Here are the biggest news, sport and entertainment stories of 1994…
English and Welsh people welcomed a change in the law meant that meant they could go shopping on Sundays. Since 1950 they had not been able to do so due to a law prohibiting shops opening at all on the traditionally holy day. Church groups opposed the move but both the people and the Government agreed that it was an outdated concept.
Britain’s first ever national lottery was launched to mixed reactions; some feeling that it was wrong to promote gambling and others simply loving the chance to win some easy money. The fact that a sizeable amount of money each week would be going to charities was enough to sweeten enough of the doubters though and, having got the go-ahead, the first draw was a massive success; the jackpot reaching over £7m.
Someone who won a personal lottery was the man to be given a ‘bionic’ heart. The media taking a keen interest in the pioneering operation, led by UK doctors in Cambridgeshire, which saw the world’s first battery-operated heart being implanted.
In the political world, people finally dared to hope for peace in Northern Ireland following ceasefire announcements by both the IRA and the Loyalists; the Conservatives negotiating at last seeming to have paid off. Despite that, it wasn’t a great year for John Major and company, though maybe they didn’t realize it at the time, as the little known, fresh-faced Tony Blair was brought in as the new leader of the opposing Labour Party; bringing with him talk of ‘change’ and a modernising agenda.
Sports wise in 1994, Britain missed out on the World Cup fun in the USA; the first time since 1938 that no British representatives had been at the event. Brazil won that competition, eventually overcoming Italy in the final on penalties, but much attention was still focused on Argentina’s Diego Maradona who had been banned mid-tournament after being caught taking illegal, performance-enhancing drugs. With no home-countries football matches having any importance, it was an ideal opportunity for rugby union’s 5 nations to take centre stage. Wales dominated the tournament but were prevented from sealing a ‘grandslam’ by defeat to England in their final game.
Britain’s TV screens were lit up in ’94 by two familiar faces in new guises on BBC 2. Steve Coogan’s creation of the socially-inappropriate Alan Partridge being a big hit, viewers cringing as Partridge humiliated and vilified his guests on the fictional chat show program ‘Knowing Me, Knowing You’. The second BBC triumph being ‘The Fast Show’; created by Harry Enfield regular Paul Whitehouse, the program revitalised the tired sketch show format and launched a variety of catchphrases.
On the big screen, this was the year that saw Hugh Grant become a household name as a result of his starring role in ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’; the same film also responsible for promoting the much loved / hated ‘Wet Wet Wet’ song ‘Love Is All Around’. The hippest movie of 1994 was Quentin Tarrantino’s gangster flick ‘Pulp Fiction’. Telling the intertwining tales of two mob hit men, a boxer, a gangster’s wife, and a pair of diner bandits, this was all about violence and redemption.