'This town was built on an ideal' - mayor celebrates people of Stevenage in open letter

Stevenage Borough Council photography by Pete Stevens

Stevenage mayor, Sandra Barr - Credit: Pete Stevens

Stevenage's newly-elected mayor, Cllr Sandra Barr, shares her thoughts in commemoration of the new town's 75th anniversary.

It’s wonderful that we are able to celebrate Stevenage’s big anniversary in so many ways, after the testing 18 months that we have all lived through.

Of course, we still have to be careful as we rediscover our sense of freedom and adventure, and remember that we have a responsibility to others, but it is undoubtedly great to have events and occasions to look forward to once again. 

For me, personally, there is much to celebrate about coming to Stevenage, where I have been able to raise a wonderful family, develop a career and forge many cherished friendships over the years. I know that’s true for so many other families too who are now seeing their fourth or fifth generations building a life here.

Stevenage welch family

Eighth and ninth generation of the Stevenage Welch family - Credit: Owen Welch

This town was built on an ideal. A notion that citizens of the UK, rebuilding after nearly six years of terrible war, deserved more from life and could be literally lifted from the rubble to be given a chance to build lives of opportunity, with decent housing, places to work, places to play that were safe, clean and green and places to learn and grow. A new type of town bound by a social contract to its citizens to provide a better chance for individuals and families.

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At the time, it was the cause of much debate but it was the only proper and correct solution to the problem of housing displaced people from a city ravaged by bombing. The notion of a better life for the war generation only seemed controversial to those that opposed it. 

People who think they know of Stevenage are often amazed when they see it for the first time. Mostly at the way our green spaces sit so neatly next to our communities or at our easy to navigate road system or cycle ways. Of course, we are now having to transform a lot of our infrastructure, but new town DNA remains a virulent strain within that process and you will see recognisable features in the next generation of projects.

The cycle path in Six Hills Way in 1958

The cycle path in Six Hills Way in 1958 - Credit: Stevenage Museum

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Stevenage, however, is about its people not its buildings, and that’s what I will be celebrating on the town’s 75th birthday. We all know about the well-known faces the town has produced in sports, arts and the media, but there are so many everyday heroes in our communities who go out of their way to care for others, create opportunities for them, and generally help make life better for those who need an extra hand. 

We’ve seen many of them come to the fore over the last 18 months. That is the calibre of citizen our town was intended to help create and the fact that we are still able to see that ideal in action every day gives us all cause for hope and celebration. 

So, I will say a happy 75th birthday to our Stevenage. When you celebrate that landmark, however you choose to do it, remember that you are all celebrating each other. 

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