East Kilbride town centre

East Kilbride, Scotland's first new town, is 60 years old this month. To celebrate South Lanarkshire Council are putting 4 films about its development online (follow the SLTV link, then the Highlights tab). The first, Town for Tomorrow is a belter - a promo from 1954 which shows the values that it was built on. It underlines the optimism and innovation that went into it - the Development Corporation were trying to improve the way people lived and came up with a number of sensible, considerate ideas that still seem to be working 60 years on - lots of green space around houses and flats; 4 main housing areas equidistant from the town centre; different types of housing for couple/families/older people; schools and smaller shopping centres within each district. That's just for starters. It often seems like new towns have been written off as failures en masse but there's a lot to celebrate here.

For the last 3 years my daily routine has been going through it on a bus twice a day and as I start a new job this week this is one thing I'll reallly miss. There's something very ambient about the whole set-up that makes floating through it on the top deck a good way to clear the head and start the day - clean lines; lots of light and space; muted colours; roundabouts; a mixture of standard housing stock (the models for houses, flats and cottages are more or less consistent throughout the whole town) broken up by more innovative buildings like the funky modernist churches. It's familiar but different at the same time, and whatever it is that some people find soulless is soulful to me. Happy birthday EK.

More info:

EK A-frame

There is a nice piece in the Guardian (via things) about The London That Nobody Knows, a 1967 film by Norman Cohen which features James Mason wandering through bits of (then) disappearing London. It was an inspiration to Saint Etienne's film Finisterre and presumably to Patrick Keiller's London which came in between. All include lots of disappearing (or disappeared) loveliness - specialist shops, old signs, formica cafes etc. As Bob Stanley says "There was a sense of now or never" which I can totally relate to. In the 2 weeks since I took pictures in East Kilbride, this church hall (above) is down for demolition and the minor door on my fave double-entry combo has been bricked up. It sometimes feels like recording these things is a final kiss of death, but it's good to know they've been preserved in memory at least.

I couldn't see a date on this article but the films don't seem to be on at the Barbican this weekend. Also can't see The London Nobody Knows on DVD but here are two more articles from/about Bob Stanley and the films: Remember Lea (2005) and The Naked City (2003). Also worth looking out for is the Disappearing London series which was on ITV London, now repeated on Sky. Presented by Suggs it covers some amazing surviving shops, buildings, cinemas, caffs (including an interview with Adrian Maddox and Lorenzo Marioni in the New Piccadilly). It's excellent that London is so well documented, but sad the rest of the country isn't in the same boat. Cameras at the ready, one and all.

Two doors red

After casting aspersions on East Kilbride's climate, yesterday was a beautiful day, perfect for a walk through The Murray. This was the first part of EK to be developed. I am intrigued to know why The Murray is called The Murray, with the definite article. It's called that officially, on roadsigns and stuff, like The Gambia. But more intriguing are these double doors, seen throughout East Kilbride. Look, here's two more.

Two doors yellow

They both lead into the same house, but different rooms. As opposed to two doors into the same room, like The Beatles in Help. There was something similar on one of these post-war housing programmes on BBC Four, but for the life of me I can't remember the justification for it. I think the architects (can't remember who they were either; doing well here) said it was something about making better use of the space at the back of your house. Or something. Not wasting it on a kitchen. So the kitchen's at the front, and obviously a kitchen needs a kitchen door. But there's still a back door (just the one) which must bring about a bit of confusion when someone comes a-knocking.

As most have been converted into one big doorway (with a normal size door, not a mega one) it suggests that it maybe wasn't the best idea. But it's nice that they tried. East Kilbride was a new town built with this kind of spirit - looking at how people live and trying to make it better. There must have been a real sense of optimism when it was built. Can you imagine how exciting it must have been to come and live here with your two front doors?

Westwood house, East Kilbride

I've been adding photos of Westwood to my East Kilbride Flickr set. There's a little estate there, I'm not even sure what it's called - the Windward Estate, possibly. Anyway, it's lovely. Little coloured houses, all in a row. A bit like the Span houses in Kent. It's sort of on my way to work (by sort of, I mean not really, but I'm willing to go out of my way) and catching a glimpse of it every morning sets me up for a good day. This general area is Roddy Frame's old stamping ground - the Westwood he sings about in Somewhere in my heart. The rest of the houses are fairly normal though. If he'd grown up in these ones I imagine Aztec Camera would have sounded more like OMD.

So I've decided that the the archaeology of East Kilbride is my new project. I go through there every day and would like to know more about it. I'm intrigued by the ideals and planning that created it. Are any of you from EK? I'd love to know what it's like to grow up in a new town. I'm planning some more photo trips whenever I've got a day off and the weather's decent - could be a long wait knowing the EK climate. Plus some proper research with the archives at the council and everything, but does anyone have any EK inside knowledge that they'd like to share first? Anyone looking for an overview should check out East Kilbride, Scotland's first new town.

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