Flamingos fountain flashback on the 50th anniversary of Luton shopping centre

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The Arndale was first opened on January 27,1972

In the last few days, Luton Mall has been celebrating its 50th birthday. On January 27,1972, the first phase of the development of the Arndale Centre, accessible via Church Street, was opened in an official ceremony attended by well-known local broadcaster and TV cook, Zena Skinner, and BBC newsreader, Richard Baker.

A promotional pamphlet published at the time boasted “This showpiece of the south-east – containing the largest market hall within an 80-mile radius of London – is the first glimpse of shopping in the 70s – Luton-style… It is shopping at its most sophisticated”.

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For decades, local children and visitors made wishes as they threw pennies into the water feature in Central Square, pictured here. Today, the fountain with its famous flamingos is long gone, but the birds remain an unofficial emblem of Luton for many in the town.

The Flamingos in the ArndaleThe Flamingos in the Arndale
The Flamingos in the Arndale

During the 1960s Grade II listed buildings which had survived the Second World War were demolished in the name of progress to make way for the shopping centre and adjacent library. Throughout the 70s, people travelled from far and wide to visit what was, at the time, the largest undercover shopping centre in Europe.

However, the wholesale redevelopment of the town centre caused ill-feeling locally, with shopkeepers operating in Bury Park complaining to the Luton News that the town council had let them down by “ignoring the Dunstable Road area as a shopping centre and developing the town centre at their expense”.

Today, Dunstable Road remains a thriving shopping district packed with independent businesses, while the Mall continues to offer locals over 100 big name brands under one roof. The centre has, however, continued its tradition of causing controversy locally. In recent years, current owner, Capital & Regional sparked outrage when it opposed plans to build Luton Town’s new football stadium next door at Power Court. The development was nevertheless given the go-ahead and detailed plans for the site are expected to be revealed early this year.

> What's been your favourite shop in the Arndale/Mall Luton over the years? What shop(s) do you miss? Email [email protected]

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