Can Luton become UK City of Culture 2025?

Luton Carnival in 2010
Luton Carnival in 2010

Ambitious plans for Luton to make a bid for ‘UK City of Culture 2025’ are to be presented to councillors next week.

On Monday, Luton Borough Council’s overview and scrutiny board will be presented with the report ‘Strategic Vision for the Arts, Culture and Creative Industries in Luton – 2017 to 2027’.

The strategy has been drafted by consultants ArtReach, who state their vision is: “Building on the strengthens of the cultural scene ... with the culminating goal of developing a bid for UK City of Culture by 2023.”

ArtReach were appointed by the council as part of the £1.5m Luton Investment Programme in 2015. Key goals of their strategy include:

< Establishing a new creative forum

< Appoint a high level cultural enabler

< Establish a local arts funding stream

< The preparation of two major funding bids in 2017

< Develop a UK City of Culture in 2023 for 2025

It’s anticipated a ‘cultural enabler’ will need to be hired in order to achieve these goals.

Luton Borough Council state: “In total, the estimated level of funding required from the council for the first three years for the cultural enabler post and an annual contribution to the new local arts fund would be £110k.”

It is expected this £110,000 would in turn enable match funding from The Arts Council.

However, extra funding will still be required. LBC state: “Beyond the medium term, there will be the need to develop and secure funding to support the development of the 2023 bid for UK City of Culture. A detail project plan will be developed for the bid subsequently.”

Reactions to the proposals from members of the public were mixed after news of it was shared online by the H&P.

Russell George highlighted the economic boost Hull had enjoyed as a result of its 2017 City of Culture status – estimated to have been at around £60m.

Still others pointed out Luton’s lack of city status as a potential barrier to making a successful bid.

Rach Warwick tweeted to the Herald & Post that she would support the bid, but questioned whether the town would need city status.

Sarah Robinson posted: “They spent thousands on that [2012 city status] bid - the winner spent hardly anything. Campaign was a waste of money.”

Sheridan Robbins added: “I feel like Luton has much bigger issues than whether it is a city or not. Surely ironing out issues comes first.”

The plans will be discussed at Luton Town Hall on Monday at 6pm.