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Review - Book - CMK

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CMK-makers pat themselves on the back in this ‘original’ story, says Richard Vaughan The Story of the Original CMK. Edited by Marion Hill. Living Archive, 2007. 144pp. £20.00

The Story of the Original CMK (Central Milton Keynes) brings together first-hand accounts and an impressive collection of images detailing how the famous Garden City came in to being. But beyond publisher Living Archive’s notable picture-sourcing skills, it is difficult to see this book as anything more than a back-slapping exercise.

Described as ‘a unique set of reminiscences… told by the people who shaped the initial ideas of Central Milton Keynes’, it quotes the memories and discussions that took place in the early stages of the delivery of CMK. But, strangely, they are laid on the page as pieces of poetry. It reads like an ‘Ode to Ourselves’ as they congratulate one another on a job well done:

‘The vision of Milton Keynes
Was driven by architects,
Primarily there was Fred Roche and Derek
Two very individualist and very forceful
And Stuart Mosscrop…
They were a very powerful visionary team
Aided by Jock Campbell…
Fred and Jock are the prime reason,
That Milton Keynes
Has got the quality it’s got.’

It is hardly Yeats, but the stories are even more difficult to stomach considering that CMK is now going through such sweeping changes (see feature on Milton Keynes). The town has a population density of just 5.3 people per hectare, and although Milton Keynes was never designed for more than 250,000 people, it is difficult now to imagine how they thought it could ever be sustained.

Today a new vision is in place and a great deal of work and money is being spent undoing the work the people in this book sing about. There is no doubt that Milton Keynes is by far the most successful of all the designated new towns, but not half as successful as this book makes out.

Resume: Roses are red, violets are blue, I built the CMK, they’re trying to undo

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