MK Gallery website sets cookies on your computer to help improve the user experience. Read our cookie policy hereAccept
Talks & Workshops

The Right to the (New) City: Art, New Towns and The Commons


The Right to the (New) City: Art, New Towns and The Commons

Wednesday 6 July / 10am - 6pm

The Buszy, 401 Elder Gate, Central Milton Keynes, Milton Keynes MK9 1LR

(View venue on a map)


Tickets (including refreshments & lunch): £12

Concessions for students, unwaged and registered disabled: £6

Ticket including reduced train fare from London Euston: £22.50 


Buy tickets


This symposium, organised by MK Gallery in partnership with the Open University gathers artists, curators, academics and community arts organisations together to discuss the unique heritage and present conditions of new towns, how they work with their communities to produce the common and their response to a call for the right to the (new) city. ‘The right to the city’ calls for a collective redress of an uneven distribution of power through the production of a commons. It is the right to create the city as a collective work of art (Lefebvre). 


Milton Keynes, the largest British New Town, has been seen to represent the modernist aspirations of a liberated and dynamic future. The 'ideal city', was one of the achievements of the 1947 New Towns Act, a project of the welfare state that promised happy and healthy communities through revolutionary urban planning. The organisation responsible, Milton Keynes Development Corporation achieved this through promoting the dream of private property ownership and encouraging global capital investment, which continues today. As the city approaches its 50th birthday in 2017, the welfare state is shrinking, councils are shedding their community assets, public space has all but disappeared and the distribution of power is growing increasingly uneven. Conversely, Milton Keynes’ arts institutions and practitioners have never been more active. 


This symposium will reflect on the role and responsibility of the visual arts and designers in redressing such imbalances, artistic strategies of ‘commoning’ and some of the inherent theoretical concerns. Speakers include curator Maria Lind (Tensta Konsthall), Stavros Stavrides (author of Common Space), artists Bik Van der Pol, artist Marysia Lewandowska, sociologist Sophie Watson (Open University), urban lab CLUSTER (Cairo), designers Brave New Alps, artist/researcher Darren Umney, artist Gareth Jones, artist David Harding, community archivist Roger Kitchen (Living Archive), geographer Gillian Rose (Open University), architect Mara Weiss (Public Works), researcher/filmmaker Ed Webb-Ingall (Royal Holloway) and Ismail Bingor (People Make Videos), Will Cousins (David Lock Associates), MK Food Revolution, including a new commission from Stuart Whipps.

The symposium will be held at the Buszy Building, the former bus station opposite the Milton Keynes central station, restricted for community use but currently vacant. It is a listed building owned by the Milton Keynes Development Partnership and we hope that the symposium and workshops will directly contribute to the decision making for its future use.




10am - Registration

10.30am - Introductions
10.40am - New video commission by Stuart Whipps introduced by Gill Perry (Open University)

11amDefining the Commons - Stavros Stavrides (author of Common Spaces) chaired by Sophie Watson (Open University) 
12noon - Commoning Practices - Brave New Alps, CLUSTER (Cairo), Marysia Lewandowska, chaired by Alec Steadman (Arts Catalyst/Cemeti Art House)
1.20pm - Lunch
2.20pm - Keynote: Maria Lind (Tensta Konsthall)

3.10pmNew Town Practices Bik Van der Pol, David Harding, Gareth Jones 
4.30pm - Break
4.45pm - Breakout sessions:

A) Community Media Roundtable: Ed Webb Ingall (Royal Holloway) with Ismail Bingor (People Make Videos), Gillian Rose (Open University), Roger Kitchen (MK Living Archive)

B) Community Asset Workshop: Mara Weiss (Public Works), Will Cousins (David Lock Associates)

C) Commons Tour: Darren Umney (Open University)
5:45pm - Closing Remarks
6pm - Drinks provided by MK Food Revolution

Childcare support available. Please contact



Organised by Inheritance Projects with MK Gallery, Open University and with support from Alec Steadman (Arts Catalyst/Cemeti Art House). 


With support from the Arts Council for England Grants for the Arts, MK Community Foundation, Milton Keynes Development Partnership.


The Open University

July 2016