Twenty seven groups of more than 800 people took part in the annual parade with thousands of people watching the event with its display of colourful costumes, music and dance to the streets. Not even the rain could stop the crowds eagerly lining the streets along the parade route and greeting roaming dinosaurs and stilt-walking sea life on St George's Square. The sun came out just in time for the parade's start, which saw the crowds swell to join Luton's biggest street party.
The Parade was started by the Mayor of Luton - Sameera Saleem, the Lord Lieutenant of Bedfordshire, Chair of Luton Rising, Javeria Hussain, local Cllrs Summara Khurshid and Deputy Chief Constable – Trevor Rodenhurst.
Cllr Saleem said: "If there is anything that shows the delight Lutonians take in their cultural diversity more than the Carnival, I've yet to hear about it. It was wonderful to see so many people taking part and watching the celebration of who we are. As ever, the costumes were stunning, the music irresistibly foot-tapping, and the smiles infectious. For one glorious June afternoon, it seemed as though the whole world had come to town, bringing laughter, colour, energy and fun for us all. I am proud to be Mayor of such a welcoming, vibrant place that embraces its differences and makes everyone, irrespective of who they are, truly feel at home."
Cllr Hussain, Chair of primary funder Luton Rising said: "What an amazing carnival it was this year. It was so great to see so many families and friends making the most of the long-awaited returning Carnival and the extended Jubilee weekend too. The event was a superb success, and Luton Rising is delighted to have helped support it and make it happen in conjunction with Luton Borough Council, UK Centre for Carnival Arts and everyone involved".
The Lord-Lieutenant said: "I have never felt more proud of the extraordinarily diverse talents of Luton people and the genuine warmth and friendship they have for each other. Luton people are an example for the rest of the world in how to blend traditions together to make vibrant and loving communities where all can feel welcome and valued ".
Local carnival group St Kitts, Nevis and Friends led the parade, joined by members of disability support service Community Choices and Robin Porter, Chief Executive, Luton Council.
He said: “Saturday had such a positive energy and vibe, and it was fantastic to be able to welcome the Carnival back into Luton's Town Centre. As the home of the UK Centre for Carnival Arts, we are proud of our linkage to Carnival and look forward to continuing to grow its reach to showcase some of Luton's amazing talents alongside national and international artists.”
A Luton-based support group for people with visual impairment wore beautiful Butterfly wings navigating the accessible parade route with ease.
Professional Carnival groups also featured in the parade with jaw-dropping costumes and performances from renowned Luton-based group Rampage Mas Band, featuring young local talent. Antoin Akkpom Achievements foundation, Carambola Arts, Xtreme Mas and Sensational
Vibes from Leicester Carnival collaborated in tribute to legendary costume designer and forefather of Luton Carnival, Lincoln Rahamut with a mesmerising showcase of some of his iconic costumes.
There were some poignant first-time entries by local community and youth groups. Carnival group, ALIF New Beginnings, supported children from Luton's Afghan refugee community got to experience Luton Carnival for the first time after being in the country for less than a year. Tokko Youth Space's OK2B Group, accompanied by the newly formed Pride In Luton, made their first appearance at Carnival. Young members of OK2B worked with UK Centre for Carnival Arts (UKCCA) to design and make costumes representing the LGBTQ+ community showcasing them in Carnival. UKCCA will continue to support both groups to prepare a second showcase in Luton's first Pride event on June 25.
Michael Nanton-Knight and Kelsie Holdstock, Co-chairs of Pride In Luton, said: "This was Pride in Luton's first public appearance since we formed as a group. The atmosphere was electric. We can't thank the team at UKCCA enough for their support and allyship to the LGBTQ+ community in Luton and making us feel welcome and included."
Lizzie Bottrill, Tokko Youth Leader, said: "We absolutely loved the opportunity to take part, especially as it was the first time the LGBTQ+ community has been represented – what an honour!"
Students from Chantry Primary Academy had a fantastic day showcasing their African culture-inspired costumes they designed and made as part of UKCCA's National Children's Carnival week. Chantry student Daniel, aged 10 said, “I loved taking part in the carnival, especially
as it was in my home town! All the vibrant colours, the breath-taking costumes and high energy levels made it an amazing day and I’m so glad I got to take part- it’s not something I’d normally do but it was awesome!”
Chair of UKCCA, Hopeton Walker, said: "It was a joy to see carnival return to the centre of Luton this year, to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee; our emergence from shadows of Covid-19; and a celebration of our commonwealth as the diverse community of Luton. Thanks also to our schools and carnival community, and all those who worked in the background to ensure that we had a fabulous and safe event.”
Students from Chantry Primary Academy, Southfield Academy and Whitefield Academy accompanied members from Luton groups Rampage Mas Band, Victorious Mas Band, St Kitts, Nevis and Friends, Luton Sickle Cell Thalassaemia Mas Band and the UKCCA team to support the internationally renowned Mahogany Carnival Arts in the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Pageant in London on Sunday.
To look back on this year's event and find out more about the work of UKCCA, visit www.carnivalarts.org.uk or check our UKCCA's Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.