Harlow was built following the effects of World War II, in order to decrease the overcrowding in London. The developments were situated around Old Harlow, and the developed space became known as Harlow New Town.
Designed by Frederick Gibberd, aspects of archeology, landscaping and roadworks were all condensed to create a ‘utopia’ of urban activity within the new town. However, Gibberd carefully researched and developed his plans with a gentle respect for the natural space around us, using the rolling hills as a shoulder for the community to nestle into, which not only gave the residents a nice view but was also intended to restrict the development of the town from travelling too far afield. Large natural spaces were used to divide the town’s neighbourhoods, which were known thereafter as ‘Green Wedges’, which further enhanced the rural feel within the town. Each neighbourhood possessed it’s own retail and community facilities, as well as pubs, allowing them to be independent. Furthermore, the town possessed an extensive network of cycle tracks in order to accommodate the large number of people who travelled by bicycle rather than cars, at that time.
The surroundings of Harlow include protected land, called Green Belt land, which has origins around London. This concept was developed to contain built up areas from over-spreading, and this limits the expansion of the town in a positive way. As well as this, the River Stort flows through Harlow, which parts to create pools, ponds and streams throughout the town, creating an range of atmospheric, wildlife-infused areas. These are typically uncommon qualities for such an urbanised space to have, but link back to Gibberd’s ideologies of natural spaces, enforced initially via the use of Green Wedges.
Initially, the culture of Harlow was predominantly focused on the development of manufacturing and providing jobs for the people of the town, which was such an important aspect of the community that residents were required to work in Harlow to live there. The first manufacturing business within Harlow was a biscuit factory, based in the Pinnacles industrial estate, which provided employment to residents for upwards of fifty years (with a peak employment of five hundred at any one time) before it’s closure in 2002.
This self-sufficient, idealistic environment has transformed greatly to become what is now predominantly a base for commuting, be that to London or Stansted, amongst other less significant connections local to the town. These are encouraged by the network of public transport, including extensive bus services travelling outside of the town (to locations such as Bishops Stortford, Stansted etc.) as well as two train stations. While Harlow Mill train station is often overlooked, the Harlow Town station is well recognised, and has enough demand that it is included in the stops on several express lines. Although still a hub for retail activity, Harlow is decreasingly a place for manufacture or substantial career, and is more-so a residential environment today.
With residential appeal, Harlow welcomes a wide variety of cultures. Despite the media presenting the town as being a racist community following acts of violence against foreign individuals, the town remains a home to a variety of cultural differences, and embraces this. The relatively small town is home to several permanent gypsy camp sites – a community often rejected and disapproved of by alternative locations. Furthermore, the town centre hosts a wide variety of shops, including supermarkets owned by and supporting Eastern Europeans and Pakistanis, amongst others. The market for alternative cuisine is a significant sign that a selection of cultures are thriving in Harlow, suggesting that the perception offered by the media is incorrect.
Harlow offers an education system that supports individuals throughout their learning career. With facilities ranging from pre-school to university spanning the town, Harlow is an enticing location for parents or parents-to-be, offering a potentially highly reputable education. Harlow College, for example, is a highly commended college offering a wide variety of courses, including several that are rarely seen elsewhere, with quality supporting facilities.
The documentary series ‘Educating Essex’ was produced in order to investigate social cliches and stereotypes, and was based at secondary school Passmores, located in Harlow. The ‘fly-on-the-wall’ show was highly enjoyed by a wide audience as a comical portrayal of life in the education system, be that as a teacher or a pupil. However, criticism was received as the series presented profanity on behalf of both teachers and students, bullying and even teen pregnancy. Whilst many saw this as simply a television show, some individuals believe it was irresponsible for those featured in the programme to allow their home town to be presented so negatively within the media through their actions. Following the closure of the series, a student, Dean, was also seen on a series detached from Educating Essex – Life on the Dole. Although this may suggest a negative progression, personalities such as Victoria Beckham and Jade Goody originated in this small little town and progressed to become successful, and are considered celebrities.
Sculpture and arts culture – Playhouse, Galleries, Studios etc
Future predictions – housing developments, new cinema, lack of shops in town centre, decrease in retail
Personal views – education, life in harlow, entertainment in harlow