Sir Nicholas Serota, Chair of Arts Council England, visited the University of Bedfordshire as part of an organised trip to Luton.
During the day, Sir Nicholas Serota explored some of the town’s key cultural hotspots and met with representatives from Luton Borough Council, The Culture Trust, Revoluton Arts, UK Centre for Carnival Arts and the University of Bedfordshire to discuss learnings and successes for future arts funding as part of the organisation’s Let’s Create vision for 2020-2030.
Reflecting upon his visit to Luton, Sir Nicholas Serota said: “Arts and creative industries have become such an important part of this country, both economically and socially, and I think smaller towns like Luton can play their part.
"Despite challenges such as its proximity to London, I think Luton is a place with huge potential. We want to see Luton prosper so I have every reason to believe that Arts Council should be supporting the ventures here.”
With a significant presence in the town, the University of Bedfordshire is one of Art Council England’s key partners and through the University’s Arts and Culture projects team, based within the Centre for Academic Partnerships, they have supported funded projects together since 2016.
The most recent collaboration was the nationally significant TestBeds project, an innovative artist skills development ‘incubator’, specifically designed to support and develop the needs of Luton’s diverse artistic community.
Through the work of TestBeds, the Arts and Culture team have supported local artists to apply for funding worth ￡916,374, with ￡501,472 secured for creative and cultural projects based within Luton itself.
“I am really proud of the TestBeds model in demonstrating how universities can utilise their skills and knowledge to be hands-on partners to the creative sector,” said Emma Gill, Arts & Creative Projects Manager at University of Bedfordshire.
“We have such an abundance of rich cultural diversity and artistic quality here in Luton but if we’re not careful, we run the risk of losing these artists. Luckily, through our close working relationship with The Culture Trust and Luton Borough Council, we have worked together to make sure that local creatives have collective support in order to thrive and ultimately stay and create in Luton – and Sir Nicholas Serota’s visit has helped shine a light on this.”
After touring the Hat District, Sir Nicholas Serota’s visit culminated with a diverse artist roundtable held at the University’s new STEM Building where local multidisciplinary artwork was on display.
Artists were encouraged to voice their experiences of local arts funding and discuss future avenues for Arts Council England to explore.
Artist Nicole Mollett who has been engaged in Test Beds since 2018 said: “The programme has been so beneficial to me and has continued to provide me with an excellent support structure to discover local inspiration.
"Culture happens everywhere in Luton and you’re just as likely to witness art happen in a children’s playground or at a pub as you are in a traditional gallery setting, which is much more interesting.”
Local artist and arts therapist Moriam Grillo said: “Although the arts community here is big, growing and relevant, I’ve witnessed clusters of ‘hidden groups’ across Luton which still don’t engage. But with the Arts Council’s new Let’s Create remit, I’m hoping we can change this, as the key message of the project is that everybody is creative and should have access to creative arts.”
The University will continue to work closely with Arts Council England and other creative partners in Luton and Bedfordshire as part of the Let’s Create vision.
University of Bedfordshire Senior Scriptwriting Lecturer Toby Norways has been named one of five winners of the national screenwriting competition ‘Twisted Tales in Lockdown’.
Emergency funding to help support local artists has been successfully secured from Arts Council England (ACE) thanks to a collaborative effort by the University of Bedfordshire, Luton Borough Council and a number of creative charities.
Ahead of the International Day of Yoga on 21st June, University of Bedfordshire’s Get Active team are celebrating a 94% uptake of their online yoga offering since lockdown began.
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