In 2017 The Open University decided to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of its home: Milton Keynes. I was commissioned to write a poem – which became ‘A different kind of urban’ – by The Open University Choir, to form the lyrics for a twenty minute piece of choral music written by Liz Lane, comprising brass ensemble, timpani and percussion.
Both Liz and I have long-standing links to The Open University. We have both taught for it – she, music: I, creative writing. Our knowledge of Milton Keynes however differs greatly: she had never explored the town before accepting the commission. I lived there for 30 years, moving away, to Dorset, in 2016. Thus the project was constructed by one contributor looking back and one looking at the town for the first time. Interesting …
The commission, guided to completion by Bill Strang, the choir’s musical director, eventually became the final part of the ‘MK50’ festivities in 2017 – a year-long celebration of the new town as it reached its half century, the area within Bletchley, Stony Stratford, New Bradwell and Wolverton having been formally designated as the site for a new town of 250,000 people on 23 January 1967.
I believe one of the very first institutions to set up in Milton Keynes (in 1969) was The Open University, so it is particularly fitting that The Open University Choir marked the occasion as it did.
The premiere of A different kind of urban was given on 23 November 2017. Sadly, no recording of that performance is available. After the concert one or two people said to me that they wished they could have heard the lyrics read. So I decided to make this recording of the poem to keep the memory of the choral piece alive until it is performed again when, hopefully, it can achieve a wider circulation. I, for one, can’t wait to hear it again.
In the meantime here is the poem, along with a selection of still photographs which I hope help to evoke the time and place.
Should you be interested in learning more about what I write, I have a blog and can be found on Amazon.
Thanks for listening!