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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.


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.
There's going to be a walk-through illuminated fountain in Piccadilly Gardens and the Piccadilly Plaza is to be renamed Piccadilly Exchange. The whole building will be reclad and refitted, the Sunley Building will be renamed City Tower, Bernard House (below right) will be demolished, and there will be a new shopping arcade. The entrance to the Jarvis Piccadilly Hotel will be refurbished.

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.

See an old picture of Piccadilly plus a selection of other archive photographs in the Central Library Local Studies website (part of the City Council website):

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 its identity.

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.
LISA STANSFIELD made her screen debut on Thursday night with the premiere of Swing", said to be in a similar vein to "The Commitments".

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.

Join Aidan on his Manchester Photo Walk.
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