A snapshot of life in May 1997

Elton’s back

Rock star Elton John is not only “coming home” as the Hornets’ chairman, following the weekend’s takeover, he is coming back to revive a 20-year-old dream for the club. A delighted Elton said: “It is great to be back”, but the idea that has fired his imagination is the new consortium’s plans to develop a sports complex at Vicarage Road, commencing with a ground-sharing scheme with top rugby club Saracens next season. Twenty years ago Watford’s dream team of Elton John and Graham Taylor met with Watford Council and outlined plans for a super-stadium. But they had to take legal action against the council and won with costs in order to develop the existing Vicarage Road stadium, while the original plans, dubbed “too grandiose”, had to be shelved. Now, the new consortium, keen to re-establish the Hornets in the Premiership, envisages a stock market flotation and an indoor stadium at Vicarage Road.

[May 2, 1997]

Cutting edge of comedy

Cutting-edge comedy could be brought to Watford by a nationally acclaimed club aiming to set up its own circuit. Jongleurs, which operates comedy stores in Battersea and Camden, wants to make Watford one of its main regional clubs. If its application to convert a furniture shop in The Parade goes ahead, comedians such as Jack Dee and Mark Lamarr could be regular visitors to the new venue. Regents Inn Plc and Jongleurs have submitted a joint application to change the existing use of 76-78 The Parade, which is currently Cantors.

[May 9, 1997]

Investment in computers

One in four pupils at Bushey Hall School will soon have access to a computer thanks to the beginning of a £250,000 investment in the network. The updating of the system means each academic department already has its own suite of computers. The school’s Information Technology Coordinator Bob Burstow said an integrated learning system, access to the internet and CD Roms were the three main benefits of the investment.

[May 9, 1997]

Plan for Piazza del High Street

Radical plans for a town square outside St Mary’s Church are included in a £2.5million project to revitalise Watford. This week, top-flight town centre designers were drafted in to create an Italian-style piazza in front of the churchyard. A parade of shops and offices will be demolished to make way for the square in Watford Council’s bid to form an attractive and more cosmopolitan town centre. On Monday, a firm of urban designers, Gillespie, of Oxford, was instructed to take on the task of dreaming up a concept to breathe new life into the dull and dowdy High Street. The aim of the square is to give Watford a strong focal point complementing the financial success of The Harlequin. The town square proposal is part of a three-stage facelift the council hopes to start in spring next year following public consultation.

[May 16, 1997]

Phoenix from the ashes

A Royal Caledonian Schools Educational Trust was launched this week following the closure of the historic Bushey school a year ago. The dedication of the “new Caley” has been hailed by the members of the trust as a new start for the school, which has been an integral part of the Bushey community since 1903. The new trust was described at the official service as “a phoenix rising up out of the history of the Caley”. When the school in Aldenham Road, Bushey, closed last year, the money from the sale was invested in the educational trust, which will primarily help the children of Scottish service men and women and Scots in the greater London area.

[May 23, 1997]

Elton’s dream

Rock star Elton John is determined to help take Watford Football Club into the Premiership and the Hornets chairman has stressed his belief the club “can do it all over again”. In an exclusive interview with the Watford Observer he said: “I wouldn’t have come back if I didn’t believe that we can have success like we did before. I promised Graham Taylor that if he went back to Vicarage Road, I would become involved again. It has taken time to get everything right, but we have kept that promise.”

[May 30, 1997]

Head teacher’s dream realised

A head teacher’s dream of seeing his Croxley Green school rebuilt has come true after 21 years. Although Mr Alan Nicholson, of Harvey Road JMI School, was told the old building would be replaced when he was appointed in 1976, work on the £1.7million project only began in July. The state-of-the-art building is almost complete and staff expect to be able to move in and prepare the rooms for next term, in the next couple of weeks.

[May 30, 1997]

What was happening in the world in May 1997?

• Tasmania becomes the last state in Australia to decriminalise homosexuality (May 1)

• The Labour Party of the United Kingdom returns to power for the first time in 18 years, with Tony Blair becoming Prime Minister (May 2)

• Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, starring Mike Myers, is released (May 2)

• Katrina and the Waves win the Eurovision Song Contest for the UK (May 3)

• A computer beats a chess world champion in a match for the first time (May 11)

• Russia and Chechnya sign a peace deal after 400 years of conflict (May 12)

• The US government acknowledges the existence of the ‘Secret War’ in Laos (1953-75) during the Vietnam War (May 15)

• A military coup in Sierra Leone replaces President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah with Major Johnny Paul Koroma (May 25)

• The first all-female team reaches the North Pole (May 27)

• The Confederation Bridge, the world’s longest bridge spanning ice-covered waters, opens between Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick, Canada (May 31)