Continuing my travels courtesy of the ABRSM – last week I visited Letchworth Garden City – I was expecting dull commuter suburbia, but found a remarkably spacious 1930s planned town, with space, greenery, a suggestion of art deco, public spaces – surprisingly idyllic. And then this week I’m in Birkenhead – not promising material, but this evening I’ve experienced Port Sunlight, an even more idyllic village planned out by the founder of Unilever for his workers 120 years ago – stunningly beautiful in a kitsch kind of way, mock tudor estates, lawns, fountains, bowling greens, trees wrapped in knitting – all very paternalistic, reminiscent of Trumpton, if not “The Prisoner”. Part of me wanted to live there. Or to work for a company that wanted to provide a complete lifestyle and environment for their workforce (in an idealistic 20th century almost totalitarian way). No such planning today on any area of the political spectrum, no benevolent conservatism, no wishful socialism. So many steps backwards.
And, like Saltaire in Bradford, Port Sunlight is probably now prime property speculation territory, for the bourgeoisie, not the workers.
Musically, this week I am mostly looking forwards to hearing Steve Lehman’s new octet album next week.