Community Engagement

The programme of creative heritage inspired community engagement activities was led by RARA artists, Janetka Platun and heritage organisations including MKCDC, and MK Forum to explore the town’s history and its unique system of underpasses.

The activities programme consisted of:

Boyd & Evans Talk on their paintings of Milton Keynes from the 1980’s. This was a great opportunity to hear Boyd and Evans talk about what their experiences of living in MK whilst it was being built was like and what inspired their paintings.

The opportunity to walk round with the artists and see some of their large scale paintings which are on permanent display at MK Central Library was very well received. Their painting ‘Underpasses’, was on loan to the library from the Bucks County Museum stores as part of the ‘Underpasses’ project. It was a great event to highlight the underpass as a featured in their art.

iRemember Community events:
Reminiscence sessions were undertaken on the 4 estates to capture residents’ stories and memories of what living in Milton Keynes and the estates over the past 50 years has been like.
Memories were captured in a session with elderly residents as well as with some of the original architects and landscape architects from MK Development Corporation involved in the design and building of Milton Keynes 50 years ago.

Artist led Community Engagement Sessions
RARA and Janetka Platun undertook a programme of community engagement at a variety of locations throughout the 4 estates and CMK, linking into individual events that were taking place in the communities such as Conniburrow Family Fun Day, Heritage Open Days and National Citizens Service events.

They looked at residents’ feelings towards the underpasses, their experiences of living on the 4 estates and what people did to cope with feelings of fear when using the underpasses. At the NCS event, 150 secondary school children were asked about their stories from the estates and what they wanted to see happen with the underpasses. Young artists from MK Arts Centre were engaged with a talk and discussion about RARA socially engaged practice and how they went about developing their ideas for the underpasses artwork

RARA also held an engagement session ‘Enlighten a Dark Passage’ at the central library during the Heritage Open Weekend and also during the Conniburrow Family Fun Day. 

Primary School Sessions
MKCDC ran  sessions for primary school on the 4 estates. They were looking at the history of the estates and original names for the area. RARA attended the sessions and engaged the children in the development  of a ritual performance for the Conniburrow/Downsbarn underpass, which was performed at the underpass unveiling in February 2017.

Heritage App
The App development has had input from young MK based artists at the OTV/RARA’s event for young artists at the MK Art Centre. Also the App developers Go Forth Films worked with a group of young people who are not in education, employment or training to engage them with the heritage of their New Town and had their feedback on the Apps content and ideas.

The Heritage focused community engagement activities with local people and schools generated themes and ideas to inspire the artwork for 2 selected underpasses.

MK50 Celebration
This event on 21st January at the Central Library was an opportunity to celebrate 50 years of M.K. It was a great celebration of the ‘Underpasses’ project, and saw the Exhibition panels on display as well as the launch of the 2 children’s publications ‘Travelling in Time’ and ‘My MK’ featuring a reading by their author Rachel Barnett and storytelling of the history and folk tales surrounding Milton Keynes by Terrie Howey of Red Phoenix productions.

The Children Activity Trail’ leaflet was also launched and the CMK underpass interpretation panel featuring the artwork ‘Underpass’ by Boyd and Evans to engage people in the history of the underpass by showing what it was like 40 years ago was unveiled. The Secklow Mound interpretation panel written by MK Council’s Senior Archaeologist Nick Crank, and illustrated by Sian Sharp was also officially unveiled by the Deputy Mayor of Milton Keynes Cllr David Hopkins.