Article from 1970 wonders what Welwyn Garden City is like in 2020

PUBLISHED: 17:13 24 April 2020 | UPDATED: 17:30 24 April 2020

Dennis Lewis MBE with Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother in Welwyn Garden City in 1970.

Dennis Lewis MBE with Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother in Welwyn Garden City in 1970.

Archant

An article published exactly 50 years ago today, in the then Welwyn Times, pondered what Welwyn Garden City would look like in 2020.

A scanned copy of the article, with the date April 24 1970 in the top right corner.A scanned copy of the article, with the date April 24 1970 in the top right corner.

The article was written by former councillor Dr Dennis Lewis, who at the time was chairman of the Welwyn Garden City Jubilee Year committee – the group which was in charge of celebrating the town’s 50th birthday.

Speaking in 2020 about the article, Dennis Lewis said: “It was an attempt to peer into the future and it is clear that I got some things right and others horribly wrong. But as Mao Tse Tung said “The art of prediction is very difficult – particularly with regard to the future!

“The celebrations in 1970 were very varied and extensive, as is this year’s. It was the year that we introduced a street carnival, there was a huge “CONTACT” exhibition which we staged in two large marquees on The Campus; about 120 voluntary and statutory organisations exhibited their wares and recruited members where appropriate. And there was a great deal of running and jumping by energetic youngsters on what had previously been the sacred greensward of The Campus (“KEEP OFF THE GRASS”).

“Best of all, Elizabeth the Queen Mother graced us with a royal visit to the town on May 30. She was due to stay for a couple of hours, but in fact stayed with us for nearly six hours. Such was her interest in the “second garden city”.

Dr Dennis Lewis MBE wrote an article 50 years ago wondering about what Welwyn Garden City would be like in 2020.Dr Dennis Lewis MBE wrote an article 50 years ago wondering about what Welwyn Garden City would be like in 2020.

“For those of reasonably advanced years: “Read and recollect!”

Below you can read the original article published on April 24 1970, titled: “Will the citizens of the future say ‘Thank-you’?”.

A sign to celebrate 100 years of Welwyn Garden City.
L-R:  Mrs Carole Trigg, Malcolm Day, Dr Dennis Lewis, Herts county councillor Lynn Chesterman, county councillor Nigel Quinton, county councillor Richard Smith, Welwyn Hatfield Mayor Roger Trigg, Welwyn Hatfield borough councillor Malcolm Cowan, Alan Willison and Gary Primrose. Picture: WGC Centenary.A sign to celebrate 100 years of Welwyn Garden City. L-R: Mrs Carole Trigg, Malcolm Day, Dr Dennis Lewis, Herts county councillor Lynn Chesterman, county councillor Nigel Quinton, county councillor Richard Smith, Welwyn Hatfield Mayor Roger Trigg, Welwyn Hatfield borough councillor Malcolm Cowan, Alan Willison and Gary Primrose. Picture: WGC Centenary.

WHAT A helluva dump to live in! This was our town, Welwyn Garden City, as seen through the eyes of a newcomer who was here for only a short time.

It is an unfortunate fact that this is also the reaction of a substantial number of people who are in, but obviously not of, the town.

We talk glibly of the community in which we live, and yet so far as Welwyn Garden City is concerned there appears on the surface to be little community spirit embracing the whole town.

New residents complain of stand-offish neighbours, the young maintain an incessant cry of “There’s nothing to do!”, And cases come to light of people, both young and old, who are desperately lonely.

Should all these problems be facing us if we were truly a community? The obvious answer is “No”.

Yet in Welwyn Garden City there is a continuous very high level of voluntary activity. Such activity covers many aspects of human physical and mental endeavour and involves sporting and recreational, cultural, political and charitable organisations, of which there are over 200 in the town,

Thousands of Welwyn Garden Citizens are involved in these activities, but thousands more do not participate in any way.

Why not? Probably there are many and varied answers to this question – shyness and diffidence, lack of interest, domestic commitment are all contributory factors.

Driving Force

A properly conducted survey would tell us what the reasons are.

We cannot build up a community spirit overnight, but having found the reasons for its absence we can at least see what can be done to improve matters.

I feel that the role of the town’s clubs and societies cannot be over-stressed. They provide the driving force for the strengthening of the sense of ‘togetherness’ in their own various small (and in some cases not so small) communities.

Community of interest leads to community of ideas. And where the organisation runs smoothly it is because the members are there not only for what they can get out of it, but also for what they put into it. So should it be with a community of communities, i.e... a town.

In my capacity as Chairman of the Golden Jubilee Committee I have had the opportunity of being involved in a town-wide venture with representatives of various sections of the town as my colleagues.

It has been an inspiration to me to see how the various sections of the community have worked as a team in order to get the Golden Jubilee celebrations off the ground.

Voluntary and statutory bodies, industry and commerce, the churches and schools are all doing their part.

The recent history of the CSS is itself a prime example of what can be achieved by cooperative effort towards a well-defined goal.

The original CSS (The Fountain Society) founded in the autumn of 1967 for a number or reasons not the least of which was its inability to invoke a sense of confidence on the part of the affiliated organisations.

The new CSS, of which I am proud to be chairman, was reconstituted in October 1968 and thanks to the financial support of the U.D.C. and the N.T,C. and not less important the support of the majority of the clubs and societies in the town, it has gone from strength to strength.

In one of its primary roles of encouraging cooperation and assisting in any way for the benefit of the community, CSS is now running a voluntary service bureau, which assists in bringing together those people offering help and those people or organisations needing help.

A particularly pleasing aspect of this is the increasing interest shown by young people in this sort of work.

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There are a number or groups of young people doing very good work around the town, and their activities do not make the headlines, in contrast to the tiny fringe minority by whose standard the whole of our young people are so unfairly judged.

Recently CSS took over nominal responsibility for CONTACT —- the Convention for Town Activities. As most people will know, at this one day exhibition nearly 100 of the local clubs and societies and the local statutory bodies will put on static and outdoor displays on May 30 in order to show the public what they do.

CONTACT provides a unique opportunity for people and organisations (represented by other people) to get together.

This year being Golden Jubilee. CONTACT 70 will indeed be something special, for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother will be going round all the stands – an indication of the regard which her majesty has for the role of the

voluntary organisations in the community.

Welwyn Garden city is a young Town. Young not only in the sense of being a mere 50 years old but also in having a very large section or the population under 18.

Theirs is the cry of “There’s nothing to do!”, and I must admit that I have a certain sympathy for them.

For the ‘unclubable’ the existence of over 200 clubs and societies means absolutely nothing.

The provision of coffee bar and general lounging and dancing facilities is seen by them as a high priority.

Recent developments such as the ‘Pop-In’ at the college and the Youth Wing at Monks Walk School may well be pointers to the future.

The council’s Social Amenities Building on the Campus, (name —Campus West?) due to be started at the end of this year will provide another partial solution.

Main trouble

However, it seems to me that the main trouble is that in general young people are not being encouraged to do something for themselves, let alone for other people.

Young people of Welwyn Garden City awake!

You have nothing to lose but your boredom!

Turning to the future, what of the next fifty years? It is obviously impossible to say with any certainty what the corresponding article in the ‘Welwyn Times‘ of April 21, 2020 will contain.

The present uncertainties about the future of local government, together with the ideas incorporated in a plethora of Government reports such as the Seebohm Report, the Skefllington Report, the Green Paper on the health services, all serve to compound the present confusion.

However, I think that there are trends apparent which can give us a first approximation to What the future holds.

On the credit side there will be a much closer relationship between statutory and voluntary bodies, especially in the social and welfare field, leading to a much greater degree of cooperation..

There will be a greater awareness by people of the need to help others. The recent welcome schemes‘ in the Town is indicative of this trend on a town-wide basis.

A greater willingness on the part of young people to ‘be involved’ will be encouraged by the schools who will greatly extend what is now badly termed ‘Civic Studies’.

There will be a revival of the crafts as part of the reaction against mass-produced goods.

Both the community as a whole and people individually will have developed more sensitive social consciences, and there will be greater concern for the underprivileged sections of the community, exemplified by the old and infirm, the poor, and the physically disabled and the mentally sick.

On the debit side, and mitigating against most of the items above, there will be even greater mobility in terms of transport, employment and housing.

There will therefore be a higher ‘turn-over’ in the town, leading to a less established society, with a consequent diminution in community feeling.

A wider range or distractions, and a greater choice of non-local recreational activities with more leisure time to pursue them, will also reduce the time which will be devoted to the furtherance of community aims.

The state becomes evermore powerful, and with the full utilisation of technology and of inventions still to come, the place of the individual in an even more complex and centralised society will leave less and less potential for the use or individual initiative.

I think that there is a very real danger that compared with today, in 50 years time the balance in social attitudes between good and bad, between concern and indifference, between idealism and materialism might well have tilted adversely. i.e... the ‘wrong way’.

Old faults and follies might be replaced by new faults and follies, possibly bigger and ‘better’.

There is this to be said for taking a sober and realistic line.

That we should, as from now, work all the harder at being a community (town. county and nation) so that these visions of 1984 and 36 years beyond do not come to pass.

We could well note our town motto, “By Wisdom and Design”, and determine to be wise enough and forward-looking enough to design a community of which our grandchildren and great-grandchildren will be proud.

The teenagers of today are the pensioners of 2020 — will they look at their community and then look back at us and say “Thank you!” or [The end of the sentence is unfortunately cut off].


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