The Hat Factory Arts Centre, Luton. Photo: Shaun Armstrong, Courtesy of Luton Culture Trust

This Friday, 6th September, sees the re-opening of the Hat Factory Arts Centre, Luton. This marks the first stage in a multi-million pound cultural regeneration project for the town. Led by the Culture Trust, Luton, this transformation will eventually see four revitalised buildings — The Hat Factory, Hat House, Hat Studios and Hat Works — creating a dynamic ‘creative cluster’.

Located in the heart of the town, the Hat Factory Arts Centre has been extensively refurbished in a move that will allow it to deliver its arts and cultural programme to larger and more diverse audiences. The Arts Centre is at the heart of the emerging Hat District Creative Cluster, where the Culture Trust, Lu­ton, is transforming old hat factories into vital creative industry workspaces, facilities and communal spac­es. The district will include new industry workspaces for people and businesses working within the creative arts, a new sound proofed music venue, a new indoor Long gallery space, along with new Beacon lounge and an expanded Hat Factory café. The variety of communal spaces will offer a place for creatives to meet and exchange ideas, with the cluster fostering creativity and asserting Luton as one of the vital arts hubs of the UK.

This cluster will provide a creative ecology in Luton which will feed and grow talent by bridging the gap between education and cultural career success. CEO of the Culture Trust, Marie Kirbyshaw, has been leading the regeneration project since the district’s closure in April 2018 and says: ‘We welcome everyone to explore the newly renovated Hat Factory Arts Centre and enjoy the spaces, artistic programme, cafés, gallery and workshops. The history of the Arts Centre, as a former Hat Factory and place for arts production and presenting, has been considered throughout the re-design. Our aim has been to make it easier to see what goes on here, to be inspired and to get involved.’

The opening ceremony on Friday evening will include a performance entitled Factory Reset, which will be an exciting collaboration between the Tangled Feet Theatre Company, Next Generation Youth Theatre, Revellers Steel Band, poet Lee Nelson and renowned aerialists Pirates of the Carabina. The performers will be suspended by wires and dangling out of the five-story Hat Factory building all moving in synch with the colourful lighting and sound.

The new district is set to aim for the creation of 158 new jobs and attract more than 135,000 new visitors to Luton by the year 2022. The venue’s programme will include visual arts exhibitions, comedy, theatre dance, children’s activities and live music.

The opening ceremony is open and free to all — 6th September 2019, performance from 20:30–21:00. No tickets are needed, please meet outside of the Hat Factory Arts Centre. In addition, the first 500 people to enter the building will receive a com­memorative and limited-edition hat pin.

Freelance journalist covering fine art, photography, film and tech. UK based

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