The Luton Project
Artists / Contributors
Tim Bailey and Andrew Hunt
John Paul Bichard
Mark Hammond and Gavin Turk
Mad as a Hatter
Thrilled Skinny / The Knockouts
Stephen Whiting / Clod Magazine
This project was originally conceived in 1998/99. It contains a number of artists, musicians, and comedians who originate from, or have a link to Luton or South Bedfordshire. My first attempt at realising the project was part of a joint curatorial venture with the artist Mark Hammond. We spoke to The Artezium, a new Lottery Funded arts centre in Luton town centre, but by the time we had written our proposal it had announced its closure. The local press referred to the arts centre and exhibition space, situated in an old hat factory, as a 'white elephant'. Apparently no one in the area was interested in it.
When Mark and I were told that the organisation was to close, we started plans to illegally stage our event in the vacated building. The idea was to squat the empty premises and ask the nearby community group 'Exodus' to organise an impromptu opening party in the bus station nearby, but this didn't happen either.
Since then I've continued to add potential participants to the list, while other friends and colleagues have attempted to resurrect the project without success. Andrew Kingston, formerly of the band Thrilled Skinny (seminal Luton pop outfit), now of The Knockouts, was the most recent person to attempt to bring the project to life. Strangely, his series of events were to be hosted by a new arts centre situated in the same building as the failed Artezium; the new, aptly named, 'The Hat Factory.'
Since the nosedive of Andrew's plans, there have been some unusual but exciting developments. In a poll of UK's 'Crap Towns' in late 2004, Luton was voted top of the list as the worst town in the country. Around the same time as this announcement I bumped into Mark Hammond for the first time in a few years. He invited me to an opening of a show organised by a young curator called Ross Downes. After meeting Ross, I discovered that we had both been brought up on the same street in Houghton Regis. Reeling from this coincidence, I decided to revisit the project one more time.
At present, part of the existing proposal will form a small section in John Russell's Frozen Tears III, a book planned for release in Death Valley in late 2005. I like the idea of the book being launched in a desert - an inhospitable virtually life free environment. As for the still unrealised exhibition, I'm considering dividing it into a number of sections organised by guest curators. I suppose we'll just have to wait and see what happens.