May 16. Birmingham became the focal point of world attention
as high-powered leaders of nations around the globe met there
to thrash out their problems. The guest list for the G8 summit
conference read like a Hollywood superstar parade with such international
figures as American President Bill Clinton, then German Chancellor,
Helmut Kohl, French President Jacques Chirac, Russia's leader
Boris Yeltsin and our own Prime Minister Tony Blair, all getting
round the table in a bid to sort some of the world's problems.
The arrival of the world leaders generated vast business and
trade opportunities for Birmingham as it proudly basked in its
new-found glory and huge crowds turned out to greet them. In fact
the city and the wider West Midlands became a huge shop window
for the region's trade and industry. As Bill Clinton's presidential
plane touched down at the city's international airport, a reception
of civic leaders and the world's press were waiting. And the conference
had hardly got underway when the top men headed straight into
a row over sanctions following India's nuclear tests.
During the visit Third World debt concentrated the leaders'
minds as they headed for less formal talks at Weston Park, near
Wolverhampton, where a 50,000-strong army of protesters against
the debt were expected to greet them.
At Weston Park the politically famous drank Pimms and lemonade
on the sun-kissed lawns while they planned a drive against world
crime. More than 800 police maintained a low-profile security
operation around Weston Park during the visit.
All this took place while President Clinton himself was in the
firing line over his affair with Monica Lewinsky. By September,
Republicans in the United States were said to be bringing a formal
inquiry of impeachment against the President.
July 7. Bailiffs were given permission to evict anti-road
campaigners squatting in a derelict cottage near Lichfield, after
four of the Birmingham Northern Relief Road protesters lost a
case against the Department of the Environment. They were ordered
to pay 200 costs. The Highways Agency confirmed that this meant
the protesters could be turfed out of the Moneymore Cottage, near
the A38 , at any time, unless they appealed within a five-day
deadline. A spokeswoman said Muppet Dave (pictured) and others
were illegally occupying the property.
February 12. The 86th anniversary of the sinking of the
"unsinkable" luxury liner when it hit an iceberg saw Titanic-mania
gripping cinemagoers across the globe - thanks to the imaginative
blockbuster film of the tragedy which was proving to be a big
success at the box office. When the most expensive film in the
history of cinema was premiered in the UK before Prince Charles
pundits said it would have to earn more than 120 million at the
world box office to recoup its budget.
One industry expert estimated that co-financiers, 20th Century
Fox and Paramount Pictures, would have spent nearer 240 million
by the time the advertising budget had been paid. The problems
encountered by the film crew in the making of Titanic became a
disaster story on its own. Fifty of them went down with food poisoning.
Crew and cast put in 20-hour days to keep on schedule and British
star, Kate Winslet, said she would need to be paid "a lot of money"
to work with director James Cameron again. Cameron was said to
have frequently harrassed cast and crew during filming. Miss Winslet
later apologised for her remarks.
August 20. US president, Bill Clinton, ordered surprise
air strikes against terrorist facilities in Afghanistan and Sudan
after linking them to the American embassy bombings in Africa.
Afterwards the US was on guard against revenge attacks for the
cruise missile raids. Hours after the attack on suspected terrorist
camps, two UN soldiers were shot and injured by unidentified gunmen
in the Afghan capital. The president, and defence officials, said
the terrorist targets were linked to Osama bin Laden, a Saudi
millionaire they believed to be a major sponsor of terrorism.
He had been branded as America's public enemy number one.
October 3. In a bid to get people to be nicer to each
other, Ian Gregory, a former journalist who became a priest, launched
Fair Play Day. His organisation, The Campaign for Courtesy (formerly
the Polite Society) had become sickened by the violence and foul
play which inhabited much of modern sport.
The courtesy guru, from Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire,
started the Polite Society in 1984, but changed it later because
he felt "polite" had passed its sell-by date. "People were using
expressions such as 'he's only being polite' and so on. But everyone
understands what courtesy means," he explained. The Campaign for
Courtesy newsletter reflected a woeful litany of road rage, political
corruption, street aggression and, increasingly, men behaving
badly on the sports fields. The organisation boasted 10,000 members
in 24 countries - presumably all the soul of courtesy.
April 10. The West Midlands suffered
torrential rain followed by flooding. Much of Leamington
Spa and Stratford was under water.
April 30. A huge haul of 225 kgs
of cannabis worth 1 million was found in a police and Customs
raid at Great Barr.
May 7. A survey revealed that the Midland
M6 was even more congested than the M25. Congestion on the
M6 was costing businesses 7.6 million per month.
June 10. TV's Ulrika Jonsson dumped
her boyfriend, footballer Stan Collymore, after a fracas
in a Paris bar.
June 27. French riot police cracked
down on the English World Cup fans suspected of breaking
a 24-hour booze ban set up to head off violence.
July 3. Athlete Linford Christie
won a libel action against the suggestion that he had used
August 5. The
AA announced plans to close 142 shops nationwide including
60 in the West Midlands.
August 6. Two African elephants
living 500 miles apart in zoos in America were creating
a baby elephant through artificial insemination.
August 31. The first anniversary
of the death of Princess Diana was marked with prayers at
many cathedrals and churches throughout Britain. Buckingham
Palace flew the Union flag at half-mast.
September 5. Desperate to make
economies of £6.4 million, Dudley Council announced
council house rents would rise by an average of £1.18
September 9. Esther Rantzen announced
that she was to re-marry her TV producer husband, Desmond
Wilcox, after 21 years because they were originally wed
in a register office and she wanted to take her vows in
September 30. The naked truth was
being sought by an American lawyer, Paula Sage, who offered
a £30,000 reward for information on who was distributing
campaign leaflets showing her nude from the waist up. She
was running for judge in the Oklahoma elections.
October 10. In Thailand at least
30 villagers were vaccinated after it was found they had
cooked and eaten a dog that had rabies.
October 16. Letters penned by the
late Sir Douglas Bader while he was in a German prisoner
of war camp turned up among an archive of golf memorabilia.
They were to be sold at Sotheby's.
November 19. At Kidderminster a multi-million
pound deal was clinched for a "waterside" shopping centre
in the town. It was being launched by a consortium which included
Wyre Forest Council and Brintons Carpets.
November 20. In the Wolverhampton
area Santa got some unusual helpers on the run-up to Christmas
- huge caricature straw dollies indicating the way to Santa's
Secret Farm at The Bradshaws, Oaken, near Wolverhampton.