I grew up in a town that was invented in the last 100 years. Canberra, Australia’s capital, was formed after an Act of Parliament sorted out a squabble between Melbourne and Sydney over which should be the capital city. The answer, carved out of the bush on Australia’s southern tablelands, was neither.
Canberra was based in part on the design of Washington DC. It was drawn up by Walter Burley Griffin, whose name was given to the artificial lake at the City’s heart. In my younger brother’s 4-year-old proto-speak when we moved there, Lake Burley Griffin became ‘Lake Early Britain’.
Segue to Modern Britain and we have today’s 50th anniversary of the founding, through another Act of Parliament, of Britain’s most famous New Town, Milton Keynes.
Houston PR was appointed by the Council late last year to promote the anniversary and today we have been doing just that.
In the lead up to today’s launch, I spent quite a bit of time reflecting on what it was like for me growing up in a City in fast motion, in a suburb right on the edge of civilisation, watching roads being created, named after dignitaries or native Australian wildlife, having the garden rotary hoed, laying a lawn, using our family’s vouchers to collect the mandated ten trees and forty-two shrubs given to every household for their garden.
I spent more time, though, thinking about the quietness of life at the edge of the world, the 200 miles from Sydney, the 400 from Melbourne, the 90 from the coast, and how good it was to grow up in a place where thoughts were slowly formed rather than foisted, and to be given a place for my imagination to take root on its own rather than on the trellis of a presented idea. I was comparing notes with a friend who had grown up in the countryside on this and she concurred. The space to think and dream was invaluable.
It didn’t suit everyone, of course, and there are plenty who would claim that the palimpsest of an ancient metropolis is the only place to really live, but I don’t agree. Johnson’s old “If you are tired of London, you are tired of life” makes many of us contemplating executing a reverse-Whittington manoeuvre think twice, but they’re often wrong.
If there is ever a sniffiness about a new town (and looking at the media coverage that we’ve secured today, there isn’t much, happily), I’d encourage doing a little less metropolitan sniffing (it’s not good for you) and spending a bit more time sniffing the air where it is cleaner, where the town is purpose built, and where there are a hundred trees for every resident. I think you’d be pleasantly surprised.
Here are links to some of the reports:
Monday 23rd January
TOWN’S MOO-ST FAMOUS RESIDENTS Why does Milton Keynes have concrete cows and where are they now? Here’s all you need to know
Today marks the 50th anniversary of Milton Keynes, which was officially declared a new town on January 23, 1967
MK at 50
50 years ago today it was decided to make Milton Keynes a brand new town to ease the housing shortages in London. Despite the criticism over the years MK now has the fastest growing economy in the UK.
Milton Keynes: The middle-aged new town
Most towns grow and evolve over hundreds if not thousands of years. Not so Milton Keynes, which is 50 years old. Perhaps the best known of the 20th Century “new towns”, it has it detractors but is also much loved by its residents.
Milton Keynes celebrates turning 50 years old
Milton Keynes, perhaps the best known of the 20th century “new towns”, celebrates turning 50 years old.
Milton Keynes show signs of strain as it turns 50
Some deride town as soulless but many regard it as a triumph of urban planning
More than concrete cows: Six things you need to know about Milton Keynes on its 50th birthday
Us Brits love history. But 50 years ago today we did something that cut against the grain.
Sunday 22nd January
Milton Keynes turns 50: From city of roundabouts to culture and technology highway
as it looks back on half a century since it was officially founded, the city of Milton Keynes – the butt of many jibes about alleged suburban blandness – is attempting to renew its pioneering spirit and draw in visitors interested in its modernist architecture and grid-style street system.
Cake cut to celebrate MK’s 50th Birthday
The official MK50 celebration cake has been cut this afternoon in the centre:mk as part of the birthday weekend celebrations.
Saturday 21st January
MK’s Pre-Birthday Weekend Celebrations
Just ahead of the official 50th birthday of Milton Keyes, the “new city” is celebrating this weekend.
Milton Keynes is 50 years old. Should we celebrate?
We may snigger at the roundabouts and the concrete cows but let’s not forget this new town’s utopian spirit.
Friday 20th January
50 reasons to love Milton Keynes (what, only 50?)
To celebrate the 50th birthday of Milton Keynes becoming an official new town, here’s why you should love the Buckinghamshire capital of shrubs, careful planning and snide remarks
Wednesday 18th January
A look at the landmarks of Milton Keynes as town turns 50
Milton Keynes has been mocked for its concrete cows and many roundabouts, but since the town was created 50 years ago, it’s become home to some iconic local – and national – landmarks.