In June 2021, Maddi Nicholson invited thepeople of Milton Keynes to take her for a series of walks: to show her theirneighbourhoods and to tell her about the things they liked and didn’t likeabout where they lived. The artist was taken around areas including GreatLinford, Eaglestone, Netherfield and Beanhill and became fascinated with thedistinct architectural designs characterising houses in each of these areas.
In response, the artist co-created with localschools and community groups an exhibition of over 100 miniature textileversions of houses in each of these areas. This miniature housing estate wenton tour across Milton Keynes in September 2021 alongside a 5-metre highinflatable sculpture of a typical terraced house from Maddi Nicholson’s hometown, Barrow-in-Furness. The tour comprised exhibitions in Beanhill,Netherfield, Great Linford and Central Milton Keynes, with each exhibitionassociated by events and activities designed by and for local residents.Limited edition house-making packs were also created to sell, with 50% of theproceeds going back into the areas on which the designs were based.
With special thanks to participants from Great Linford Primary School, Moorland Primary School, Moorland Family Centre, The Little Bookshop and MacIntyre MK for their help making up the miniature fabric houses which toured alongside Maddi Nicholson’s work Going Home from Here (2009).
With grant support from Milton KeynesCommunity Foundation, Maddi Nicholson returned to Milton Keynes in May 2022. This time Maddi’s focus was on working with residents in Beanhill and Netherfield, from whom she’d heard many ideas for projects that would improve their neighbourhoods. With the additional support of local artists, Ciara Callaghan and Alondene Phillips, residents created over 40 ceramic money or suggestion boxes made in the shape of Beanhill and Netherfield houses. On the back of each of these houses, residents wrote their ideas for art and environmental projects they would like to see happen.
At Heritage Open Day in September 2022, all of the houses were displayed together at Milton Keynes Arts Centre. Ballot stations were then situated in local community hubs from November – December2022, with nominations requested against three shortlisted ideas. 167 ballots were collected. 107 people voted to ‘sort out the underpasses’, 22 to ‘design a flag, coat of arms or signage for the two areas’, and 38 to ‘design banners for lamp posts and pillars.’ 35 other ideas were received including planting schemes, murals, pavement art and more art activities.
To date, Maddi Nicholson has worked with 1,139local people over 27 workshops and 4 exhibitions in creating over 140 artworks, which have been seen by almost 400 people.
Milton Keynes Arts Centre is now seeking funding to enable Maddi Nicholson and residents of Beanhill and Netherfield to work together in creating a unique artwork celebrating these two communities in one of the underpasses linking Netherfield and Beanhill.
Thank you to everyone who has worked with and supported us.
We will be back!