14 Things You Didn’t Know About Milton Keynes

Jaye Nolan Milton Keynes Cows

The Milton Keynes Cows in the town centre

‘New Town’ Milton Keynes isn’t so new anymore – it’s 50 years old today! It was formally designated a new town by the government on 23rd January 1957 and is famous for its roundabouts. But it must have more going for it than that, surely?

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

Enigma code-breaking centre, Bletchley Park, is situated in the area, and is credited with shortening World War II by between 2-4 years. Alan Turing, whose story is told in The Imitation Game, was instrumental in breaking the Enigma code while at Bletchley, working alongside other mathematicians, chess champions, linguists and crossword experts to crack transmissions made by the Axis powers.

An Enigma machine at Bletchley Park

Bletchley hosts the National Museum of Computing. It opened in 2007 and houses Colossus, the world’s first electronic computer, and offers the opportunity to revisit all those old games in the PC Gallery.

The government intends to open a cyber-security college at Bletchley in 2018, for which students would be selected due to their aptitude (see above criteria) and include coders and computer programmers rather than academic achievers.

Who’s who?

Reigning Ping Pong World Champion, Olympian and winner of Britain’s most table tennis medals in the Commonwealth Games, Andrew Baggaley was born and raised in the town. His mum began playing table tennis with him in their back garden and he hasn’t looked back. He will be defending his title this week at Alexandra Palace.

Arguably Britain’s most famous television Geordie, actor Kevin Whatley – a star of Auf Wiedersehen, Pet, Morse and of course his own spin off, Lewis – has made the Woburn Sands area his home.

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Kevin Whately as Inspector Lewis in Oxford, August 2015.

Award winning horror writer Sarah Pinborough aka children’s fantasy author Sarah Silverwood, was born in the town and has written a series of spinoff novels based on the shared Torchwood/Dr Who universe.

Where to go and what to see:

The town’s most iconic attraction is cows! Concrete Cows, to be exact, a sculpture created by Canadian artist Liz Leyh in 1978 from materials donated by a local builder. Comprising three cows and three calves, all half life size, they reside in the Milton Keynes museum, while Bill Billings’ more famous replicas are situated on the A422 Monks Way.

Making the most of the area’s connection with covert activities, Si5 Spy Missions and Room Escape give an opportunity to think like the cryptologists of the past. Can you pass muster?

The National Bowl is the town’s major entertainment venue, playing host to any and everyone from the late David Bowie to the Foo Fighters. Formerly a clay pit, it’s an open grassed area in the form of an amphitheatre which holds 65,000 people unseated, but is the subject of constant speculation about its future.

The Bounce Trampoline Park was the first of its kind in the UK. Forget spotters, this is wall to wall trampolines where you can play with your mates or all the family, engage in dodgeball or dive around in foam pits!

Wimbledon FC moved from south London to MK when it became apparent their home ground at Plough Lane wouldn’t allow them to keep growing. They eventually changed their name to MK Dons, and  enjoyed a second round Capital One Cup victory over Manchester United in 2014, beating the self styled Biggest Club in the World 4-0!

The Buddhist Peace Pagoda – erected in 1980 in Willen Lake – was the first Buddhist stupa built in the western hemisphere.

Milton Keynes Peace Pagoda

There is evidence of human settlements as far back as 2000BC, with the Milton Keynes Hoard, a valuable bronze age find, now housed in the British Museum

Fears that this new town would be a concrete jungle proved unfounded – there are three ancient woodlands, 4000 acres of parks, 400 acres of lakes and at least 20 million trees. The Parks Trust, an independent body, is pledged to prevent building on any of the park lands, a power bestowed upon them by the departing development corporation.

50th anniversary celebrations are taking place throughout the first part of the year, including this weekend – find out more here.

Image credits:

Cows

Enigma Machine

Kevin Whatley

Peace Pagoda

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Here’s to a happy and productive 2017

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Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin …

2016 was a year many people will never forget, from the world changing democratic decisions to the loss of so many icons in music, television and film.  Yet in other ways – the olympics/paralympics for example, and for me on a professional level –  it was excellent. I took a quick look back while looking forward.

While last year involved much consolidation, I was able to embrace and combine more of the things I love.

Determined to stay completely freelance and concentrate on writing and social media, I was rewarded by being commissioned across a variety of projects, both personally and for the Rochester LitFest.

I began blogging for Yahoo, which is brilliant on two counts: I’m writing more regularly about my favourite things, and I have to watch a lot of television – no choice, it’s my job now 😉 – it’s also helpful with respect to my own scriptwriting that I dissect the shows, watching them more critically and figuring out why they worked so well and what made the characters engaging. That it coincided with an exceptional year on television made it a pleasure rather than work.

Although I’ve been working in social media for a long time, I decided to go to college and earn myself a Diploma in Social Media for Business. It’s extremely satisfying to be an official social media goddess and I’ll be putting what I’ve learnt to good use, running workshops as well as continuing to work with private clients. 

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Of all the sad losses in 2016, one that hit the Medway community particularly hard was the demise of the beautiful little WOW Magazine, our bible of what’s on where. Happily though, this means we can concentrate on the WOW Kent website, for which I’m the online editor. Together with founder and editor Emma Dewhurst, I’ll be working towards making it the go-to source for creative and cultural news and events across the Kent area.

In order to concentrate on funding for the LitFest, this year will look a little different in that there are currently no plans for a standalone festival in October. Instead, we’ll be running events across a month or so in May/June, covering the Dickens Festival and the Battle of Medway, as well as another Discworld inspired Turtle Moves day, honouring Sir Terry Pratchett.

We’ll also be in attendance at the Creative Care Expo in Maidstone on 26/1 and looking forward to working with more people on our Memory Box project this year. A smaller version, mixed with the Turtle Moves activities will take place at the Rochester Dementia Memory Cafe on April 28 – Sir Terry Pratchett’s birthday, appropriately.

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There are a lot of exciting things to look forward to this year; I’ll try to share all of them with you.

Have a great 2017 🙂

#RLF2016: Written Worlds, Inspiring Places

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For some strange reason 5 years ago, I decided to start a literature festival. Possibly I had too much time on my hands (I didn’t) possibly I just felt we were lacking a festival in Medway dedicated to writing, and somebody had to do it. I must’ve been mad, and I’m also stubborn, so here we are: the fourth Rochester Literature Festival 2016 kicks off this weekend.

Amidst the usual creative writing workshops, Cafe Crawl and author talks this year, the RLF has a wonderful day of craft activities planned for all ages.

The Turtle Moves, inspired by Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, sees a Juvenile Crafters’ Guild appear, as if by magic, in Rochester’s Community Hub, where you can design your own Luggage or bring to life a Golem, among other activities. Out and about in the high street you’ll bump into numerous characters – and even see a re-enactment of the Battle of Koom Valley! And shhhhh – it’s rumoured that the Librarian will be appearing in L-Space (Baggins!)

RLF Patron Lisa Cutts is appearing at Strood Library on Oct 4, alongside fellow crime author Simon Booker, while author of The Outlaw Chronicles, Angus Donald, is at Rochester Library on Oct 6. There is also a Local Author Day at Rochester Library between 10am-2pm on Oct 1.

The popular Cafe Crawl takes place on Sunday, Oct 2 and features the Canterbury Yarners, Fiona Sinclair, Nancy Charley, Johanna Coulson and Maggie Butt alternating at Bruno’s Bakes, The Quills and Cafe @172 between 12-3pm.

The festival opens with three creative writing workshops on Saturday, Oct 1: An Introduction to Screenwriting, A Guide to Self Publishing, and Building Your Make Believe World. It ends with a Writers’ Retreat on Sunday, Oct 9.

All the events apart from the workshops are free, and more detail and tickets for the workshops can be booked here.

If you pop down, be sure to say ‘hi’ 🙂

Medway River Festival 2015

Another little snippet of a sunny Saturday in Medway – this time, the River Festival.

I’m not happy with the quality of the Splice video on a desktop, so do yourself a favour and watch it on mobile (most of us do these days I know, but still …)

I’m investigating other apps but those I’ve tried so far seem to be worse quality or restrictive in how many clips you can include. So bear with me while I experiment – or, if you’ve a favourite app for movie making, let me know in the comments 🙂