1989: A certain Wall fell down!


In the UK 1989 was overshadowed by two disasters – Hillsborough and the Marchioness.

On 15th April Liverpool FC and Nottingham Forest met at Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough ground for an FA Cup semi-final. The Liverpool supporters were directed to a stand that was not really big enough to accommodate them. The resulting crush caused the deaths of 96 people (94 on the day). 766 people were injured. The age range of those who died was 10-67 years and among the dead was the 10 year-old cousin of Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard. The tragedy was shown live on the BBC – the cameras having been there to film match highlights. Following a public enquiry, the incident led to the establishment of all-seater stadiums at top flight football grounds and the removal of all perimeter barriers.

On August 20th a pleasure cruiser, The Marchioness, was rammed by a dredger, The Bowbelle on the River Thames. 131 people were on board celebrating a birthday. Tragically, 51 people drowned.

In February British boxing fans held their breath when Frank Bruno met Mike Tyson in a bout in the USA. Hopes were high for another Our ‘Enry feelgood moment – especially when Frank suddenly caught Iron Mike in the first round. However, Mike Tyson in his prime was simply too much for the Plucky Brit and Frank was stopped in Round Five.

In March a British driver actually won a Grand Prix when Nigel Mansell, in his Ferrari, took the chequered flag in Brazil. In another sporting miracle, Scotland actually qualified for a World Cup!

pic by the photographer Sue Ream

In November the biggest event of the year (and arguably the decade) took place when the Berlin Wall fell. By December the Cold War was officially declared to be over. Millions of people who could never have imagined that Soviet Communism would ever end suddenly found themselves watching it ending. The fall of the Wall was a curtain raiser (ho ho!) for the freedom of movement for Europeans throughout the entire continent (a hitherto unimaginable freedom) and a major step towards the reunification of Germany.

Throughout the early 1990s thousands of curious West and East Europeans got to know each other very well. I was one of them! I travelled to what was then still Czechoslovakia for the first time just a few weeks after the Velvet Revolution of November 1989.

I bought three albums in 1989 – Lou Reed’s excellent New York (I also went to see Lou touring material from that album at London’s Wembley Arena), Steel Wheels by the Rolling Stones and the eponymous album by David Bowie’s slightly oddball sideline band project, Tin Machine.

In the cinema the main box office hit was When Harry Met Sally. (I’ve never seen it but I have seen plenty of spoofs of ‘that’ scene!). My favourite film of 89 was Dead Poets’ Society starring Robin Williams. (Oddly, I’ve now tried watching that movie twice and each time something has happened to prevent me seeing the ending! No spoilers amigos! One day I intend to try and see it through to the finish. Third time lucky perhaps!)

OK, here’s a pic of yours truly in 1989. (This one was taken on the roof of the building in New York where the Catch 22 author, Joseph Heller, lived). And this is also the end of my series of blog posts looking back at the 1980s year by year. I promise I shall be back in the 21st century very soon!

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