Friday, 29 April 2011

Pictures Of New Towns

Stevenage in Hertfordshire was designated the first British new town in 1946. In 1967, Clive Donner filmed swinging sex comedy 'Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush' in the town, managing to capture most of the pedestrianised civic centre (the first in Britain) as it looked eight years after being officially opened by The Queen. Here are some shots that give you a flavour of the town's appeal.

For the record, a new town was not generally brand new, simply a small town with the scope to be extensively developed in order to help alleviate crowding in major cities and to tackle the post-war housing shortage. A good new town would provide a home from the cradle to the grave with all civic amenities, including varied employment, comprehensive transport links, schools, hospitals and housing, all contained within a planned, modern, controlled environment.

In one of the greatest examples of the presiding Labour governments curious and contradictory mix of liberalism and authoritarianism, the offer of greatly improved facilities, a home of one's own, all mod cons, etc. was not always well-received, and so many people were forcibly rehoused, with some long-standing working class communities destroyed forever.

I'm interested in new towns for many reasons, but their visual appeal, the mid-century modernist style which, fifty and sixty years on, now looks both miraculous and ridiculous, is something I like very much.

In 2001, parts of the Brad Pitt film 'Spy Game' were also filmed in Stevenage, with the town's massive GlaxoSmithKline research centre standing in for CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia. I didn't know that until earlier today, of course, I don't really watch films like that.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Paul. One of my favorite journalists, Gary Younge, recently did a cool piece on Stevenage (his home town).