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Saturday, 25 December, 1999, 12:12 GMT
1999 - the year of Cool Cymru

cerys Catatonia forged the way for Cool Cymru


1999 was a truly momentous year for Wales, writes BBC Wales' Nick Palit.

Our first parliament in more than 600 years opened in a newly regenerated Cardiff dockland and the Millennium Stadium was seen around the world by a global audience in excess of three billion people - the Rugby World Cup tournament projecting a new vibrant image for Wales.

But away from the huge events, each month had stories that affected all our lives.

JANUARY - The year got off to a damp start with flooding in the south Wales valleys.


Cattle The rural economy was hit hard
There is also a bleak forecast for the rural economy with the first protests of the year by beleaguered farmers who blockaded the headquarters of the Deeside-based superstore Iceland.

But away from the farms, things are no better for some factory workers - 750 car component jobs are axed at the Lucas SEI plant in Ystradgynlais, devastating the economy of the Swansea Valley.

On a more upbeat note, Wales' first five-star hotel opens in Cardiff Bay - the price of a suite, an incredible 400 a night.

FEBRUARY - This month was dominated by a public health emergency in south Wales after a cluster of meningitis deaths around the Pontypridd area.


Vaccination A meningitis outbreak claimed three lives
Thousands of school pupils in dozens of schools are vaccinated. The outbreak claims the lives of two pupils and a teacher.

MARCH - St David's Day and the Prince of Wales sparks controversy by eating beef on the bone at an event to persuade shoppers to eat more home-produced beef.

He is joined by Alun Michael despite the ban still being in force.

As preparations continue for the forthcoming Rugby World Cup, the "will it be ready-won't it be ready" controversy surrounding the Millennium Stadium marches on.

The company building it reveal embarrassingly that they had lost 26m on the deal.

Another important new building for the Welsh capital appears as the city's A&E provision switches from the crumbling old Cardiff Royal Infirmary to a brand new 8m unit at the University Hospital of Wales.

APRIL - Weather dominates the news agenda as parts of Wales are virtually brought to a standstill by snow - even the M4 is closed for some hours.


National Assembly The Assembly came into being
But it is no better on the trains - safety concerns force the HSE to impose severe restrictions on the Severn Tunnel because lack of maintenance caused a risk of derailment.

MAY - This period heralds a milestone in the history of our country with the first government for 600 years and the first to be elected by the poeple of Wales.

Four days after the 6 May elections, the first members are sworn in. Two days later they gather to elect their speaker and as the month draws to a close, the official royal opening takes place.

Later that night the queen attends a gala Cardiff Bay concert with a galaxy of Welsh stars.

JUNE - This month - and for many months to follow - the people of Wales are shocked by a brutal murder which sparks the largest investigation ever by South Wales Police.

Mandy Power, her mother and daughters are bludgeoned to death in their Clydach home. Six months on their killer is still to be found.


Mandy, Katie and Emily Power Mandy Power and her daughters were murdered
In north Wales eight children are taken ill after the biggest outbreak of E-coli poisoning of its kind in Britain. The children have all visited Foel Farm in Brynsiencyn on Anglesey - a further 16 cases are investigated.

As the weather hots up, the race to get away sparks passport chaos - a new computer system resulting in huge delays and long queues at the Newport offices of the Passport Agency.

Although temperatures soar this month, Cool Cymru survives with Catatonia's Cerys Matthews named as the coolest person in rock, closely followed by the Manics' Nicky Wire and the Stereophonics Kelly Jones.

JULY - Midsummer and it is the month of festivals, concerts, and sunshine. The period kicks off with the Llangollen International Eisteddfod - with performers from around the world converging on north Wales.


Alun Michael Alun Michael faced a series of crises
Later in the month, mid-Wales is the centre of attention for the annual agri-fest that is the Royal Welsh Show.

And on the hottest day of the year as temperatures soar well into the 80s a little piece of Latin rhythm comes to Merthyr with the Lottery-funded Gurnos Carnival.

The Lottery also announces it will be funding a world-class theatre and arts centre on Newports riverside, costing 6.5m.

The month ends on a high with the largest gig of the year as 50,000 Stereophonics fans gather for a farewell to Morfa Stadium concert in Swansea. Their album goes on to achieve double platinum sales.

AUGUST - The continuing farm crisis dominates the news agenda. British beef is once more allowed to be exported to Europe - but Germany refuses to lift the ban - it is a similar story with the French.


Manic Street Preachers The Manic Street Preachers became one of the UK's top bands
With the rural crisis hitting hard, farmers unable to sell their livestock - and unable to bear the cost of keeping animals, resorted to desperate measures.

Healthy calves are given to hunts as food for dogs. Other newly born calves are dumped in telephone boxes in west Wales, and at Colwyn Bay - 350 sheep were left under the care of the RSPCA.

The other major event of August is a sight truly out of this world. Thousands of people throughout Wales stop what they are doing to see the near total eclipse. The next one is not until 2090.

SEPTEMBER - It is back to school - and for one primary in the Rhondda the report is excellent. Government inspectors award Darran Park in Ferndale full marks for their standards across the board.


Kelly Jones The Stereophonics played to 50,000 fans
Far from perfect though is a landing by a holiday jet from Cardiff. Up to 245 Welsh holidaymakers narrowly escape death when their plane crash-lands at Gerona in Spain.

September is also the month of London Fashion Week - with Welsh designers out to promote their wares.

OCTOBER - The long-awaited Rugby World Cup gets under way. The stadium's ready and the Welsh capital is spruced up for our global audience.

But Laings - the company that built this Welsh icon - says it was a financial disaster and cuts 850 jobs. Other local businesses are also disappointed that they have not profited more from the event.


Gerona air crash Welsh tourists narowly escaped death
October is also rocked by controversy over organs used for research. Children's hearts were taken at the University Hospital in Cardiff without parents consent.

Meanwhile at Withybush Hospital in Haverfordwest there is a two day siege - with a junior doctor held hostage - and a BBC reporter used as a negotiator.

NOVEMBER - A new chapter in Cardiff's history starts as the tide comes into the Bay for the last time - or so we thought. The multi-million pound barrage is complete - and the Welsh capital at last has its waterfront.

Cardiff's waterfront - and the Assembly in particular is also the focus of a protest by the increasingly agitated rural lobby.


Rugby fan Fans flocked to Cardiff for the Rugby World Cup
The Countryside Alliance mobilises 15,000 people to march through the capital - angry at the erosion of country ways.

DECEMBER - This eventful year draws to a close with the Battle of the Bay. The Environment Agency orders Cardiff Bay Development Corporation to drain the huge lake, created only a month earlier - because of flooding fears. A temporary truce was called over the Christmas period.

It is also a bleak Christmas for workers at Wales' largest company - Hyder. With the super-utility forced to make price reductions in their water and electricity charges - their response is 1,000 job cuts.

As Wales prepares to enter the new millennium, the stadium will become a focal point for the nation as 60,000 fans and a massive television and radio audience will usher in the new century listening to Wales' biggest-selling band, the Manic Street Preachers.

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