Milton Keynes:one of the UK's most culturally diverse but is this reflected in the heart of the city
Diversity should encompass social and economic aspects of mainstream life
Is this far fetched, or could this be an accurate picture of MK's cultural landscape?
During the heatwave of July 2019 parts of the country experienced sweltering temperatures of 40 degrees, with Milton Keynes recording similar highs of 38 degrees. Whilst commentators focused on the many ways the population sought to keep themselves cool, and draw our attention to the scorching heat being a symptom of global warming, a walk through Milton Keynes city centre to MK Gallery to assist in a Junior filmmakers summer camp, left me wondering why I had not brought a hand towel to wipe the streams of sweat from my brow.
During the walk to the gallery, I had an overwhelming sense of what it might be like to walk in a desert. My mouth was dry, I was dehydrating rapidly. I was in a hostile place where nothing grows, and life is not supported. The sun was oppressive, its rays seemingly weighing a ton as they beat unforgivably down on me, with the air I breathed scolding my lungs. Despite the extreme heat of that summer afternoon, it was not the temperature, but rather the acute lack of commercial and cultural diversity that led me to my dessert-like epiphany.
It struck me hard, as on the dusty road to Damascus, that mainstream, everyday life in Milton Keynes is such a sanitized affair, that it leaves you culturally empty. They say diversity, but it’s segregated, compartmentalized and labelled with a big tick in the box. Perhaps the best the city has to offer in terms of cultural and economic diversity is the Centre MK outdoor market which can loosely be termed a cohort of artisan brick-a-brac venders and fruit and veg sellers. For the most part, bricks and mortar establishments in the centre of MK, be they commercial or otherwise are the preserve of big business. Reflecting the highly financialised environment in which we exist.
Sadly, I had the exact desert-like experience when I first came to the city in 2007 which caused me to establish a column in the then local paper, the MK Citizen. The idea behind The MK Mix column was simple - to spotlight and celebrate the positive contribution individuals from diverse backgrounds are making to the development of the city. 12 years on, after a solid decade of the most brutal public sector cuts in the history of modern government, the impending Brexit debacle and entrenched mainstream values of ‘profit over everything’, the re-establishment of The MK Mix is to be seen as an oasis, for the purpose of quenching the culturally parched.