Milton Keynes - Culture


The open air National Bowl is a 65,000 capacity venue for large scale events.

The 1,400 seat Milton Keynes Theatre opened in 1999. The theatre has an unusual feature: the ceiling can be lowered closing off the third tier (gallery) to create a more intimate space for smaller scale productions. There are further performance spaces in Bletchley, Wolverton, Leadenhall, Shenley Church End, Stantonbury and Walton Hall.

The town's public art gallery (Milton Keynes Gallery beside the main theatre) presents free exhibitions of international contemporary art.

In Wavendon, on the southeast edge of the town, The Stables provides a venue for jazz, blues, folk, rock, classical, pop and world music. It is closely associated with jazz artists Cleo Laine and the late John Dankworth. The venue also hosts an annual summer camp for young musicians.

Another music venue is The Pitz Club in the Woughton Centre, Leadenhall. It usually features a mixture of punk, alternative rock, and heavy metal.

There are two museums: the Bletchley Park complex, which as well as housing the museum of wartime cryptography, also hosts the National Museum of Computing including a working replica of the Colossus computer, and the Milton Keynes Museum, which includes the Stacey Hill Collection of rural life that existed before the foundation of the new town.

The town also has a literature scene, with groups like Speakeasy meeting regularly and hosting performance events, and the town's only poetry magazine, Monkey Kettle coming out twice a year. In addition, two performance poetry groups exist in the town – Poetry Kapow!, an offshoot of Monkey Kettle though now independent of the parent organisation, specialising in live, multi-discipline, interactive poetry/art/music events, usually featuring slams; and Tongue in Chic, a regular open mic poetry event which features headline poets such as Rachel Pantechnicon and John Hegley. Between them, the two groups supply members of Bardcore, a semi-professional group of 4–6 poets who work collaboratively on performance poetry projects.

In May 2011, the outgoing Mayor, Debbie Brock announced the appointment of Mark Niel as the first official Milton Keynes' Poet Laureate.

In July 2010, Milton Keynes' first independent Central Arts Centre was opened by Radio One DJ Jo Whiley. The centre is regenerated from the disused Central Bus Station and former Chicago Rock Cafe. It is home to the existing "Buszy" Skate Plaza, which is where the name for the regenerated venue has come from. It is managed and operated by Make a Difference a community interest company which in 2011 was awarded a "Big Society" award for their positive activities and opportunities for young people and the wider community. The Buszy is the social enterprise arm of Make a Difference. All profits raised by the cultural activity at the venue are re-invested into Make a Difference. The venue hosts independent cinema, live performance, gigs, art shows/exhibitions, dance activity, a thrift shop, office and conference facilities and the city's only social enterprise hub.

Milton Keynes also boasts several choirs – the OU Choir, the Milton Keynes Chorale, the New English Singers, the Cornerstone Choir, Quorum, and others, along with a variety of amateur drama groups, and amateur musical theatre groups.

In 1981, the main shopping area in the town centre was used as the filming location for the music video to Cliff Richard's hit Wired for Sound. Milton Keynes Forum is the registered civic society for the town.

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