G8 leaders come to Brum

G8 leaders at Weston Park

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.


In brief

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 drugs.

  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 per week.

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 a synagogue.

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.