Our Century

World leaders at Weston Park

Tony Blair & Bill Clinton at Weston Park
Shirtsleeve order for Britain's Tony Blair as he shows the other World leaders around Weston Park.

The eyes of the world were firmly focused on Birmingham in May as high-powered leaders from around the globe gathered in the city to thrash out their problems.

The G8 Summit conference read like a political superstar parade with such international figures as American President Bill Clinton, French President Jacques Chirac, Helmut Kohl, the German Chancellor, Russia's leader, Boris Yeltsin, and Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair - all getting round the table to try to solve some of the world's difficulties.

And vast business and trade opportunities for Birmingham were generated in the wake of the political gathering.

The city proudly basked in its new-found glory and huge crowds turned out to greet the VIPs. In fact, Birmingham, and the wider West Midlands, became a huge shop window for the region's trade and industry.

A reception of civic leaders and the world's press were waiting as Bill Clinton's presidential plane touched down at the city's international airport.

And the conference had hardly got underway when the top men headed into a row over sanctions following India's nuclear tests.

The Third World debt also concentrated the leaders minds during the visit 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 as they planned a drive against world crime.

More than 800 police maintained a low-profile security operation round Weston Park during the visit. All this was taking 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.

But the world's most powerful man didn't seem to have a care in the world as he went walkabout in Birmingham, calling in at the Malt House, off Broad Street, for a pint.

Pub staff were gobsmacked when the American leader stepped up to the bar and said: "Gimme an English beer".

Boys brought safely down to earth . . . A 14-year-old boy who had been on a boozing bout, was rescued from an 80ft high water tower in Brownhills in November, amid fears that he would jump off.

The youngster's 16-year-old friend climbed the tower and pinned him to some railings while firefighters raised a hyraulic platform to bring him down.

Both boys were brought down to safety suffering from shock and the effects of cold after being on the tower at Brownhills Comprehensive School for around 45 minutes.

Firefighters said it appeared that the 14-year-old had scaled a drain pipe and a ladder to reach the top of the tower following a family dispute.

"He had consumed a lot of drink and we undertand he was very distressed before he went up there so there was an assumption that he was going to jump," said a spokesman.

He added that fortunately the 16-year-old was holding him against the railings.

"Had it not been for him, anything could have happened," he went on. "He was in a very unstable state."

Muppet DaveProtesters lose a battle in road war: Bailiffs moved in to evict anti-road campaigners squatting in a derelict cottage near Lichfield in July, 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 and others were illegally occupying the property.

Good news at Staffs show: Overjoyed Staffordshire farmers welcomed the lifting of the export ban on British beef in November- but some warned they would have to fight to bring back lost markets.

The good news came as farmers attended the National Primestock Show in Stafford, where the decision was due to be rung out to shoppers by town crier, Peter Taunton.

The lifting of the ban brought to an end three years of waiting and hardship for beef farmers all over the country. The ban was thought to have cost the industry nationally around 4 billion.

Although they were delighted to hear that the ban had been cast aside, the Staffordshire farmers were also quick to be cautious and warn that there was still a great deal of work to be done to win back the lost markets. It was felt the ban had done "irreparable damage."

M6 'worse than M25' The Midland M6 was even more congested than the M25, a survey revealed in April.

Congestion on the M6 was costing business 7.6 million a month.

AA shock: Plans to close 142 shops nationwide, including 60 in the West Midlands, were put forward in August by the AA.

New shops planned: In Kidderminster a multi-million pound deal was clinched for a "waterside" shopping centre in the town.

It was being launched in November by a consortium which included the Wyre Forest Council and Brintons Carpets.

Melissa and Emily Aitchison
Years ago it was very confusing - twins were called Lottie and Dottie or Tim and Tom