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Issue number 37Monday the 29th of September 1997

And all is revealed... The renovated Corn Exchange appears from under the covers

Shoppers in the city centre will have noticed the gradual unveiling of the Corn Exchange during the past few days. As restoration work nears completion, the scaffolding and protective covering is slowly being removed. Judging from what's visible of the façade, they appear to have done a superb job on the building, which is to become a hotel. It won't be long before work starts on dismantling the Shambles (in the picture, right, located behind the corrugated screen centre left), to be re-erected just to the left of the Corn Exchange.

And on the other side of town, work is progressing on the restoration and conversion into a hotel of another of Manchester's 19th century buildings, situated just across the road from the bottom of Piccadilly Station approach. A glamorous 50 foot high female model adorns the exterior protective sheeting, with words approximating to: "The Malmaison hotel - the one that dares to be different". Looking up London Road towards the building which will soon become the Malmaison Hotel.

And as construction proceeds at the Trafford Centre shopping complex at Dumplington, news came on Friday that the development will create 7000 jobs. Employers are reported to be targeting the long-term unemployed, and will provide training where necessary.

At their party conference in Brighton today, the New Labour government have set full employment as one of their chief goals, but many people still complain that the new jobs in the service industries are less well-paid and secure than those in the old industries. Figures indicate that UK unemployment is falling steadily, but certain districts of Manchester appear to have been passed by. And there are still people on the streets of the city centre begging, or attempting to earn money in other ways...

One of the seedier aspects of Manchester's night time streets is the presence of prostitutes, especially noticeable in the area off Portland Street, on Cheetham Hill Road and in parts of Whalley Range. Following nationwide exposure on the BBC tv programme "Here and Now, which goes out live from Manchester, the problem of child prostitution is being tackled in a new way in Manchester.

Police have decided no longer to treat underage girls as offenders and instead to take them off the streets and place them in the care of the social services. The question of legalising brothels has been raised from time to time, but opinion here seems weighted against it. In the meantime, male strollers and car drivers in parts of downtown Manchester, will continue to be solicited with the words: "D'you want business, love?". And for the curious, I'm told that "business" costs around 40.

Whatever about continuing pockets of deprivation, the steady building and renovation work that's going on all over Manchester definitely sends a message that this is a city on the up and up. That's the conclusion that visitors from Japan will hopefully have come to this week. They are part of a trade delegation from Japan, who are here to forge partnerships between the North West region of England and the Kansai region of Japan.

Links between the two areas go back to the nineteenth century when the Japanese bought machinery from firms in this area. Lancashire engineers went out to Japan to provide training and backup, and the city of Osaka became known as the "Manchester of Japan". Attracting Japanese investment to Britain is regarded by many as one of the achievements of the Conservative government in the 1980's, but Manchester has lost out to regions such as Scotland, the North East and south Wales. Perhaps this delegation will help to redress the balance.

Conservative leader William Hague was in Manchester on Tuesday. After spending some time meeting the people in Castlefield, he had a pint of Boddingtons at Dukes 92. He also appeared on the front of the Manchester Evening News reading... you guessed it, the Manchester Evening News!

Speaking of Boddingtons, British TV viewers have been treated to the latest tv advert for the "cream of Manchester", featuring a tall, black athlete legging it at a speed approaching Thrust II across what looks like the Arizona desert. After leaping across a couple of rock formations and bounding down a dry river bed, a genuine Mancunian ice cream van playing a tinkly tune appears out of nowhere, and our Mancunian athlete stops for refreshment. Serving him is none other than the famous Boddington's babe herself, who leans out, showing a lot of cleavage, offers him a creamy pint of Boddingtons and asks him: "Flake in yer ice cream, love?".

Would you like to see this advert?

There was a crash today involving a bus and a Metrolink tram, which your Eyewitness in Manchester only missed witnessing by a few minutes! The accident happened on Corporation Street at about 11am, where the tram lines cross the street and enter the side of Victoria Station. When a tram is approaching, a set of traffic lights changes to red and stops the traffic, or at least, that's the theory. The bus, a number 59, crashed into a lamppost, tearing off the radiator and smashing the windscreen. The left hand window of the tram was also shattered. The bus driver was taken to hospital with minor injuries. The other person hurt was an elderly man, said to be suffering from deep shock.

This is the second accident at this spot. Not long ago, a Dutch lorry collided with a Metrolink tram, causing, like today, temporary disruption of services.

Eyewitness in Manchester was featured in the Evening News this week, but not on the front page! A short piece appeared on the "Diary" page, edited by Carl Palmer, but there was one small problem...

The weather was pleasant and sunny at the beginning of last week, but then on Wednesday, overcast weather arrived, and has continued more or less continuously since, with temperatures on the cool side. Saturday brought brighter weather, with hazy sunshine, but on Sunday it was overcast again. This morning was dull, misty and drizzly in central Manchester (left) but by midday, the drizzle had cleared again, and there was a hint of brighter weather to come.

Text and photos by Aidan O'Rourke

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