It’s a celebration

Listen to this article

Janet Parker, Watch This Space’s event manager, talks all things Luton Carnival, as the spectacle prepares to celebrate 35 years…

What’s the history behind Luton Culture and Watch This Space Events?

Watch This Space event hire and production is the events team of Luton Culture. Luton Culture is a registered charity, which looks after arts, libraries and museums in Luton. We were set up in March 2008 and also produce outdoor events such as the Luton International Carnival, Summer Festival and Luton Fireworks, as well as supporting lots of community and cultural events across the town from the Luton Irish Festival to the Christmas lights switch on.

Our work focuses on increasing cultural opportunities for communities in and around Luton and we work with partners including The British Museum, Luton Borough Council, Victoria and Albert Museum, UK Centre for Carnival Arts and DanceDigital.

Watch This Space not only produces events and supports other groups in Luton in their activities; we also work outside the town. We have a wide variety of equipment of our own, including a saddlespan marquee cover, which can be used to cover our Steeldeck stage for a concert. And we work with other carnivals and organisations to advise and support them in producing their own events.

What has research from previous carnivals told you about your audience? Our audience is, unsurprisingly, drawn mainly from a 25-minute travel time to Luton, and it is varied and diverse. Carnival appeals to young and old alike! We’d like to do more research to find out more about our audience, both so we can promote to them more effectively and so we can offer a better and more tailored experience. There is a stakeholders(participants) group that works to create the vision and artistic direction for carnival, and Watch This Space helps to realise this vision.

Who is your target audience and how do you promote the event to them?

Our target audience is first and foremost the population of Luton, but as carnival is a national and international activity with multiple associated art forms, we attract carnival goers from far and wide, but especially from London and the Home Counties.

Where and when is the event taking place?

On May 30, 2011, in Luton Town Centre, Wardown Park and the area between these including The Moor and New Bedford Road.

How is the event funded?

Luton Carnival is principally funded by Luton Borough Council but Watch This Space work hard to control event costs. The carnival communities have many aspirations for the event, especially for artistic development – carnival arts include costume building, dance, and music, and so we welcome event sponsorship. We believe we have much to offer sponsors, who wish to be associated with a diverse multicultural event. We have several media partners including the local press and radio stations, but are also seeking sponsorship, as it helps to fund artistic development. Sponsors include London Luton Airport, Heart FM, University of Bedfordshire and BBC Three Counties radio. In particular, we work with the UK Centre for Carnival Arts, which has funding from the Arts Council to present a major carnival project for Carnival 2012. We also seek to realise income from a variety of trading activities from stalls and pitches to catering and expect this to become increasingly important in the present economic climate. We work with our local communities to create the event they want – part of The Big Society project!

What plans do you have for the 2011 event? How will they differ from 2010?And what plans do you have for the future? In its 35 years, how has the carnival changed?

In 35 years, carnival has grown from being a mainly local, large fun day or street party designed to celebrate Luton’s centenary as a borough, and then the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, to being a street carnival with a truly spectacular carnival parade, showcasing carnival arts and attracting large audiences. The 2011 event will have a reduced footprint from 2010 due to funding reductions, but won’t really have any less “carnival”, as most of the activity has been relocated to make better use of the area. 2012 will present its own unique challenge. With the Olympics coming to the UK, a Cultural Olympiad is also taking place and Carnival 2012 is likely to form part of a local cultural festival next year – planning is starting already but is under wraps for the present. In terms of numbers, how many visitors are you

hoping to attract?

Past Luton Carnivals have attracted large crowds and for 2011 we have in place plans to look after 80,000 people or more. But Luton Carnival is really about quality, and is designed to offer Luton’s diverse population a local and family friendly event. In practice, visitors come from far and wide, even from overseas.

What suppliers are you using and how have you chosen them?

We are still in the process of confirming our suppliers and issuing purchase orders, but security and stewarding will be provided by Absolute Event Solutions, AP Security and SB Security Solutions, while the AA will be assisting with traffic management. Suppliers are selected on the basis of providing value for money and a proven track record in meeting our needs. While price is important and always will be, excellent service and great value are also crucial. We seek quotations from a number of suppliers for all our requirements and like to work closely with them to ensure that the relationship delivers all that it should.

With two months to go, how are the plans going?

Pretty well… we still have some work to do,buttheshapeoftheeventisinplace, and most of our suppliers are confirmed or about to be. At this stage it’s about finalising all the arrangements, making sure everyone who is taking part knows what will happen and when, and what they have to do. It’s also time to ensure that our audience is well informed, so we’ll be issuing lots of information to the public about arrangements for the day such as travel and transport, and also about the entertainment that is taking place and how to locate it within the carnival footprint.

Logistically, what issues are thrown up? Does the site pose any restrictions or logistical issues?

The parkland areas of the site are fairly easy although there are do’s and don’ts to protect the area. The street areas pose more difficulties, not least because while Carnival may be on, there are residents who live or work within the event footprint who want to get on with their lives and for whom the bank holiday is just another day. Roads have to be closed,