New Towns, Our Towns

New Towns, Our Town – Stories on Screen is a collection of (often sponsored information) films “about (mainly) the first four of the UK’s New Towns – Stevenage, Crawley, Hemel Hempstead and Harlow” from the ’20s to the ’80s. (Peterborough, Basildon and Milton Keynes also feature.)
Without an overarching explanatory narration, and presentations of contemporary perceptions of the towns, the criticisms of the new towns movements quickly spring to mind – lacking a central feature of distinction, designed before the take-off of car ownership, vulnerable during periods of high crime, diminished by people choosing home entertainment, home drinking and shopping in hypermarkets, oh and buying from internet companies who avoid paying tax.
But new and old towns alike have been vulnerable to that criticism. As are the redeveloped neighbourhoods and new suburbs.
Seeing “Crosswall” properties being erected, and the failure of (Harlow) Town Hall, it’s clear the New Towns movement didn’t have enough money to always provide quality.
Cliches abounded – “it’s about people”; loads of kids playing and adults bowling; modern art statues and fountains lined with small square tiles. And one I actually like – success will be when they don’t need us (the development corporations) anymore.
Loads to take in, but in the absence of editorial, the collation struggles to champion the New Town movement.
Highlight, the champion for the Milton Keynes development describing it in 1973 as “the most exciting thing in the world”.
The Guardian article.

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