• “You’ve never seen anything like it”: multiplexes, shopping malls and sensory overwhelm in Milton Keynes, 1979–1986

    Lauren Piko (see profile)
    Item Type:
    milton keynes, sensory history, Urban history
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    From 1979, the new town of Milton Keynes embraced a new marketing approach which emphasised its capacity to elicit wondrous, uplifting, and desirable bodily sensations. This coincided with the transformation of the town’s central landscape, with Britain’s largest mall, The Shopping Building opening in 1979, followed in 1985 by Britain’s first multiplex cinema, The Point. This new direction in Milton Keynes’ marketing rejected national media narratives of the town’s sterility, while reorienting its administration away from the now-toxic political legacy of Keynesianism and towards consumer capitalism. This presented the Shopping Building, The Point and Milton Keynes as a whole, as containing forces that intensified and proliferated potential sensory experiences which resisted quantification and could only be understood fully through immediate presence. This deliberate non-specificity equated the undifferentiated general ideal of sensation with the liberatory capacities of consumer choice, while concealing the encroaching constraints on human possibility arising from commodification of sensations and public space. While critical accounts identified this new determinism as a damaging force, Milton Keynes was nonetheless able to redefine its public image during the early years of the Thatcher government by association with private consumption and private sensation.
    Published as:
    Journal article    
    Last Updated:
    5 years ago
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