1981 was designated the Year of the Disabled, it was the intention of the organisers to raise the profile of people with disabilities and to highlight the day to day problems they faced. Paul Woodcock of Hall Ave, Leek who suffered scoliosis of the spine was interviewed. Paul was 22 in 1981. He spoke of his frustrations and his desire for independence and to do something useful with his life. Paul said he was bored. He was unemployed and spent much of the time watching TV. He did voluntary work at the Millward Hall Youth Centre. Paul said that he was sometimes stared at, but it did not bother him too much. Paul's concerns were echoed by a reporter who did a follow up report on the lack of facilities and access for the disabled in Leek.
I knew Paul later on in his life as he was regular in the Swan. A gentle soul, he did eventually get a job within the Youth Service. Paul was active in local politics standing as a Liberal Democrat in his home area. He died prematurely a few years ago.
Paul mentioned the lack of job opportunities. In the early 80s we were in the grip of a recession and unemployment was high. It was reported that plans were being made ready to revamp the Job centre in Derby St given the local demand for service and local Tory MP David Knox hoped that the facility would be opened by the end of the year. The Job Centre was opened and lasted until 2004 and is now a Subway branch.
An issue that would rumble for most of the decade was the condition of Rock Hall in the Roches. It was a long running dispute that involved SMDC, the Peak National Park Authority and owner Doug Moller. The District Council published a report that declared that the property was unfit for habitation as it was damp and lacked basic amenities. Doug began to address some of the problem including painting the up stairs window, but having no ladder it presented a problem. He rigged up a rope from which he dangled from the battlement with one hand free to administer the paint.
These were perilous times and not only was there a faltering economy but we also faced increased nuclear tensions as the prospect of conflict between the West and the Soviet Union loomed. Matters were not helped with the inauguration of US President Reagan that month who took a belligerent tone with the Russians. Come the moment, come the business opportunity: a local builder advertised Nuclear Fall out shelters which could be installed- planning permission being agreed- in the grounds of one's home. The advert stated that the shelters were air conditioned, but I suggest a flaw in their concept as the air they would be drawing into the shelter would have been radioactive rather negating the whole purpose of the shelter,
Amongst the quirkier stories that month was a report of a mishap at Rudyard Lake when a pleasure cruiser the “Princess” broke from its moorings and collided with a house “ The Lady of the Lake”. The boat was unscathed, but a 9 foot hole was knocked in the side of the house. The owners of the house Mr and Mrs Ginsberg antique dealers from Manchester were locked in dispute with the Severn Trent Authority as they felt that the water levels of the lake should have been reduced making accidents of this sort less likely to happen.
House prices were on the increase in the winter of 1981. The paper cited a residence for sale in Wettenhall Drive for £26,500 and one in Burton St valued £17, 950. Both were 3 bed roomed.
At the Grand films showing included “ The Bitch” with Joan Collins and a special one day showing of the 1939 classic “Gone With the Wind” The other film to show was the less than classic “ Erotic Pleasures”