IT IS hard to believe that it is 15 years since York’s ‘new’ out-of-town shopping centre opened at Monks Cross.

It was on September 19, 1998, that leading fashion designer Jeff Banks joined the then Lord Mayor of York, Coun Derek Smallwood, to officially open the new shopping complex, which then boasted 26 shops.

The opening day celebrations featured parades and fashion events, including a procession led by a Chinese float and a jazz band, four professional fashion shows – and a search for local models.

This being York, there were also protests – although not from city-centre retailers worried about the impact on their own businesses.

That is a debate that rumbles on to this day, following the approval of plans for an expansion of the shopping centre. But on September 9, 1998, it was Yorkshire pig farmers and members of Animal Aid who were out to put a dampener on proceedings.

The pig farmers said they aimed to put pressure on supermarkets to stock only British pork and bacon – while York Animal Aid were trying to put their case about factory farming.

For many York people, however, there was simply excitement at the prospect of a new shopping centre.

Becky Cheeseman, now a 33-year-old graphic designer, but back then a teenage part-time sales assistant paying her way through college, worked at Evans in Coppergate – and moved to the new Evans store at Monks Cross when it opened.

“I was there within the first week. I remember a Minster FM roadshow – you could hear the music and the DJ talking,” she says.

“It was pretty busy – it all seemed very new and glamorous. And it was a great place to work: friendly and fun – and new.”

Within a couple of months, another out-oftown centre had opened on the edge of York: the designer outlet at Naburn.

This weekend, Monks Cross will be celebrating its 15 years with a Big Birthday Weekend featuring a programme of events and activities.

Pocklington-based Razzamatazz theatre group, made up of young people aged four to 18, will perform a mixture of musical theatre, song and dance tomorrow afternoon from 2.30pm, including their own Mama Mia tribute.

On Sunday there will be a 15 Minutes Of Fame talent competition for those who fancy themselves as singers, instrumentalists, dancers, or stand-up comedians, with a first prize of £200.

There will also be 15 per cent off vouchers available for customers over the weekend, and you’ll also be able to nominate the shopping assistant you think provides the best customer service.

For those of a more nostalgic disposition, on this page you will see a series of photographs of the shopping centre under construction – and of it’s grand opening.