98for98 The century in photographs: today 1997
Wednesday 20 May 1998
The previous year tree protesters had gained a large amount of media attention. The hunt saboteurs were eclipsed, as were many other worldwide events, by the death of Diana, Princess of Wales and the election of the first Labour government in 18 years. Shock and disbelief greeted the Princess's death on the morning of 31 August. The following weeks were dominated by questions about how the accident could have happened. Ostensibly the result of a high-speed rush to escape the paparazzi, the blame fell on the media. The sea of flowers resting at Buckingham Palace came closest to revealing the depth of feeling.
The General Election had already drawn attention to the question of privacy and the media. From the televised stand-off between journalist Martin Bell and MP Neil Hamilton to the "Election Free" stickers on magazine front covers, or the tabloids feeding on personal affairs such as the one between MP Piers Merchant and 17-year-old Soho club hostess, Anna Cox, the part played by the media in the election was undeniable. Within months of Labour winning a landslide victory, entertainment stars were invited to meet Tony Blair at Downing Street.
The end of an era arrived on the stroke of midnight when Britain handed over Hong Kong to the Communist People's Republic of China. This ended more than a century and a half of colonial rule. Hopes for peace in Northern Ireland were raised when Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams announced a restoration of the 1994 ceasefire. The stage was set for all-party peace talks on 24 September.
When the Queen addressed the Pakistani parliament on 8 October, she struck a personal note that no doubt reflected the feelings of those adjusting to new regimes. At the end of a formal speech, she said: "I sometimes sense that the world is changing almost too fast for its inhabitants, at least for us older ones."
Photo 98 is a series of high-profile national events and exhibitions; for information contact 01484 559 888 or www.photo98.com.
Current Exhibitions: Memory and Skin, The work of Joy Gregory. Part of 10 x 98 European Commissions, a series of exhibitions by 10 international artists that asks important questions about the nature of Europe and its changing political, economic and cultural identities. To 30 May at Huddersfield Art Gallery, Princess Alexander Walk, Huddersfield.
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