Our second bonus door of East of the M60’s 2021 Advent Calendar

“You and I in a little toy shop, buy a bag of balloons with the money we got…”

We have now come to our true final door of this year’s East of the M60 Advent Calendar. All being well, The Mighty Stalybridge Celtic should be playing Hyde United tomorrow afternoon which partly explains my 99 Red Balloons reference. As well as reminding me of The Voice’s dulcet tones on a match day, it was a red balloon that inspired Milton Keynes Development Corporation’s finest ever advert.

Firstly, the film shows off the town’s newest and oldest buildings. All the young people in this advertisement are active – either walking, cycling or catching a bus – to the Milton Keynes Bowl. With a red balloon in their hand.

Towards the end of the advert, they assemble with their friends in the Bowl. A sign for The Great Milton Keynes Balloon Race appears before they get ready to release their balloons. In full view of a stilt walker, we hear the countdown and – considerably more than 99 – red balloons are let go.

As well as its lavish filmography, its other highlight is the musical score by Michael Nyman. It carries the filmed footage along very well before the advert closes with “wouldn’t it be nice if all cities were like Milton Keynes?” Michael Nyman’s C.V. is no slouch either, having made several films and composed many a film score. For over 40 years, his Michael Nyman Band has graced concert venues around the world.

What makes it a great advert? Firstly, its filmography is enough to sell you the delights of the place. It looks so idyllic compared with the post-industrial dereliction of Thatcher’s Britain in the North of England. Secondly, the red balloons is on message with Nena’s 99 Red Balloons, which was released at around the same time as this advertisement. It’s enough to sell me the joys of Milton Keynes even now. (“Any excuse for a train ride, Stu.” – Ed)

Had I seen the advert first time around, the impressionable four-year-old/five-year-old me might not have appreciated the advert the same as now. I might have appreciated the oncoming Leyland National bus, or wondered why there was a shedload of balloons being set.

As a bonus within a bonus feature, I would have liked to have given you the official video of Cliff Richard’s Wired For Sound. Sadly, it is no longer available on YouTube on these shores. A shame as Sir Cliff should have really been knighted for selling the joys of Milton Keynes to me!

Selling Runcorn By The Pound is brought to you by…

  • The Letters M and K.
  • The Number 3.
  • Words and (some pictures) by Stuart Vallantine.
  • Official hot beverage partners: Taylor’s of Harrogate.
  • Music by Sir Cliff Richard, Genesis, Michael Nyman, Elland Silver Band, Supertramp, Kraftwerk, New Order, The Human League (plus several other groups and solo artistes).
  • Beer by Hydes Brewery.
  • Transport by NORTHERN, Blackburn Bus Company, Stagecoach Manchester and Stott’s Tours.
  • Posh coffee by Bob and Bert (Preston) and River Beal Café (Milnrow).

S.V., 26 December 2021.

Image by Derek Barrett, 2016 (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic).

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