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NEWSLETTER UPDATE SUNDAY 4 JULY 1999 10pm BST

GREETINGS FROM OLDHAM STREET - the first of my new-style picture series spotlighting streets and other important routes in and around Manchester. I redesigned the presentation on 13 July - the walk was first uploaded on the 5 of July 1999.

Walk from Piccadilly to Great Ancoats St or Great Ancoats St to Piccadilly.

By day, Oldham St displays the faded glory of past years, when it was Manchester's foremost shopping street. Crumbling classical and art deco facades are evidence of the grandiose aspirations of traders during the 1920's and 30's. The appearance in the mid-70's of the gargantuan Arndale Centre just a few blocks away, caused Oldham St to go into decline. Affleck & Browns, once one of Manchester's top department stores, closed down. C&A moved to the Arndale Centre. Nowadays, Oldham St is set for regeneration. Its run-down chic makes it fashionable among the bohemian inhabitants of the Northern Quarter. The Smithfield Buildings have been converted by Urban Splash into luxury apartments.

After dark, Oldham Street is a magnet for nighttime revellers, and generally speaking, is considerably more downmarket than other parts of the city centre. Converging on Oldham St you'll see groups of girls in extremely short skirts, with gangs of loud mouthed lads in cropped haircuts and shirttails. The bottom of the street is loud and wonderfully tacky, further up, fashionable music cafe bars Dry 201 and Night & Day provide a dash of urban chic, while up at the top end, Gullivers and The City are everything you'd expect of a traditional Manchester pub, with a homely atmosphere and cabaret entertainment. On the Gt Ancoats St corner, you'll find the Frog and Bucket comedy venue, and not far from here along Swan St is the famous Band on the Wall.

I'll continue with some recent news items...

AFTER LAST WEEK'S rail collision south of Winsford, Cheshire, there's concern for the safety of railcars like the one which the express train crashed into. Basically they are a bus body bolted onto a train chassis. I've ridden a few times on these awful things - they're symbolic of the cost-cutting and of the low priority given to railways in past years. The railcar was smashed to pieces in the crash, while the express locomotive was hardly damaged. Transport watchdogs reckon the railcars may not be safe sharing lines with express trains. I think they should be scrapped completely, as they're cheap, nasty and uncomfortable, and are a good reason for people not to use the railway. Here's a picture of a train - not an example of the railcar in question - at Victoria Station.


On a more positive note, Piccadilly Station train shed is nearing completion of its refurbishment, and it's looking very impressive - much brighter than before, though personally, I think a station isn't a station unless it's smoke-blackened with the "chuff chuff chuff" of steam engines echoing all around. And a brand new station opened this week just south of Horwich.

MANCHESTER CITY COUNCIL has been criticised by Sir Jocelyn Stevens, chairman of English Heritage, the state-supported body set up to take care of ancient monuments and buildings of historical importance. He criticised the council for last year's proposal for a hotel tower block on top of the 150 year old Free Trade Hall, and for a new transport interchange and multi-storey car park on Shude Hill. The Free Trade Hall tower block proposal was rejected but as yet, no decision has been made on the transport interchange. Its design has been widely criticised, particularly by the Civic Society, and a number of historic buildings on the site would have to be pulled down.


The space underneath Piccadilly Station, next to the Metrolink Station, would in my opinion make an ideal bus terminal, replacing the seedy and depressing Chorlton St coach station.

A MAN HAS DIED after a gas explosion in a flat on Palatine Road, Didsbury. He was taken to Withington Hospital with serious burns and passed away this morning. Since the early 19th century, piped gas has been widely used in homes for cooking and heating. The first municipal gas works opened in Manchester in the 1820's. I remember the switch 30 years ago from coal gas to natural gas, which comes from under the North Sea. Natural gas is cleaner than gas made from coal, and is odourless - A "warning smell" is added so that people can detect a gas leak. Unfortunately, gas explosions continue to happen: When I lived on Derby Road, Fallowfield 12 years ago, a gas explosion demolished a house on Wilmslow Rd. And more recently, a pub in Bury was reduced a pile of rubble by a gas explosion. Take care!

TODAY'S THE DAY that Manchester United star David Beckham and pop singer Victoria Adams, alias "Posh Spice" tied the knot at Luttrellstown Castle, County Dublin, Ireland. ITV Teletext reports that only 29 close family members were to attend the ceremony, with 500 at the reception. Men were asked to dress in black, and women to wear all white. OK! Magazine has bought the photography rights to the wedding, and guests were asked to leave their cameras at home. There's intense media interest in the event - Channel 5 news reported that there are concerns that Irish taxpayers will foot the bill for policing. Eyewitness says: Underneath all the hype, they're just an ordinary couple, so let them celebrate their wedding in peace.

AL GREEN appeared at the Manchester Apollo, the Halle Proms were on a the Bridgewater Hall, and at the MEN Arena on Tuesday and Wednesday, there's a performance of Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake by English National Ballet. A picture of their leading ballerinas dressed in sexy black lycra appeared in Friday's MEN. That picture was enough to make me think seriously about buying a ticket, though it's stressed that on the night, the girls will be wearing ballerina outfits.

MANCHESTER continues to feature on national TV, though not always in the most positive of circumstances. Thursday's BBC1 programme "All The Right Moves" investigated the housing market here. In the Langworthy area of Salford, you can buy a whole street for the same price as one refurbished apartment in Castlefield. And in nearby Hulme, Manchester City Council is renting out comfortable and spacious high-rise apartmets for less than £200 a month.

LONGSIGHT aficionados, please go to David Boardman's ever-expanding website, featuring his inner-city childhood home as it was during the 50's and 60's. Canada resident David has added lots of new sections with both old and new photos.

AND FOR A TASTE OF THE FUTURE, visit the Manchester Health Authority website, which I've been helping to develop. The Monday 5 July update of the What's New section will feature a computer visualisation of the new Wythenshawe Hospital building, currently under construction. You'll need the excellent Real Video to view it.

IT'S CURRENTLY WARM AND MUGGY in Manchester. Skies were grey over the last few days, though today there were sunny spells. The forecast is good for later in the week. To finish, here's a picture of a golf course with a great view over the east of Greater Manchester.

Oh, and to all readers in and from the United States - Happy Independence Day!

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