Luton Carnival takes centre stage

On a wave of vibrant dancing, elaborate costumes and exhilarating music from across the globe, thousands of carnival lovers celebrated the grand opening of the UK Centre for Carnival Arts (UKCCA), in Luton last Sunday.

Youngster enjoying the Luton Carnival
Youngster enjoying the Luton Carnival

The £7.3 million facility is the first national centre dedicated to encouraging artists and promoting Carnival. The Centre was launched with a celebratory extravaganza featuring roof-top dancers, steel-pan musicians, circus artists and five spectacular Carnival Queens representing the five continents.

Following more than six years of development, the UKCCA will provide world-class facilities for Carnival Arts and artists of all forms, from music, dance and theatre to circus arts, costume-making and stagecraft. The Centre is open to everyone from international carnival artists to school children eager to learn about and participate in this unique, multicultural art form.

Paul Anderson, executive director of the UKCCA said: “I am thrilled that we were able to launch our new Centre with a celebration truly reflective of the spirit of Carnival; local, national and international carnival artists coming together with the community to create something spectacular. Around one in five adults in the UK has visited a carnival in the past 12 months (Taking Part Survey Arts Council England April 2008), and the UKCCA will provide a much-needed home for this inspirational, under-recognised art form. We hope the Centre can draw more people to this truly unique, 365 day a year art form.”

In addition to promoting excellence in Carnival Arts, the UKCCA will play an important role within the community. It will offer work experience and practical workshops to young people and education groups, providing ways of building confidence, self esteem and pathways to higher education and employment.
The UKCCA has also been designed to provide a hub for the development of Carnival Arts into trade ventures, and will offer business advice to help artists and enthusiasts turn their passion into enterprise.

The principal funders for the UKCCA include the Arts Council England, East; the East of England Development Agency; GO-East; the European Regional Development Fund; and Luton Borough Council.

Barbara Follett, Minister for Culture and East of England said:  “The Centre is a focus for cultural excellence in one of the most disadvantaged towns in the East of England.  The Centre brings people of all ages, and backgrounds, together to have fun and create beautiful things.   At the same time they are gaining skills which will help them to contribute to both the cultural wealth and the economy of our region.”

Andrea Stark, executive director, Arts Council England, East said: “The UKCCA will create jobs, enhance skills, and attract international talent and new visitors. It is part of the exciting portfolio of world-class arts centres that the Arts Council, together with other partners, is investing in, to bring great art to everyone.”
Deborah Cadman, chief executive of EEDA said: “UKCCA will support and create new businesses associated with Carnival and provide training opportunities. Small businesses like this are at the core of entrepreneurial spirit that will help bring the region out of recession. The Centre is a testament to the commitment and effectiveness of EEDA working closely with the Arts Council and other sponsors to bring a world-class Centre of expertise in Carnival Arts to the East of England.”

Hazel Simmons, Leader of Luton Borough Council, said: “The opening of this truly world-class Centre in the heart of Luton will go a long way towards improving the lives of so many people through the creation of jobs and training, showcasing of local talent, and putting Luton on the map as the cultural capital of the South East.”

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