Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Milton Keynes for Bulgarians

This article first happened in May 2009 thanks to Iva, a shining star of Bulgaria's journalism and an old highschool friend. She once asked me in Skype if I was living in this 'green town' which she read about somewhere. Well, I did, back then, and immediately suggested to her a few other interesting facts about Milton Keynes which I had learned from reading regularly the local press. Iva was still editing Spunk back then - the healthy lifestyle supplement of Dnevnik and immediately asked me for a story.
Weeks later she reminded me of the deadline, and added that she was expecting something "exciting and inspiring". That was enough to get me running. And it was the running after this story, which helped me discover many things about the city I lived in, mostly positive and very interesting. First, through my own eyes, which I kept wide open now that I had to describe Milton Keynes for a very remote Bulgarian readership. Second, from the internet, where I found tons of interesting data, including the marvelous 1988 Lords Sitting on the Willen lake protest which made me lough with pleasure. And not least, from the people I spoke to.
Petr Jehlicka and Jillian Rose are professors at the Open University's Department of Geography, where I am doing my PhD. Petr has fascinating views and knowledge on sustainable lifestyles and living practices and I thought of interviewing him as a long time MK resident. Jillian, the head of department, had recently presented her very interesting reserach project on the effects of designed urban spaces on human emotions, which focused on MK. I also spoke to Paul Brown, another old friend and a local resident in nearby Leighton Buzzard since the 1950s. Finally, I managed to visit the city planners where I found a very kind and smart Lindsey Richards who was ready to walk to the bus stop after the interview to hand me a bunch of useful and beautiful books. My landlords at the time, Antonan and Galya, added colour and a bit of Bulgarian angle to the story.
The new knowledge aquired about MK and the positive feedback from my Bulgarian-reading friends made me translate the story into English. I then reworked it and added a few more Bulgarian voices to it of two Bulgarian friends: Elitsa Panayotova and Maria Samardjieva to give it a more Central and East European focus. I then offered the revised and rewritten version to Green Horizon in Hungary. Look up the link when the story appears.