What we’d thought we’d do is to hear from Hopeton Walker, who is the Chair of UKCCA, to tell us a little bit more about what’s happening here and what that immediate future looks like. Congratulations to Hopeton Walker for having us here today.
Firstly I’d just like to welcome you all. Some of you were here yesterday, but for those who weren’t I welcome you all to this wonderful Centre in Luton. I’ve got to thank Tola for putting me in this slot, immediately after lunch where people just fall asleep when you start to talk, so thanks very much Tola [ laughter ].
Just to tell you a little bit about the organisation. Luton Carnival Arts Development Trust began here in Luton probably around 11 years ago. We put in for a grant to create a Centre, and that Centre came into realisation probably in about 2009 when this building was opened.
A lot of things have happened since that time, culminating with our CEO leaving at the end of last year, so there are quite a number of challenges that we have in this building:
There are challenges around the actual space itself. We’ve got to make this work as a venue, make sure, irrespective of what funding we get from the Local Authority or from the Arts Council that this is here for carnival.
We’ve got to, as a Centre, be relevant to the local people, because one of the things many people in the town have said is that they’ve got no connection with here. This building actually replaced what was a Youth House, that’s where all the youth from Luton used to come and congregate and used to have a great time, so there’s a little bit of a niggle there, a little bit of resentment that there’s this nice, shiny new building with 10ft walls which is keeping them out. We’re working on that at the moment, talking with Councillors, getting involved with local community groups, getting local forums to come and use the place, just to try and make this place relevant to the local community.
The next thing we’ve got to do is to be relevant to the carnival arts community and a national community. We are setup as the Centre for Carnival Arts in the UK, which means we’re effectively something like the Royal Opera House for opera, whatever it is for an art, so we’ve got to actually be that relevant and be able to advocate for that sector.
With our CEO leaving in December it’s given us, as an organisation, an opportunity to refocus a little bit, so we’ve got a consultant in just to look at how we do things, just to make sure that it stacks up with the way other arts organisations run, and that its effective. This person isn’t from carnival they are from another art sector.
What we’ve got to do going forward, our main role as I see it, is to advocate for the carnival sector. In terms of generating funds, or pulling down funds from Government, we’ve got to be able to talk to those people in the corridors of power, to be able to say, ‘well okay if you’re giving so much to dance, so much to opera, if you’re giving so much to the ballet, what can we get for carnival? We deserve it.’
If you think about those art forms how many people actually participate and see those, compared to how many people actually participate in carnival. It’s truly an art form of the people really, and it deserves to be funded to that level.
In terms of advocacy, we’ve got to advocate to Joe Public really. I come from a Notting Hill Carnival background, and when I talk to people about carnival they say, ‘oh yeah Notting Hill’, but the reality is that Notting Hill isn’t all carnival. The beauty of the Carnival Archive Project is that it’s unearthed the history of carnival going back to the Middle Ages in the UK. I think that’s fantastic, because what that does is it gives us an opportunity to hand back to people who don’t think that carnival is theirs, we can hand that back to them and say, ‘look you are part of this carnival thing, come and join us, let’s build it and let’s all enjoy it together.’
As I say, the main focus is those two advocacy roles for me, working with the carnival sector, and working with people so that this Centre becomes relevant and is sustainable.
I think that’s it from me.
Thank you very much.