The Lost City of Craigavon
“As a child I didn't notice the failure of Craigavon. The new city was an enormous playground of hidden cycle paths, roads that ended suddenly in the middle of nowhere and futuristic buildings standing empty in an artificial landscape. It had a magical quality.” says Newton Emerson.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the laying of the foundation stone in the green fields of North Armagh for what was planned as a great new city that would transform the industrial and social landscape of Northern Ireland. The new city of Craigavon was conceived as an answer to overcrowding and industrial decline in Belfast. More importantly it was to be Prime Minister Terence O'Neill's vision of a 'modern' Northern Ireland, an ecumenical worker's paradise warmed by the white heat of technology.
Forty years on, the futuristic city of Craigavon has publicly wilted between the growing towns of Lurgan and Portadown. The planners dream of a bold new way of life has disappeared.
In this documentary for BBC Northern Ireland, local man Newton Emerson (born in Lurgan, brought-up in Portadown) takes us back to the stomping grounds of his childhood and youth. In doing so he provides viewers with a celebratory, yet irreverent look at the ‘lost city’ of Craigavon as he unearths the original plans, meets the visionary architects, encounters the evicted farmers and visits the residents of the experimental city.
In the course of his journey of rediscovery Newton explores the original vision for Craigavon, creating a state-of-the-art city that would utilise every 1960s pseudo-scientific town planning concept such as recreation zones, mixed housing, cycle paths and of course roundabouts.
It tells the stories of the people whose lives were transformed by the Craigavon experiment, from the farmers whose land was vested, to the people who came to live in this planners' vision of a modern city.
The Lost City of Craigavon is a DoubleBand Films production for BBC Northern Ireland.