"Breaking the earth in our new found land, we were dizzy with joy and dreams" (Yevgeny Yevtushenko, Zima Junction)
You're walking home again
Shopping bags and broken glass
I hate going through the underpass...
This is the place I live...
(Everything But The Girl, 'Hatfield 1980')
Inspired by Ebenezer Howard's late-19th-century Garden City Movement, some of the spirit of Corbusian Modernism, and WW2-era dreams of creating a 'Better Britain', the New Towns Act of 1946 led the creation of dozens of towns across the United Kingdom. To their admirers, these planned settlements, many of them in Southern England, were 'essays in civilization'; they symbolised the importance of state planning, of collective utopias, of civilised housing being as much the right of every citizen as the National Health Service. To their detractors, these were soul-crushingly mediocre towns that demonstrated the limitations of governmental social engineering.
In her presentation, and in discussion with historian Guy Ortolano, Georgia Wrighton will explore the ideals and dreams behind the New Town movement, and reflect upon the forces shaping them in their eighth decade.
GEORGIA WRIGHTON is a Senior Lecturer and Course Leader for the MSc Town Planning Course at the University of Brighton. She has nearly 30 years experience as a planner working in the fields of planning education, local government, community planning and advocacy, and third sector campaigning.
GUY ORTOLANO is an Associate Professor of History at NYU. His most recent book is Thatcher's Progress: From Social Democracy to Market Liberalism through an English New Town (Cambridge, 2019)