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The official Luton Carnival logo, as designed by UK Centre for Carnival Arts
Luton International Carnival is a large carnival in Luton, Bedfordshire. The Carnival is commissioned by Luton Borough Council and is artistically produced by UK Centre for Carnival Arts, which is based in Luton town centre.
Usually taking place on the Whitsun May bank holiday Monday every year and attended by over 150,000 – 200,000 people each year, the procession starts at Wardown Park in Luton before making its way down New Bedford Road, around the Town Centre via St George's Square, and back down New Bedford Road to finish up back in Wardown Park. In 2013 and 2014, Luton International Carnival took place on the Sunday of the Bank Holiday Weekend.
The first carnival in Luton was in 1976, on a far much smaller scale than today, as a modest Victorian street fair as part of the Borough Council's centenary celebrations. The carnival developed and evolved over the years and in 1998 the Luton Carnival acquired 'international status', receiving the largest single lottery award for carnival development.
In 2000, to mark the beginning of the new millennium, Luton celebrated with an expanded three-day event with more than 140,000 revellers taking to the streets for the massive international event.
The 2007 carnival, which was due to take place on Bank Holiday Monday 28 May, was cancelled due to unforeseen, adverse weather conditions. Major flooding, following 24 hours of heavy rain, meant New Bedford Road was impassable, and the River Lea burst its banks, causing Wardown Park (where the main celebrations are held) to become waterlogged. In addition, continuing high winds meant that stages and other temporary structures were unable to be erected due to safety concerns. This was the first time that the carnival had been called off in history.
To coincide with the 2012 Love Luton festival and the arrival of the London 2012 Olympic Torch (6–9 July) the international carnival was pushed forward for a later date of 8 July 2012, to join together to form the weekend- festival alongside other annual events such as the Luton Mela, Luton Summer Festival, the Stockwood concerts, and the Festival Concerts, with headlining acts being The Wanted and Olly Murs, and other acts including Skepta and Mz. Bratt. The Olympic Torch, was carried by Lewis Hamilton Formula One driver, through the streets of Luton. The 2012 carnival had 1500 people participating in the parade which featured 37 different groups, 11 sound systems, masquerade groups, sound trucks, samba troupes, DJs and stilt walkers, all creating an eye catching and dazzling procession, demonstrating the diverse mix of arts, music and culture of Luton. A key feature of the parade was Carnival Crossroads Eastbound, an Arts Council funded project led by UK Centre for Carnival Art’s Creative Director, and consisted of 100 local community participants from each town to create one spectacular 500-participant central Brazilian-style float, and consisted of 100 local community participants from each town to create one spectacular 500-participant central Brazilian-style float.
The Luton Carnival is the second largest in the UK, with the annual Notting Hill Carnival, a two-day festival in London that attracts around a million people.
- Caribbean Carnival
- Caribbean music in the United Kingdom
- British Afro-Caribbean community
- Festivals in the United Kingdom
- Notting Hill Carnival
- West Country Carnival
- Luton International Carnival
- Luton Borough Council, Carnival
- BBC Beds, Herts and Bucks reports on the Carnival: 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 (cancelled), 2008, 2009, 2010
- UK Centre for Carnival Arts
- Luton Carnival Arts Development Trust, Registered Charity no. 1107790 at the Charity Commission