This week's main picture has nothing to do with any news item - I just happened to be in that area during the sunny weather the week before last, and decided to capture a typical view of a road which will be familiar to many.
EWM UPDATE TUESDAY 11 MAY 1999 2100 BST (see also the EXHIBITION GUEST BOOK)
PLANS FOR THE REDEVELOPMENT OF PICCADILLY were unveiled
today. Piccadilly Gardens will be transformed into a 24 hour park
with illuminated fountains, a new building will appear at the Portland
St end, and the Piccadilly Plaza will be refurbished and renamed.
The part of the plan which gives cause for concern is the decision to build on the Portland St end of Piccadilly Gardens. In 1940, the Blitz destroyed warehouses on the Plaza site, as well as a wedge shaped block of buildings on George St, which then extended up to the top of Market St. After demolition of these buildings, Piccadilly was much increased in size, though the new proposals may spoil Piccadilly's sense of space. However, the developers say the new building will enhance the area, and the overall green space will be increased.
See more pictures of Piccadilly on my Piccadilly Picture Selection Page
I'm always sceptical when I look at architects' drawings,
which nearly always idealise the proposed development - you never
see bird droppings or rubbish in artists' impresssions of future developments.
I also wonder where they get some of the buzz-words used in the publicity
materials: The developers say this will mark: "The rebirth of
Piccadilly as an area of civic pride". I'm sure I've heard those
words before - used, I think, by the Civic Society. Another buzz-word
is "24 hour" . We've had the 24 hour city, now Piccadilly
Gardens will become a "24 hour park". What exactly does
this mean? Will I be able to admire the lighted fountains and sit
on the park bench at 5 am in the morning? I intend to put this to
the test once the project is complete, some time in 2002.
And the development team say the Gardens are "a dislocated island marooned in a sea of traffic". But traffic only goes around the south and south east corner of the gardens. The other sides are bounded by buses and Metrolink (above left). "Links" they say will connect the Gardens to the Gay Village and the Northern Quarter, but again, what does this mean? I intend to find out tomorrow when I look at the plans, on display for the next couple of weeks in the Sculpture Hall at Manchester Town Hall.
The eastern Esplanade of Piccadilly was once a clay pit, which then became a lake when the Royal Infirmary was built in the late 18th century. The lake was filled in in 1855, and the hospital was demolished in 1909. There were plans for a library or gallery, but these came to nothing, and the site became the Gardens we see today. In the thirties, huts served as a temporary library until the Central Library was opened in 1933, and during the war, there were air raid shelters here. During the sixties and seventies there was a steady decline in the area, though it has to be said, on sunny days plenty of people still enjoy coming here.
Redevelopment of Piccadilly Gardens is long overdue,
and let's hope it all turns out to be as good as the developers and
the City Council promise it will be.
NIGHTTIME PICCADILLY of yesteryear features in the opening
and closing sequences of my recommended film "Hell is a City",
made in 1959, also in the film version of "The Lovers" of1973.
And it's 20 years since the devastating fire at the Woolworth's store
on the corner of Rochdale Rd and Piccadilly on 8 May 1979.
THE CROWN SQUARE DISTRICT is also to be redeveloped, it was announced officially on Friday. There will be a new 5 star hotel, new homes, a new magistrates court and the area, bounded by Deansgate, Quay Street, Bridge Street and the River Irwell, will be renamed "Spinningfields" (see what I mean?). At the southern end of the district is St John's College, now City College (!), where I once did an evening class. See the view in my gloomy picture looking towards Salford. The MEN and Manchester Online offices, as well as the Manchester Education Committee, are also located in this area.
NEW CINEMAS ARE SET TO OPEN in Manchester city centre, but in Didsbury, the destruction of a 1930's cinema continues. This is how the former Capitol Theatre looked last week (right), compared with last October (left).
THE FIRST KOSOVAN REFUGEES arrived at Manchester Airport
tonight. They'll be going to Oldham and Trafford. Both local councils
have gone to great lengths to provide for the refugees, who will be
given accommodation, phone cards, food, toiletries, as well as the
support of social workers, interpreters and the police. Stockport
is also expecting refugees. Some will be housed in St Thomas's Hospital
AFTER NATO'S DISASTROUS but accidental strike on the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, there have been demonstrations of solidarity with China here in Manchester. This evening I saw a group of about 20 protesters standing outside the Chinese Consulate on Denison Road, Victoria Park. Only one Chinese-looking person was there, many looked to be members of CND and the traditional left, including some students. Which reminds me, this year is the tenth anniversary of the Tian An Men Square massacre. But it appears that after Nato's recent performance in the PR war, local opinion may be turning in the direction of the fly-posters on Oxford Rd saying: "STOP THIS WAR". A huge majority of repondents to an MEN poll thought the Nato Bombing campaign was now a shambles.
PROTESTERS CAUSED TRAFFIC DISRUPTION in and around Manchester University when they blocked roads in order to publicise environmental issues. There were clashes with the police, with minor injuries on both sides. Now the protesters have filed a complaint against the police who they accuse of "heavy-handed" tactics. Unfortunately I wasn't there, so I can't give an eyewitness account. But today I noticed this piece of colourful piece of art on an overhead sign which protesters scaled when they invaded the Mancunian Way last Friday week. I wonder how many motorists will be won over to the Green cause when see this painted masterpiece. And I wonder how much it'll cost Manchester City Council to replace the sign?
CAMPAIGNERS IN ROCHDALE have managed to block plans
for a 420 acre business park near the M62. They objected because the
planning application didn't contain enough detail of the scale of
the development and its effect ont he environment. They said they
didn't think it was needed and said there was plenty of capacity in
other industrial estates. They also objected to the noise and pollution
it would cause. In Stockport a new IKEA store is to be built on the
Portwood industrial estate, described as "Gateway" location.
"STOP BEING SO ENGLISH" says a controversial
advertising campaign by the Swedish furniture store Ikea. It's another
example of advertising copywriters flaunting the double standards
inherent in Political Correctness - it's not OK to satirise favoured
minority groups, but fine to ridicule the dominant culture. The question
of PC daftness has been much debated recently - the dumping of Florence
Nightingale as the figurehead for nurses by the Unison trades union,
and criticism of "Just William", written by Bury's Richmal
Crompton, are just two issues. The description of the St George's
Day Parade as "racist" provoked a flood of letters to the
MEN Postbag. With 96% of respondents thought that Britain was losing
A related issue is the question of Oliver Cromwell, whose statue used to stand outside the Cathedral, and is now in Wythenshawe Park. Opinions are divided on the merits of Oliver Cromwell - I can't give an opinion as I haven't checked out the history in enough detail. After British Airways dropped the Union Flag from their livery, I decided to feature it more prominently on the EWM masthead. When I lived in certain countries abroad, I often used to go to the airport and watch the planes, wishing I was flying out on one of them. The sight of the British flag was a reassuring symbol of home.
THE LOCAL ELECTIONS took place on Thursday, and turnout
was low, as expected. Despite voter apathy, excitement and disappointement
was felt by candidates and party activists. The LibDems scored a big
victory by winning control of Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council.
They also seized Sheffield and tightened their hold on Liverpool.
The Conservatives, once powerful in Manchester, are extremely thin
on the ground nowadays, and failed to regain Trafford. Macclesfield
is the only council near Manchester they're in control of. Otherwise,
Labour rule the roost in most parts of the north west. See my Local
Election Results summary.
RESIDENTS OF THE VILLAGE OF BUXWORTH voted on Thursday not to rename their village. Buxworth is located in the High Peak, south east of Manchester, and was known as Bugsworth until 1935 when the name was changed, as some residents regarded it as "indelicate". 139 voted Yes and 233 voted "No" to Bugsworth. I'm not aware of any proposals to rename Broadbottom or Ramsbottom, though arguably, these names are far more indelicate than Bugsworth! A place with a far more melodious name is the quintessentially English village of Astbury on the A34 just south of Congleton. This was another type of scene I used to long for, along with the half-timbered Little Moreton Hall, about two miles further south.
PLANNING AND DEVELOPMENT BUZZWORDS like "gateway"
and "core" are a common feature of modern-day publicity
materials. And renaming is a technique used to give a new identity
to an old building (or to use the buzz-word, "rebranding").
Piccadilly Plaza will become the Piccadilly Exchange - ironic that
the Corn Exchange has been renamed "The Triangle". Other
examples of renaming: South Manchester Community College became South
Manchester College, then City College. Scottish Widows Fund building
became Portland Tower, Rodwell Tower was transformed into 111 Piccadilly,
the Midland Hotel was lengthened to the Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza Midland.
And 40 years ago, London Rd Station became Piccadilly - originally
there were plans to move the station up to Piccadilly proper - this
never happened but they adopted the name anyway. Knott Mill Station
became Deansgate, Forge Lane became Alan Turing Way, Manchester Docks
became Salford Quays. The Nynex became the MEN Arena, the Poly became
MMU... Can you think of any more?
CRIME HAS KEPT A SLIGHTLY lower profile than usual this
week. However, one story I have to report is a shooting at the Aldi
store in Shaw. A 62 year old woman was hit during the raid, but luckily,
she suffered only slight injurie, and was treated at north Mancherster
General Hospital. An attack on a shopkeeper in Collyhurst was caught
on security camera too. Pictures were shown in yesterdays' MEN. Postmaster
John Bassett was stabbed, and needed emergency treatment to save his
life. The police ask all members of the public with any infomration
n any crime to call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
DETECTIVES INVESTIGATING THE DEATH OF ROBERT GLAZZARD, the Rochdale diver who lost his life in mysterious circumstances off the coast of the United Arab Emirates, have returned from a visit there. They say they are confident the investigation will be re-opened.
THE SIKH COMMUNITY celebrated the 300th anniversary of the founding of their religion last Sunday week. This is the Sikh Temple float I mentioned in last week's Eyewitness in Manchester. But the Sikh community was saddened by the death of one of their leading members Mr Jagjit Singh Bhaker who died of a heart attack two days after the ceremonial walk through the city. A large number of people attended his funeral.
YOU CAN TRAVEL FROM MANCHESTER TO LONDON by train for only £19 - that's the theory. But when phone Virgin Trains, like I did, you'll find that reality isn't so simple. The £19 tickets have to be booked three days before hand and are subject to availability. With the many restrictions the end result is that unless you book a long time in advance and are very flexible about your departure time, you'll end up paying a lot more than £19. The most expensive train ticket is £170. The cheapest return from here to London is on the bus, at £12 for a day return. A service to London has also been operating from Victoria Station.
MENTION THE WORD INTERNET and strange things spring
into some peoples' minds. Despite a high profile campaign by the BBC
to promote use of the internet among the wider population, the Net
has again been getting bad press this week. After the Internet was
blamed for teenage terrorists in America finding out how to make bombs,
it was revealed that a local paedophile used the Internet to collect
obscene pictures of children. And in Thursday's MEN the Internet was
blamed for the ripping up of Stamford Park in Hale. Treasure hunters
had read on the Internet that there were valuable Victorian artefacts
in the park, which was built on an old rubblsh tip. It's yet another
case of punish the messenger rather than the actual culprit.
PERFORMANCES THIS WEEK The Electric Light Orchestra
- or should that be ELO, plus the Halle Orchestra at the Bridgewater
Hall, the MEN Arena, Vadim Repin at the Bridgewater Hall, Meat Loaf,
The Beastie Boys and The Beautiful South at at the MEN Arena, "The
Rough Guide To Keeping Your Head" at the Bolton Octagon Studio,
and Alaska's musical export Jewel at the Academy. There'll be a night
of 80's nostalgia, with Culture Club, Banararama, Heaven 17 and Belinda
Carlisle performing at the MEN Arena on the 19th of December of this
year. The British Rock Symphony, a symphonic Rock ensemble will be
performing at the Brigewater Hall on the 17th of July.
SUPPORTERS OF THE MANCHESTER GIANTS have brought a splash of colour with their huge poster draped on the side of a disused block of flats on Oldham Raod, about one mile up from the city centre. Looks great! I've also included a detail from Jai Moodie's mural of the same scene, located just behind the viewpoint of the photo.
THE STREETS AHEAD FESTIVAL has been providing amusement,
entertainment and some puzzlement in the city centre. As part of a
project called Ay 2 Zed, artists were scattered throughout the city
centre carrying out various works of art, each denoted by the letter
of the alphabet. For R, there was "repetitive strain injury"
enacted by an artist who tranferred grains of sand with a tweezers
(I think I know that one from typing the Newsletter!). Danish artist
Karl Geleff was knitting from a giant ball of wool at Manchester Cathedral.-
I'm not sure which letter of the alphabet this was. Part of the idea
of Streets Ahead is to take art out of the museums and onto the streets,
where more people will see it. Sounds like a good idea. I hope to
take photos of more Streets Ahead events next week. The festival has
been attracting big crowds across Greater Manchester, including Bury,
Denton, Rochdale, Stockport and Stalybridge.
THERE'S BEEN HEAVY RAIN over the past few days. The Streets Ahead "X.TRAX" weekend of entertainment was washed out by the wet weather. A Britannia Airways Boeing 767 was hit by lightning after take off from Ringway. It landed at Luton for a check and completed its journey later. There have been speed restrictions on motorways and blocked drains have also been causing flooding. Yesterday the sky went a dull grey over city centre Manchester, followed by a torrential downpour. Soon, the sun was out again, followed by more rain. Today was very changeable, with billowing clouds, patches of blue sky, and heavy grey coluds bearing rain. It's a case of four seasons in one day!
For this week's closing picture, I've decided to turn the clock back to the sunny bank holiday weekend. This is Heaton Park, and where the flowers are now, the Victoria Fountain stood for 70 years, until it was restored to its original site in Albert Square.