Unhomely: new towns on film

Precast Reinforced Concrete Heart

On film, the post-war British new town is an uncanny space – heaven, hell, or somewhere between, but certainly not quite real.

The idea of the new town was born out of hope and optimism. With population growth, cities half-demolished by the Blitz and increasingly demanding expectations around quality of life, ordinary working people in Britain needed new and better homes.

The British government set about identifying sites across the UK where large residential towns could be built from scratch, or by drastically expanding existing smaller settlements.

This was revolutionary, contrary to the usual British wait-and-see gradualism, and not everybody was convinced by the idea. It’s certainly difficult to find wholly positive depictions of the new towns project on film outside government propaganda.

Contemplating life in the post-war Britain to come in They Came to a City, 1944.

Right at the beginning, when the new towns only existed in…

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