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The Hockey Museum has provided imagery to an exhibition celebrating the 50th anniversary of Milton Keynes. Held at in the central forum of thecentre:MK, Milton Keynes shopping centre, A New City comes to Life celebrates the stories, innovations and communities that have made Milton Keynes the vibrant city it is today.

From a hockey perspective, Milton Keynes was to become the stage for one of the more fractious occurrences in hockey’s recent history. When the Hockey Association (HA) and the All England Women’s Hockey Association (AEWHA) merged to form the English Hockey Association (EHA) in 1997, the National Hockey Stadium at Milton Keynes – which was completed just prior to the conclusion of the merger – stood as a symbol of unity between the previously disparate governing bodies. It became the offices and residence of the EHA as well as a showpiece stadium for international hockey.

MK50 exhibition panelSuch harmony was short lived however, and in 2002 the EHA was forced to suspend operations amid significant financial difficulties. The Stadium that had previously hosted the 1997 Junior World Cup and the Women’s Qualifiers for the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games would retrospectively be seen as a drain on the resources and financial resilience of English hockey. Once a source of national hockey pride, the National Hockey Stadium came to symbolise a low point for English hockey administration; a far cry from the optimism that had surrounded its construction. It ceased to be used for hockey in 2003 when it was leased to Wimbledon Football Club (now MK Dons).

The images provided by THM for the Milton Keynes exhibition reflect both sides of this story. The main image shows the Stadium in its heyday, a packed crowd enjoying a match in full swing. The two smaller images were taken shortly before its demolition. Juxtaposed against the animated match day photograph, they take on a spectral quality; devoid of people or activity, they evoke the disconsolate air and failures of the recent past.

You can learn more about the liquidation of the EHA through our oral history interviews with some of the administrators of the time. Click here.

For more information on A New City comes to Life, the anniversary exhibition in Milton Keynes, click here. It runs until 23 January.

Shane Smith, January 2017

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