house restaurant that pumps out five-star fashionable food to the financial bosses who come down from Canary Wharf and the Murdoch employees who flock up from News International. "I'm as ambitious for the restaurant as I am for the art," says Wright. "I want our dance to be on a par with the Place; our art to be on a par with the Serpentine; and our restaurant to remain in London's top 20. It's an idiosyncratic vision. People want to replicate it, but they don't understand or want the risk involved."

Currently exhibiting an intriguing display of photography by father and son Stan and Stephen Morgan, Wright is hatching a fashion show of 70 emerging designers ("I will let people borrow the gowns and wear them to dinner if they want") and a film festival showcasing 16 three-minute thrillers from new directors. She will screen these films alongside classics of the genre outside the Pumping Station, drive-in style. Will the restaurant be providing alfresco food to go with the flicks? Naturally. Wright, an Australian, has no problem with mingling art and aioli on fat chips. Indeed, her holistic vision insists they go together.

Despite grumbling about scouring for money, and enlisting an official fundraiser, Wright is one of those artistic spirits who would probably suffocate, or explode, in the rigorous arena of subsidy, where programmes have to be envisaged two years in advance and there is a never-ending array of boxes to be ticked. "To be answerable to a board, a local authority, ultimately the state?" she snorts.

So happy birthday, Tate Modern. But amid the hoopla, don't forget to salute the Wapping Project, which may be smaller in stature, but is no less heroic.

Rosie Millard was previously Arts Editor for the NS and a Theatre Critic. She was the Arts Correspondent for BBC News for 10 years and is now a broadsheet columnist. She lives in London with heaps of small children, which may partially explain her love of going to the theatre.