Gavin Anderson on how the idea of The Rose came to bloom

Launch of MK Rose at the Pavillion, Campbell Park.'L-R: Debbie Brock, David Foster, Gordon Young, Mike Berry, Gavin Anderson, John Moffoot.
Launch of MK Rose at the Pavillion, Campbell Park.'L-R: Debbie Brock, David Foster, Gordon Young, Mike Berry, Gavin Anderson, John Moffoot.

THE city’s newest monument will be an all-inclusive commemoration and celebration point.

Featuring 140 columns and set in Campbell Park, the aim is for The Rose to be a focal point for everyone at important moments in history, as well as providing an area for people’s personal reflections.

One of the men behind the project, The Cenotaph Trust’s Gavin Anderson, told Milton Keynes Citizen that the idea had come about following conversations about the lack of a single memorial in the city.

He said: “I had a conversation about how people laid flowers at Marks & Spencer for the Queen Mother.

“It was very similar when Lady Diana died, when Christ the Cornerstone was used.

“I had a discussion with John Moffoot, who said that it was a shame there was nowhere in CMK for people to use.”

Mr Anderson said people in MK and the surrounding area already had war memorials in areas such as Bletchley and Newport Pagnell, but that there was no place for everyone.

“We decided from the start that we weren’t going to clash with the local cenotaphs or war memorials.

“People going to their local memorials to pay their respects is a thing that should still exist. We wanted more of a public space, not just as a war memorial, but to be used as a place of commemoration or remembrance.”

The scheme developed via a series of meetings with target groups, including faith groups, the Royal British Legion and parish councils.

Along the way, including at last Friday’s launch meeting, it has attracted some criticism from people who believe Milton Keynes should have had a central war memorial rather than an all-inclusive one.

Milton Keynes Councillor for Campbell Park Isabella Fraser called The Rose a ‘betrayal’ of Britain’s war heroes, while Campbell Park Parish Council also refused to back the scheme.

And Mr Anderson admitted The Cenotaph Trust name had caused them some problems.

“We hung ourselves by using the cenotaph as an original term,” he said. “But we never intended to build a cenotaph even though we showed lots of different styles of memorial.

“The consensus seemed to be that this would be a good chance to build something where a number of things could be marked and celebrated.

“Something where people could celebrate and commemorate.”

At that point the Trust approached artist Gordon Young, who Mr Anderson had worked with on Milton Keynes Dons’ Ring of Steel project at stadium:mk in Denbigh.

Mr Young’s more famous work include Blackpool’s Comedy Carpet and the Eric Morecambe Memorial Area.

Mr Anderson said the Trust – and other groups they consulted – were so impressed with his memorial to Eric Morecambe that Mr Young was the obvious choice for The Rose.

“The feedback we got was that the Morecambe memorial was an inspiration. We didn’t want to have just a sombre place,” he said.

“We wanted a place where you could reflect, but also where you could celebrate.

“We didn’t want it to be a place that was used just once a year. We wanted to be able to encapsulate many things.”

But Mr Anderson did say The Rose is very much meant as a tribute to fallen servicemen. In fact the first column to be unveiled will recognise Britain’s war dead and will be revealed at a special ceremony at 11am on November 11 for Armistice Day.

He said: “We are not a military garrison at MK, but there are connections.

“In Wolverton, the train took soldiers to the Boer War. We have Station X, Alan Turing. We have a lot of military connections, but we are not a garrison town.

“We are trying to put a modern look on it, but I am very strongly in favour that this is about Armistice Day as well and that people can go there to recognise the two minutes silence.

“It is important that people understand the massive sacrifice that happened.”

He said the all-inclusive nature of The Rose was vital, particularly when you consider the make-up of MK’s population.

“With MK being what it is most people you meet probably come from elsewhere.

“We do have a mixed community and a fairly accepting one, with lots of different religions.

“I am not saying we are the perfect utopian place, but we are made up of a lot of cultures.

“We are also a tight knit band. People take great offence when others criticise our concrete cows or roundabouts.”

The next stage of the scheme is for the public to choose what will go on 110 of the 140 columns – 30 are being left for events not yet happened.

The Cenotaph Trust will shortly be taking the scheme out to consultation, but you can be part of the Citizen’s own debating circle by letting us know what you would like to see on The Rose via the comments section below.