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FOOTBALL FEVER GRIPS MANCHESTER and far beyond with Manchester United currently flying high. Fans gathered in city centre pubs on Saturday to watch the match against Newcastle and celebrate the 2-0 victory. Now the focus is on Barcelona, the destination for huge numbers of fans. Manchester Airport is experiencing the busiest few days in its history. A high-capacity Boeing 747 has been chartered to take more than 500 fans to Barcelona. Numerous other flights are taking thousands of others, many of whom don't have tickets. I saw a succession of jets taking off from It Ringway today, quite a few of which were carrying MUFC fans. The Manchester United team flew from London Heathrow to Barcelona on a British Airways Concorde.

Yes, it's been wall to wall football on TV this evening, BBC 1's Northwest Tonight have been broadcasting live from Barcelona. The Manchester Evening News is awash with red, and Tomorrow, the pre-match tension will be building up to fever pitch as the kick-off approaches in this, yet another England-Germany clash. The two sides are being courteous and respectful towards each other: it's not like a boxing match, thank goodness. One interesting difference between Manchester and Munich: Northwest Tonight's reporter says German fans are said to be less willing to pay ticket touts outrageous amounts of money than their English counterparts.

THERE WAS CRITICISM AND DISAPPOINTMENT AT Manchester United's decision not to hold a victory parade through the city on an open-topped bus. But after protests from the leaders of Manchester, Salford and Trafford Councils, it was decided to hold the parade after all. It will start at Marsland Rd Sale, continue north along Chester Rd, along Talbot Rd by Trafford (formerly Stretford) Town Hall, proceeding to the city centre, along Deansgate and finishing at the Manchester Evening News Arena. So whether they win or not in the match against Bayern MŸnchen tomorrow night, there'll be a hero's welcome for them here.

MANCHESTER CITY FANS have been annoyed at the arrangements to distribute tickets for the 2nd division play-off at Wembley this Sunday against Gillingham. There were long queues at the Maine Road ground over the weekend, and many season ticket holders complained that they still weren't able to get tickets. There was a Blues invasion in and around Moss Side and Rusholme on Wednesday - we were enjoying a curry stop at the Shere Khan - superb - and saw large numbers of fans drinking in local pubs, then making their way to the ground. City were playing Wigan, whom they beat 2-1.

AN ESTATE IN ORDSALL, SALFORD has had its bus service re-routed due to thugs attacking drivers and causing damage to vehicles. Stagecoach Ribble has withdrawn the 25 bus from its route through the centre of the estate. A victory for the thugs, it seems, though can you blame bus companies for wanting to protect their staff and property? And vandals wrecked Norbrook Boys and Girls club in Northern Moor. But in Cheetham and Crumpsall, the council have found a way of reducing break-ins into unoccupied properties: by putting in net curtains and burglar alarms rather than boarding up the windows.

AIRTOURS, THE TRAVEL firm based in Rossendale, to the north of Manchester, are to become the largest tour operator in the UK -Their take-over of First Choice holidays makes them bigger than previous No1 Thomson Holidays.

DEPUTY PM JOHN PRESCOTT has clarified his statement of a few weeks ago, in which he seemed to be luke-warm towards the idea of trams. He said he was all in favour of Manchester's Metrolink, though government funding won't be available. The new Metrolink line through Salford Quays is nearing completion. The first section will be opening this Autumn.

KOSOVAN REFUGEES have been enjoying safety and security in Chadderton and other locations around Greater Manchester. I hope to visit and speak to them very soon. Recently I've been busy helping the Manchester Health Authority with their revamped website, which will carry a selection of my photographs, additional to the ones on EWM. The MHA, based at Gateway House (above), near Piccadilly, oversees healthcare in the City of Manchester. Manchester Health Authority carries weekly news updates, including information about provision for the refugees and other health matters in Manchester. Please have a look.

THE SO-CALLED "FLAT CAP" RAIDER was jailed for fourteen years by Stafford Crown Court yesterday. Christopher Frank Wood stole money from building society offices in the Midlands and the North West, including Stockport. He threatened staff with a "gun" which turned out to be a piece of metal. The bizarre aspect of the case was the unlikely nature of the offender, a small middle-aged man dressed in a funny hat. Equally bizarrely, the police made a life-size cut-out of him in order to try and jog the memory of members of the public. The tactic worked and after careful preparation, he was caught red-handed. And Craig Smith was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of teenage foster child Claire Hart from the village of Eaton, near Congleton.

"WE NAMED THE RIGHT SUSPECT" says Friday's MEN headline. The paper has spoken out in response to criticism's that it shouldn't have revealed the identity of the prime suspect in the June 1996 IRA bombing, which injured over 200 and put at risk the lives and health of thousands. Lawyers of Declan McCann, the man they named, have said their client is innocent but the MEN stands by its statement. Whoever did it, it's outrageous that the terrorists who targeted Manchester are living in freedom not too far from here.

DETAILS HAVE BEEN EMERGING of a kidnap and shooting incident involving two men. The events have been unfolding in and around Salford and Lowton over the past few days, but there was a news blackout as the police feared for the victims' safety. They are now recovering under police guard at unnamed local hospitals. There's a suspicion the events were gang-related, though the police didn't confirm this. Yes, the police certainly have their work cut out for them in this city. Here's a pic of a modern-day equivalent of a "black maria", one of many you often see speeding round the city centre, sirens wailing.

HOWARD BERNSTEIN HAS BEEN HELPING TORONTO in its redevelopment plans. The Chief Executive of Manchester City Council spoke to a conference of city planners there, telling them of Manchester's unique and widely-acclaimed regeneration.

THE URBIS CENTRE will be one of the major attractions of the new city centre. The wedge-shaped building will rise like the prow of a ship on the currently vacant site between Chetham's School and the Printworks, and will tell the story of the development of cities. Sounds just up my street.

CUBE (Centre for the Understanding of the Built Environment) on Portland Street won a Civic Society recommendation in last months's Awards. I called in there last week and saw a thought-provoking exhibition of mostly imaginary buildings. There's also a shop selling books on architecture, and other exhibition areas. I met Tom Jefferies, co-author of an excellent new guide to Manchester's buildings, entitled "Manchester Architecture Guide" Both this book, and CUBE receive my "recommended" stamp and I hope to return and write in more detail about them soon.

THE PAINTINGS OF MARTIN MURREY, currently on show at the Castlefield Gallery, give a uniquly personal view of familiar scenes, many of which I've photographed myself. It's an exhibition of paradoxes - buildings are the subject, but there's hardly a straight line to be seen, and ornamental details are omitted. The streets are almost devoid of figures, and yet there's the evidence of humanity from the brightly glowing facades and cafe bar frontages. This is a unique view of Manchester, a challenging counterpoint to photographic representation, and is definitely recommended! At Castlefield Gallery I spoke to exhibitions assistant John Murray, who told me about the gallery, an arm of MASA (Manchester Artists Studio Association). The exhibition is on until 13 June.

PROTESTS THIS WEEK (I wonder if I should include this as a regular feature!) included a demonstration by 15 people outside the BBC on Oxford Road - they were campaigning against a party political broadcast by the far-right British National Party. In the early hours of Monday morning, animal rights protesters broke into the Stopford Building at Manchester University, where they believe a monkey is being used in animal experiments. And today, university lecturers, members of the Association of University Teachers, took industrial action.

THE PLAN TO REDEVELOP the Rochdale Canal is to go ahead after the securing of £10.8m of grant funding from the North West Regional Development Agency. It would be wonderful if all the canals around Manchester were fully navigable. Another bright idea from EWM: Build new towns along the Manchester Ship Canal from Salford to Warrington and beyond, and have passenger-carrying commuter launches ferrying workers into the city centre. Great idea except... the boats would have to go through locks, slowing things down a lot. Ah well, back to the drawing board.

Incidentally, big piece of news, I saw a ship on the Manchester Ship Canal the other day! It's one of the vessels operating from Arklow, Republic of Ireland, which brings grain in and takes scrap metal out.

Talking of ships, Karl Worswick, who runs a business in Oldham, has been telling the MEN about his holiday experiences in Malaysia,where he and his girlfriend were passengers on the Sun Vista cruise liner which sank, thankfully without loss of life.

HISTORIAN AN TV PERSONALITY LOYD GROSSMAN is to become the regional commissioner of English Heritage. The Boston-born intellectual with the vowel-bending accent is a fervent admirer of the architecture of Manchester and Liverpool. English Heritage is the organisation which takes care of many ancient monuments, such as Lindisfarne Priory, Northumbria, as well as more modern sites, such as Ancoats. I think they've made a very good choice.

THE FUNERAL OF ROB GRETTON took place at St Anthony's Church Woodhouse Park on Saturday, attended by familiar faces from the Manchester music scene, including New Order's Peter Hook, M People's Mike Pickering, broadcaster Anthony Wilson, with partner Yvette Livesey, and journalist Rob Savage. Rob Gretton managed Joy Division and New Order, was the driving force behind the Hacienda, and helped in the success of Factory Records. Apart from the showing on Granada of a 30 minute documentary about the Hacienda, I don't seem to have noticed much media response to the tragically premature death of the "gentle giant" of the Manchester music scene. He suffered from thyroid problems and a heart complaint. The brand new edition of City Life has a tribute to him.

PERFORMANCES THIS WEEK: Tortelier Festival, Lenny Henry, Bridgewater Hall, Latin Jazz Explosion, Eric Truffaz, Band on the Wall, "Waiting for Godot" Royal Exchange Theatre, Birmingham Royal Ballet's "Coppelia", Palace Theatre; Boyzone, Manchester Evening News Arena; "Harvest of Ghosts" Green Room "The Herbal Bed", Library Theatre, and Kenny Rogers at the Apollo.

SALFORD STUDENT Steve Knee has his eyes on the big time, with plans for a huge multi-media musical extravaganza at the Trafford Centre in September. He has composed and produced a show called "The Last Harvest", featuring video projection, dancers, lasers and music. If the September show is successful, he hopes to do similar shows for the millennium and 2002 Commonwealth Games events. Sounds great. And Halle conductor Kent Nagano is to leave when his contract finishes next year.

WHEN A RADIO STATION RUNS A phone in quiz, you're not supposed to tell contestants the answers. Unfortunately, celebrity guest Gary Barlow, formerly of Take That, forgot this rule and told phone-in contestant Andrea Strickland the answer which won her £10,000, much to the chagrin of Key 103 presenter Mike Toolan. But the publicity value will be worth far more than the £10,000 I think. Phone ins with big cash payouts is Key 103's strategy in the radio station wars, with Key 103, Century 105 and Galaxy 102 battling it in the local area out for the listeners. I wish they'd play a wider selection of songs, and if they're going to play"70's" music, they really ought to include 70's "progressive" bands, such as Led Zeppelin, Yes and the Moody Blues, and my personal favourites, Bowie and Roxy, but they hardly ever do.

WE'VE HAD CHANGEABLE AND UNPREDICTABLE weather this week, with grey skies and cool temperatures. Yesterday there were downpours followed by bright sunny spells later in the afternoon. I was caught in the rain at Dunham Massey garden, where I took the photo above. There were still plenty of clouds in the sky last night when I caught the shot below of the sunset over Winter Hill. I'd just done a one-off flower arranging class at Hyde Clarendon College - well... photography tips for flower arrangers. Today there were broken clouds with frequent sunny intervals. Let's hope for good weather during the coming bank holiday weekend. And whoever we support, or don't support, let's wish the Manchester United team the best of luck in tomorrow night's game.

And a note on this week's main photo - it was taken from the top of Gateway House, home of the Manchester Health Authority, and is number NINE HUNDRED AND NINETY NINE. So the next photo I upload will be THE ONE THOUSANDTH IMAGE in Eyewitness in Manchester. I don't know what it's going to be yet - check it out next week!

Join Aidan on his Manchester Photo Walk.
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