EYEWITNESS IN MANCHESTER UPDATE TUESDAY 6 APRIL1999 2300 BST WEEK 14
IF I SAID TEMPERATURES in Manchester on Thursday the 1st of April were higher than in Ibiza and Greece, you might think this was an April Fool's Day joke, but they were. It was a superb day, sunny, but not too warm, at just under 20 degrees/ 70 fahrenheit. There were plenty of things going on in and around Manchester - including funfairs at Daisy Nook and on fields behind McVities, on the Stockport/Manchester border. I fancied sitting outside a pub and enjoying a few long, cool pints of beer in the sunshine but I was driving all Thursday and Friday so I decided to leave this pleasure till the next day. Unfortunately, the weather turned cloudy, leaving beer gardens empty, and putting a bit of a downer on the rest of the bank holiday weekend. Currently it's about 10 degrees celsius, in the 50's fahrenheit, and the forecast is for showers and sunny spells. Anyway, next time I go to Castlefield on a sunny day, I'll leave the car at home. Anyhow, here's the rest of the news, much of it marred I'm afraid, by crime...
THREE ATTACKS on Security staff delivering cash have taken place over the past week or so. First, armed raiders struck at the Tesco supermarket in Didsbury last Thursday, and escaped with a large amount of cash. The next day a similar raid took place at the Tesco supermarket at Handforth Dean - in excess of £20,000 was taken. And at 11.15am this morning, there was yet another, this time at the Moorside Hotel near Disley, where two Securicor men were attacked. Two men escaped with cash, and were chased by police. The pursuit ended in Sundial Road, Offerton, where two police officers attempted to apprehend them. They resisted and the police officers sustained minor injuries. The men escaped and are still at large. They're described as armed and extremely dangerous. The three raids sound similar, but as far as I'm aware, the police haven't said they're linked. The BBC GMR reporter described a bizarre scene in which the whole area was full of police officers, yet a couple of hours later, it was as if nothing had happened. I was at both Didsbury and Handforth Dean supermarkets today - needless to say I would never have known those raids had taken place if I hadn't heard about them in the media. Last year an armed robbery took place at the Baguley Tesco supermarket - it was featured on BBC1's Crimewatch. Here's the petrol station display at Tesco Baguley, and please note those fuel prices - a gallon of Unleaded is now more than £3.
AN INCIDENT TYPICAL of the real life police pursuit programme "X Cars" took place in Bury last week. A driver rammed two police vehicles, then reversed into three policemen, injuring them. The police helicopter was called in and, luckily, the driver was arrested in Salford. And for the first time since returning to Manchester, I was pulled over by the police in Hulme. Cause: an inoperative nearside brake light - I always have a spare on board and replaced it immediately. The officer was good humoured and didn't give me a ticket. Handling traffic cops in different countries is an expat art form: In the Middle East, flashing an ID card or asking them about their family good policy, but the toughest ones to crack are American traffic cops. Anyhow, back to the news...
THE M.E.N. LAUNCHED A CAMPAIGN on Wednesday to catch conmen who trick their way into the homes of elderly people. Thousands of "check cards" are being distributed, with a warning list for senior citizens. Number One on the list is to verify the identity of callers before opening your door. But it's too late for many victims: 83 year old great grandmother Annie Barnes was robbed of her bingo winnings at her home in Seedley Salford. A conman in Trafford posed as a fireman and stole an £800 ring and £200 in cash from a woman in Sale. There are also cases of people posing as police officers in order to gain entry to peoples homes. The latest is a report on ITV teletext today of someone who called at the home of a couple in Bolton to look at a computer they had for sale. After they demonstrated it to him, the man, said to be six feet two inches tall, tied them up and made off with the computer and a purse. We've also noted an increase in burglaries locally. However, the fightback has already started...
ONE OF MANY NEW INITIATIVES to beat crime is the Crime and Disorder Partnership, which was unveiled last Wednesday. The Partnership has fixed targets for the reduction of various types of crime: Street crime they hope to reduce by 6 per cent and car crime by up to 15 per cent. Members of the public are being asked to come forward with ideas. Yes, "partnership" is the buzz word nowadays, the aim being to achieve goals more effectively by getting official bodies, community groups and all others involved to work together more closely. Let's hope as many criminals as possible end up here, at Manchester Crown Court.
ON THE 16TH OF APRIL Tameside will introduce a by-law which bans drinking in public places all over the borough. Only Audenshaw reservoir and Werneth Low are exempted from the ban - this is because Home Office policy is not to have borough-wide by-laws. Does this mean we'll see people in Ashton and Dukinfield swigging beer from cans wrapped in brown paper bags, like I used see on the streets of New York?
OK, THAT'S ENOUGH CRIME, let's change the subject...
AFTER A SUCCESSFUL St Patrick's Day festival, Manchester's most high-profile councillor, Dublin-born Pat Karney now wants to organise a St George's Day festival on April 23rd to celebrate England's national day. Send your suggestions to Cllr Pat Karney or Fred Fielder at BBC GMR. How about morris dancers, warm ale and Yorkshire pud? Hmmm, doesn't have quite the buzz of their Irish equivalents.
YES, ENGLAND HAS A BIT OF AN IDENTITY PROBLEM nowadays, particularly in view of the decision by policy-makers at the BBC that the word "British" may be offensive to Scots and Welsh, and should be avoided. And while devolved governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are about to become a reality, the corresponding body in each of the eight English regions is the Regional Development Authority. The north west's (or should that be North West) RDA began work on Thursday, April 1st. The RDA's are business-led and their aim is to develop a regional economic strategy. The chairman of the North West Regional Development Authority is former Mancunian of the Year Lord Thomas of Macclesfield. Who knows, maybe the RDA will develop into a regional government, and one day in the future, the North West will declare its independence from London. (No I don't think so either)
WE TAKE POLITICAL FREEDOM and stablility for granted here, but well within holiday-jet distance, those ideals are distant dreams, particularly in Kosovo, which is dominating news reports. Central Manchester MP and Foreign Office Minister Tony Lloyd has said that Manchester may accept refugees. Appeals went out nationally on both ITV and BBC this evening, and many sites around the north west, including disused prisons, are being prepared for the arrival of displaced Kosovo Albanians. I saw a military transport plane arriving at Manchester the other day - I'm not sure if it was connected with the current crisis. And Manchester aid worker Jonathan Hinchcliffe was featured on the front page of Friday's MEN. He's currently the International Red Cross Co-ordinator for Aid in Tirana, capital of Albania. He left a lucrative IT job in Wilmslow to help Albanian refugees in Kosovo.
MANCHESTER AIRPORT IS TO CLAMP DOWN on noisier planes. The Airport Authority will refuse to help airlines promote new routes if they use older aircraft. Environmental campaigners have asked for Concorde to be banned from Manchester Airport because it's so noisy but 83% of respondents in Friday's MEN poll disagreed, and I do too. I grew up directly under the final approach path of Manchester Airport, and now I miss the sound of planes passing overhead at night, particularly the 1am freighter from Paris Charles de Gaulle, if I remember rightly. Nowadays, Ringway, like Heathrow shuts down almost completely at night. A reader has suggested a Manchester Airport webcam - sounds good to me.
A NUMBER OF AIRLINES are increasing their flights from Manchester. They include Singapore Airlines, PIA Malaysia Airlines, Emirates, Air Canada, Air France, Turkish Airlines, PGA Portugalia and Sabena.
I WAS AT THE AVIATION viewing park today, now located south west of the runway, and I witnessed a minor incident involving an Airtours Airbus - a similar aircraft type to the one above right. After landing, the plane was met by emergency vehicles at the end of the runway. An observer who was listening in to radio transmissions told me there was a nosewheel steering failure caused by hydraulic problems. Luckily the fire engines weren't needed, but the plane had to be towed back to the Terminal. Recently a Majorca-bound Boeing 757 with 183 passengers was struck by lightning 15 minutes after take off - it returned to Manchester.
A FRIGHTENING PICTURE of the schoolboy injured last week on the railway line at Longsight appeared in the media on Thursday. 14 year old Robert Leggett suffered extensive burns after swinging a pole above his head - the pole touched power cables and he received a massive electric shock. In the photo, he was completely covered in bandages and linked to various bedside machines. Other accidents: A 10 year old boy drowned in the Bury/Bolton Canal at the back of Ascot Rd, Little Lever last Friday. And a man was killed by a Manchester Airport train near Gatley a couple of days ago. Whatever you're doing, wherever you are, for goodness sake, take care!
THERE ARE TELEPHONE HELP LINES for nearly every subject nowadays. Now you can phone for medical advice on a new NHS helpline launched today. the NHS Direct helpline can be called 24 hours a day on 0834 4647. 34 nurses are based at a call centre in Bolton and offer medical advice using a computer database. But the launch didn't go quite to plan - due to technical difficulties, the service won't be fully operational until tomorrow. And some GP's are critical of the service, saying it undermines their work.
MANCHESTER UNIVERSITY SCIENTIST and author Robin Baker foresees a future in which most parents are single, human cloning is commonplace and individuals choose their partners on the Internet. These predictions are all in his new book called "Sex in the Future", price £12.99 published by Macmillan on 12th April. If you'd like a copy, phone (01624) 675137. If you’re reading this in 2020, please e-mail and let us know if things have turned out as he's predicted. Judging from many of today's newspaper items, the future may already be with us. Here's one of Grosvenor Square, once the site of All Saints Church, now the focus of Manchester Metropolitan University.
TRAM ENTHUSIASTS have released a video to mark the 50th anniversary of Manchester's last tram. It's called Trams In And Around Manchester, and features rare footage from many sources. It took five years to put together. The series editor Martin Jenkins says that it includes some very rare shots of horse trams in central Manchester and on Ashton New Road. The video can be bought from the Manchester Transport Museum Society, 25 Branch Rd, Darwen Lancashire, BB3 OPQ. It costs £19.95, including postage. Here's another of my "vintage bus" pictures.
MANCHESTER CITY COUNCIL has drawn up an Education Development Plan intended to raise achievement in Manchester schools over the next three years. David Johnston, who became Chief Education Officer of Manchester in December, has been in charge of it. The Council is going to apply for EAZ or Education Action Zone funding to help schools in East Manchester and Wythenshawe. Meanwhile Manchester City FC has been helping in the education of local children by organising classes, which include calculating the capacity of the stadium, working out the size of the pitch, and the size of the players too! Sounds like a great way of involving the children, but what happens if they're United supporters?
SOME FOOTBALL RESULTS: Preston-1 Manchester City-1, Halifax-0 Rochdale-0, Wimbledon-1 Man Ud-1, Stockport County-0 Bury-0, Manchester City-1 Wigan-0. Rugby League: Salford 22 Warrington 26 Wigan 12 St Helens 14. On Saturday afternoon on Whitworth St, I encountered a long column of Wigan supporters accompanied by police cars, police on horseback and armoured vehicles. Despite this entourage, there was fighting after the match, and some fans were arrested.
AUTHOR, ARTS BROADCASTER and tv personality Melvyn Bragg, also known as Lord Bragg of Wigton, is to receive an honorary doctor of Science from UMIST, Carl Palmer reports in Wednesday's Diary. I once bumped into the nation's most famous TV intellectual at a book reading he was giving at Waterstones in Manchester. UMIST are giving him the award as he's done a lot of work to promote science, as well as the arts. Here's UMIST's newest building (right) - it's on Oxford Rd, and that's the Commonwealth Games pool under construction behind.
CAN YOU NAME THE MANCHESTER animation company which produced Noddy, Danger Mouse, the Toad of Toad Hall, Rocky and the Dodo's Count Duckula, the Wind in the Willows, and in the early 70's, Chorlton and the Wheelies? I'm talking of course about Chorlton-based Cosgrove Hall Films, who have just awarded London PR Agency Biss Lancaster a contract to raise the profile of Cosgrove Hall. They want to emulate Disney, so who knows, some day tourists will be flocking to Cosgrove-Hall-Land, Chorlton.
THE PREMIERE OF THE NEW HOLLYWOOD FILM "the Faculty" took place at the UCI cinema in the Trafford Centre (left) on Thursday. Guests included Paul Burrell, Princess Diana's former right hand man, Clea Duvall, who flew in from Hollywood, Robbie Williams' mum Jan, and his sister Sally, and Oldham film director Stephen Gibbons, who told me there was plenty of free champagne being swilled. Steve was in conversation with Shaun Ryder and Hollwood star Elijah Wood. Pics and info appearing soon on Steve's website Chicanery Moon.
OTHER UPCOMING CONCERTS: Little Richard and the All American Rock 'n' Roll Show at the MEN Arena 17th of May. At the Opera House (right): the Ultimate Seventies Musical "Oh What a Night" running from 15th of April to 19th of June. The Chuckle Brothers are on at the Tameside Hippodrome on Wednesday, and "Forbidden Planet" is starting at the Palace Theatre - I'm hoping to go to that one. Bill Wyman and the Rhythm Kings are playing the Elizabeth Hall, Oldham on June 2nd, part of 150th anniversary of the town. The annual outdoor Concert & fireworks will take place at Tatton Park on 31 July.
PERFORMANCES which have taken place this week include "Hot Pants" Oldham Coliseum, "Barnum" at the Palace Theatre, the National Blues Festival at the Burnley Mechanics, The Manchester Camerata at the Bridgewater Hall.
SOME FAMILIAR LOCAL SITES may become UNESCO World Heritage Sites - they include the canal basin at Worsley and Ancoats - on the BBC 6 o'clock national news, architect and Manchester Civic Society member Ian Finlay was interviewed about the significance of Ancoats. Currently it's mostly derelict, but in the future, it's going to look like Castlefield. Here are some pics of Ancoats, plus another north west contender for World Heritage status: The waterfront at Liverpool. Click here to see the same scene at dusk.
I've given you the weather already, so that's it from me this week. Please note: The main Eyewitness in Manchester newsletter update will be on Tuesday night from now on. Reader messages will be updated in the next 72 hours.