Festivals & Events
Luton hosts a range of events throughout the year. These vary from events that are internationally recognised to others that are much more locally inspired. The common thread that runs through all of them, however, is that their basis and energy are directly derived from Luton’s communities and there is a real sense of local ownership. The variety of events reflects the diversity of Luton’s population giving each a unique Lutonian flavour.
St Patrick’s festivities – Luton’s St Patrick’s Day celebrations are the largest in the region and this year took place over a week starting on 12 March with a parade through the centre of Luton. They culminated on St Patrick’s Day on 17 March with Mass and entertainment in Smith Square in the Mall. The event is organised each year by the Luton Irish Forum, is supported by Luton Borough Council and receives sponsorship from local businesses. This year an estimated 15,000 people attended the parade and entertainment.
St George’s Day – The annual St George’s Day features Morris and maypole dancing, battle enactments and displays of traditional crafts located in Luton’s newly refurbished St George’s Square. St George’s Day is organised by Luton Borough Council. This year around 5,000 people attended the events which took place appropriately on St George’s Day itself, 23 April, and was sponsored by the Love Luton campaign.
Luton International Carnival – Luton International Carnival is now the largest one-day carnival in Europe having attained international status in 1998. The annual Carnival takes place on the Spring Bank Holiday and follows a route that starts and ends in Wardown Park and passes through the centre of Luton.
The 2010 parade was the longest for several years and attracted nearly 70 groups and around 2,000 participants, with over 100,000 people attending. For the first time, the UK Centre for Carnival Arts took over the remit for marketing and sponsorship of the event.
Luton Borough Council provided logistical support (licensing, emergency planning, highways, parks, environmental health, trading standards). The event’s partners were the UKCCA, Luton Sounds Forum and the Luton Cultural Services Trust.
Luton Summer Festival – Luton Summer Festival takes place in the first or second week of August. The annual festival is hosted in the town centre, particularly focused in and around St George’s Square.
In 2010, the week’s events included community theatre, local bands, drumming, arts events, dance including local hip hop performances, Greek dancing, world music from a group from Congo, performance poetry and various children’s events. Over 3,500 attended and the event was supported by Luton Borough Council. Partners included BBC 3 Counties Radio, Polish Active Community, Community Theatre Groups, the University of Bedfordshire and PDM Music.
Luton Mela – Having started in 2000, the annual Luton Mela is now one of the UK’s largest South Asian festivals, taking place over a weekend during late summer. The Mela is organised by a group of volunteers from Luton’s Asian communities with the explicitly stated aim “to bring harmony within the community through arts, whilst representing the artistry of a diverse community.” The Mela takes place in Wardown Park and features local, national and international artistes, children’s activities, arts, as well as an array of food stands. Admission is free and in 2010 the event attracted around 15,000 people. The event is supported by Luton Borough Council and attracts the following sponsors: Herald and Post , The Mall Luton, Suits Me, Dallow Learning Community Centre, Lebara Mobile, Eventmaster International and B4U Music.
Luton Food Festival – Having started in 2009, the second Taste of Luton – Cultural Food Festival is due to take place in September 2011 in St George’s Square. The event brings together all the different cultures in Luton through a celebration of food and cultural performances.
The event attracted over 7,000 people in its first year and the event planned for 2011 is already significantly greater and will be supported by a comprehensive local media campaign to raise awareness. The 2011 event is supported by Luton Borough Council, Luton Cultural Services Trust and many local businesses.
Luton Marathon – Initiated in 1990, Luton Marathon is now a nationally recognised marathon event taking place in November each year. The marathon starts in the centre of Luton and makes three laps through Luton and the surrounding countryside before finishing once again in the centre. Money raised from the event is donated to The Pasque Hospice, a Luton based charity which provides assistance to adults and children diagnosed with a life-limiting condition. Up to 800 people and 200 teams compete. The event is held in conjunction with Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire AAA County Championships and is organised by Luton Athletic Club and Stopsley Striders.
Luton Fireworks – In 2010, Luton’s annual free Guy Fawkes fireworks display was hosted on 6 November in Popes Meadow, Old Bedford Road, opposite Wardown Park. An estimated 15,000 people attended which was one of the best attendances for many years (a 5,000 increased on the previous year). Organised by Luton Borough Council, the event was sponsored by Heart FM and came in under budget.
The Christmas lights – Towards the end of November each year Luton Borough Council organises an event for the switching on of Luton’s Christmas lights. In 2010 on November 21, Heart FM hosted a stage show in Smith Square in the Mall which began the countdown. This was then followed by a lantern parade along George Street to the Town Hall where X-Factor comedy duo Stavros Flatley and the ‘Ugly Sisters’ from the pantomime at Luton Theatre switched on the lights. A blessing was given by representatives from Luton's Churches Together and the event was followed by Luton Community Gospel Choir leading a service at the other end of George Street in Market Hill. Each year 10-15,000 people attend and the 2010’s event was sponsored by BT Infinity, Luton on Sunday , the Luton and Dunstable Express , Diverse FM, Bartham Press, the Galaxy Centre and Best Western Menzies Strathmore Hotel.
The Luton Best Awards honour those who make us proud to live in Luton and help to make it a better place to live and work. They are to recognise the work and efforts of local people, of all ages, who show courage, innovation, generosity and community spirit. Now an annual event, they were inaugurated in 2009 and take place at Luton Hoo Hotel each December. The Awards are organised by Luton Borough Council but funded through local and national sponsors. In 2010, the event was attended by more than 250 people and over 40 local companies were involved either through official sponsorship or invited as guests. The Awards attracted over 25 sponsors.
Luton International Carnival
Over 100,000 people attend the largest one-day event of its kind in Europe.
One of the most important British festivals for independent film.
Luton Arts Festival
Luton Arts Festival is a celebration of all things artistic and cultural in Luton. It strives to bring together students, local community members and national and international artists and performers work and showcase it to the people of Luton.
Luton Fringe Festival
A fringe festival focussing on visual art, music, theatre and comedy. It is an excellent opportunity to see emerging professional artists, sample experimental theatre work, experience different art forms and view music from a variety of backgrounds and genres.
Held each August, the Mela - copied from the long-standing traditions of South Asia - strengthens communities by bringing people together in a festival atmosphere where everyone can enjoy food, music and dance.
St Patricks Day
The St Patrick’s Festival is a week long celebration of Irish Culture and Heritage which gives all of Luton’s communities the opportunity to experience Irish music, song, dance and drama.
Luton Festival of Transport
Now in its nineteenth year has become firmly established on the classic vehicle calendar. With over 1400 classic cars in 2009 plus many buses, commercial vehicles, motorcycles and interesting road vehicles of all types.
Luton Cultural Food Festival
Luton is hoping to once again hold a Cultural Food Festival in the town following the success of the first event last year and we want you to tell us what you think!
Luton Summer Festival
Local bands performing their original music and bringing something different to the shoppers in Luton.
Love Music Hate Racism
Now an annual event in St George's square. Luton's diverse communities coming together for music.