Luton’s vibrant entertainment scene has always been well known to locals but it’s about to make national headlines when its hosts Lutonia 2106 next March and April.
Luton Culture is bringing together an eclectic assembly of talent in its most ambitious project to date – an innovative annual word festival that aims to reach a wide audience through poetry and performance, with a galaxy of stars to put it on the map.
For a start it will be curated by local-boy-made-good Steve Abbott, who grew up on Farley Hill and went to Luton Sixth Form College. The former lead singer of post punk band UK Decay is married to broadcaster Cerys Matthews and is now a producer, manager and media consultant.
He’s convinced Lutonia 2016 will see Luton celebrated as a centre of culture and inspiration.
“We’ve created a festival that will feature talent of national and international importance,” he said.
The bill includes Mona Arshi, winner of The Forward Poetry Prize 2015, punk poet Dr John Cooper Clarke, and local actor and director Colin Salmon. In addition Dylan Thomas Society president Jeff Towns is on board, as well as Edinburgh Fringe 2015 winner Mike Garry and author Iain Sinclair.
Lutonia 2016 will also feature poet Amarjit Chandon and Somalia’s best known living author, Nadifa Mohamed – while not forgetting our own people’s poet Lee Nelson who’s made a name for himself at Glastonbury and the Edinburgh Fringe.
The former Luton Sixth Form student – co-founder of Utter! spoken word – said: “Luton is full of excellent people doing amazing things.
“I’m hoping that in bringing international talent to the town, Lutonia will shift perceptions and make people realise it’s a place where things happen. There’s always been an incredible D-I-Y spirit here and anyone who’s made it is very loyal to the town - John Hegley is always coming back and Steve Abbott has that same spirit.”
Musician and boss of jazz label 33 Records Paul Jolly agreed: “There are lots of good artistic things happening here and it will be a focus for young local talent.”
He’s organising a jazz jammer finale to close the festival on a harmonious note.
> More details from www.lutonculture.com