Picture Piece: The Milton Keynes Team, 1973
C&A, brutalism and bus strikes - the radical architects of Milton Keynes>
Audaciously posed amidst the branches of an ancient elm, the young men in the background of this photograph create a mise en scène which informs the collective attitude of the group assembled beneath them. This is the kind of imagery which you might expect from album cover artwork at the folk end of the English progressive rock scene in the beginning of the 70s – from The Strawbs, perhaps, or early Jethro Tull.
And yet these are the young, radical, architects and town planners responsible for the tomorrow’s world of Milton Keynes, the most controversial of Britain’s new towns. Pallid and somewhat self-conscious, caught in the flat, toneless light of a chilly English day, their playful informality seems only to endorse their seriousness. Philosopher/scientists hip to Popism, their modest smiles appear to acknowledge a snatched holiday from the pressures of work. The team seem amused by this image of themselves. For the most part they don’t look used to being out of doors.
This photograph seems more eloquent of Britain in the early 70s than any picture of a boot boy or a teenage Glam rocker. And if there is a single detail in this group portrait which seems to sum up the whole, then it must be the way the young woman kneeling on the left is shivering in her beige raincoat.
C & A, brutalism and bus strikes. I feel a double LP coming on.
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