Saturday, May 23, 2009

Carnival time

The sky is a clear and blue outside and I'm hoping this beautiful weather lasts until tomorrow, the day of the Luton Carnival, billed as the biggest one day carnival in the world. Last year torrential rain resulted in it being cancelled meaning disappointment for many and lost revenues for the council, trades people and sponsors.

But why do I care? I suppose I have a bit of love/hate relationship with Luton. A supporter always of the underdog, I can see that life is a bit of a struggle at times for one of Britain's least loved towns. Once possessing a rather fine town centre, the heart was ripped out of it during the 1960s to make way for a monstrous Arndale centre, replacing interesting old buildings like the Plait Hall where straw plait was traded in the heydey of Luton's traditional straw hat industry.

The railway and proximity to London brought industry to the town and with industry came ugliness. Yet even in all this industrial bleakness there are the odd gems. I work in a very fine listed building, an oasis in a rather souless industrial area.

Wave after wave of immigration has turned the town into a cultural melting pot and a rather successful one at that, where racial tension exists but mostly people work together. This rich mixture of cultures is one of the things that is showcased in the carnival not least the amazing costumes made by Afro-Caribbean groups who dance along the street to thumping sound systems on the back of trucks as the carnival processes through the unlovely streets of Luton. And it's not just the Afro-Caribbean community who join the mas clubs to make costumes, all across the area people are joining in and people come from outside the town too to show off their ideas.

It's hard being Luton, one of the 'crap towns' but I think it does carnival supremely well and my goodness it deserves a break. I can't be there tomorrow but here's hoping the sun shines on everyone.

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