The story of making Unexpected:MK 'real'

November 20, 2016

It’s been a busy few weeks, hence not managing to post on here as regularly as I’d like to. But I have a good excuse I hope, as I’ve been focusing on getting the MK50 photo book – official title Unexpected:MK – off to print! It’s been a mammoth task since we finally made the decision to go ahead with the production in early September, having confirmed almost two thirds of the required sponsorship from local businesses.

We were reasonably confident that we could pull in the remaining funds. And sure enough – with Milton Keynes Council coming on board as our 15th and final sponsor literally the day before Unexpected:MK went to print - we achieved the full amount of £8,500! Once again thank you so much to all of you, as without you this project would simply never have happened.

From early September to the 22nd October was a total whirlwind. Firstly we had to select the final 50 images, which was no easy task, and decide which order they should go in – aiming roughly to cover Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter in that order. I then had to work out which sections of the new Heron Maps’ 2017 Milton Keynes map we were going to need to accompany each one – so readers can see where each image was taken – as well as getting the old 1969 map scanned for the inside front cover.

On top of this I also decided that 10 of the 50 spreads should include images which related to the old Milton Keynes maps from the 70s onwards, so that involved going through all of the archives at MK City Discovery Centre to choose the correct sections from those. Each one depicts an area of MK where an iconic building was being planned, or a dotted line where a lake was going to be created, and these maps then sit alongside an image of how that landmark looks today. Once all of the map sections were chosen, I then had to arrange the correct licenses from Ordnance Survey, as the early maps were based on their mapping.

We then moved into the design phase, working closely with the amazing team at Shine Creative to brief them on the ideas I’d had already, and then to refine the initial creative ideas down to the finished chosen design for the dust jacket and the inside pages. It was brilliant to see it finally all come together after thinking for so long about what it might look like. Choosing the images for the front cover was also another challenge, but we got there in the end and I’m absolutely delighted with the result.   

During this time I also had to work with all of the sponsors, to get high quality files of their logos for inclusion on the sponsors page, and pass these on to Shine to check and add to the artwork. The next task was to get an ISBN number for the book, so that it can be sold commercially if an opportunity arises. I’m currently in talks with Waterstones on that, and they are just waiting to see a final copy before making their decision – so fingers crossed there. It was very exciting to finally get the ISBN number and barcode, and to be able to include that on the dust jacket – making the whole thing look very ‘real’ and professional!

My final job before the book could go to print was to add all of the ‘blue dots’ to the maps – similar to the blue dots on Google Maps – to show the exact spot I was standing in when each image was taken. Many of these were easy, but on a few of them I either couldn’t remember – as I started shooting for this a year ago – or I just wasn’t sure of the exact spot. So my wonderful husband and I spent a whole weekend going round trying to track down all of the remaining ‘blue dot’ locations, so we could add them to the maps! We got there in the end, but a couple were very elusive, especially in the parks, and by rivers and canals.

I did a final visit to Shine on the 20th October, to sign off all of the printers proofs of the pages and also check a blank ‘dummy’ of the final book – with all 108 pages bound into the hardback cover and a digital proof of the dust jacket attached. We made a few last minute adjustments and then that was that – it all went off to print on the 21st October, before I went off for a well-earned two week cruise across the Atlantic the next day! The copies will be delivered back to me on Monday 5th December, ready for me to distribute to all of the sponsors – each of whom will receive 25 copies per £500 worth of sponsorship.

In the last few days before everything went to print, I was also delighted to find out that two of the images from the book had received bronze recognition in the 2016 Epson International Pano awards - so that meant a bit of last minute updating of my bio on the dust jacket, and also adding a line of text to the two pages with those images on, which was a nice problem to have!

Then at the 11th hour I was asked by Milton Keynes Council if they could buy an additional 600 copies of the book for them to distribute throughout 2016 at various MK50 events – meaning that over 1,200 copies of the book are now being printed! That was a great end to this stage of the process, and now I just can’t wait to see a copy of the finished thing.

Once I have received all of the copies, Unexpected:MK will be available for sale at the Milton Keynes Visitor Information Centre near John Lewis/Next by door 13 of the centre:mk – for £19.99, from Tuesday 6th December. I’ll be announcing any other outlets as they come on board, and also details of how to buy online. In the meantime you can pre-order Unexpected:MK in person at the Visitor Information Centre for the special price of £15.

Thank you for reading this rather long blog post, and huge thanks to everyone who helped us to get this far. It’s been hard work, but great fun too – and even though we’ve now gone to print, of course I haven’t stopped taking photos of gorgeous, and unexpected, Milton Keynes! Beyond that, I'm now just deciding what my next MK project is going to be . . .