Lewsey Farm 12 Months On

This time last year I was working in Brixton and chatting with people from the area. When they found out I was from Luton they gave me funny looks and asked how things were up there. I didn’t really understand what they meant – I knew there had been some trouble in Luton over the previous months but didn’t realise it was far reaching. The news of gang rivalry between the Marsh Farm and Lewsey Farm Estates (where I grew up) of Luton had travelled to, and shocked the people of, Brixton. I was amazed that the people of Brixton (somewhere I had always associated with trouble, the riots of ’81 and “Bloody Saturday” considered Luton to be an unsafe place to be, whether living there or visiting – “I’ve got friends up there and I won’t go there !” was just one comment) would be interested or shocked at little old Luton.

The idea of Luton being a rough, but more to the point, unsafe, place to visit surprised me. I gave it some more thought and started a photodocumentary on the area where I grew up. Lewsey Farm never seemed unsafe to me but maybe that’s because it’s where I grew up, it’s where I played knock down ginger as a kid, I knew the area and I knew the escape routes should I need them, so maybe my familiarity with the area was giving me a false sense of security. I decided to get around and meet a few shop owners in Dominic Square – you know the type of place, local shops, small supermarket, a betting shop and a bakery, where Grandad gets his paper in the morning and where kids in hoodies on BMXs sit around and talk when it gets dark.

Bringing home the bacon
Bringing home the bacon

I spoke to 3 or 4 of the shop owners and they all confirmed what I thought – that Luton and more to the point Lewsey Farm was not full of racketeers and gangsters terrorising the local people. So had the press blown things out of proportion ? This was very possible but there was evidence to back up the bad stories the people of Brixton had heard. On 5th September 2012 Delaney Brown, a 19 year old man from Lewsey Farm was mown down by a car mounting the pavement and knocked off his bike, he later died in hospital. This sparked a number of tit for tat attacks and fatalities between youths from Lewsey Farm and youths from Marsh Farm. The trouble and tensions went on for about 6 months, there was a lot of news coverage and sitting down to watch the 6 o’clock news I would be wondering what the next Lewsey/Marsh Farm story was going to be.

Delaney Brown Snr speaking at a Rally for Peace at Luton Town Hall in June 2013
Delaney Brown Snr speaking at a Rally for Peace at Luton Town Hall in June 2013

Over the first few months of 2013 there was a huge police operation and it combined with community leaders in and around Luton to combat crime on the two estates. Armed fire arms officers were patrolling the streets during the day and at night, community leaders were out and about on the streets talking to kids, the local radio got involved and ran programs dedicated to the subject and a rally was held in Luton Town Centre to bring awareness of the troubles and the ongoing fight to bring law and order to the streets of the town. All in all a huge effort was being made to calm things down.

A year on and I think things have calmed down, Luton is very rarely on the 6 o’clock news so I no longer have that dreaded sinking feeling when it starts. I had a cup of tea and sat and talked to Kath who works in the bakery while I was at Dominic Square yesterday. She’s been working at the bakery for a year, she’ll be 60 next month and would have been looking forward to retirement if the retirement age hadn’t been extended to 67 by the government. She gets up at 6 every morning to be at the bakery for 7 to arrange the loaves and cakes for the days trade, she lost her husband after a long illness 4 years ago after nursing him for 10 years and has been forced back to work but as most people around here she would rather get up at 6 and trudge through the rain and snow than sit at home and claim benefits. And I think Kath is the type of person that sums up Lewsey Farm, hard working, honest, tough but all the time doing it all with a smile on her face. I take my hat off to Kath and all like her in and around Lewsey Farm.

dominic-sq-kath
Kath

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Love Luton ! Love Lewsey Festival – LU4 !

I thought I would let the pictures and short captions tell today’s story –

This - for me - sums up what Luton and Lewsey Farm are about ... the positives !
This – for me – sums up what Luton and Lewsey Farm are about … the positives !
I'll do snakes but I won't do spiders - this little fella was much braver than me !
I’ll do snakes but I won’t do spiders – this little fella was much braver than me !
Yours' truly - as you can see - I'm happy holding a baby Albino Burmese Python - who will grow to between 14 & 18 ft and riple his weight.
Yours truly – as you can see – I’m happy holding a baby Albino Burmese Python – who will grow to between 14 & 18 ft and triple his weight. (photo courtesy of Mrs M)
Chillllll .....
Chillllll …..
If only my fella would do this ...
If only my fella would do this …
Young love !
Young love !
FANTASTIC street dance !!
FANTASTIC street dance !!
Working for the community - in the community - YOUR SAY, YOUR WAY
Adam Divney – Project Manager with Luton Council – working for the community – in the community – YOUR SAY, YOUR WAY
2 on 1
2 on 1
BoxFit - these girls (and guy) did 40 mins in the mid afternoon sun - well done !!
BoxFit – these girls (and guy) did 40 mins in the mid afternoon sun – well done !!
Tim runs the Waltzer - he's a very busy guy - once he's finished on the waltzer today - he'll be setting up the dodgems for tomorrow - all before he gets some shut eye - 2 hours sleep last night - I think he deserved that fag !
Tim runs the Waltzer – he’s a very busy guy – once he’s finished on the waltzer today – he’ll be setting up the dodgems for tomorrow – all before he gets some shut eye – 2 hours sleep last night – I think he deserved that fag !
Whooooosh ! Taking in the sights while the kids get dizzy !
Whooooosh ! Taking in the sights while the kids get dizzy !

Great day today ! For me – the helper and old gent are what Luton is all about. It’s a culturally diverse town, there are by far more positive things to talk about than you see on the news. If you tell someone outside of Luton you are from the town and proud of it – they look at you like you are mad – helper and gent show what Luton (and Lewsey Farm) are all about – living in harmony – irrespective of race, creed or colour !

Steve

PS please leave a comment – I’d love to know what you think !

Rally for Peace – Luton

Positivity was overflowing on the steps of Luton Town Hall this afternoon. Community Leaders, Faith Leaders and ordinary folk came together to show solidarity in the understanding there is more to Luton than the negative headlines in the press of recent months. Probably the most inspirational speaker was Delaney Brown Snr – his grandson was killed in September last year as part of the gang feud between Lewsey Farm (LU4) and Marsh Farm (LU3) – Delaney Jnr had gone to school with Kyle Beckford – they joined different gangs and Beckford ended up mounting the curb in a car, mowing Brown down and killing him. Beckford was jailed for 24 years in May this year. Delaney Snr spoke eloquently on the shocking events of Jnr’s death and what needs to be done – and is being done – to turn things around. His positive words about the community groups that gathered this afternoon and the huge amount of work Bedfordshire Police did in the investigation to bring his killer to justice were truly inspirational.

Delaney Brown Snr
Delaney Brown Snr

Dare I say it but things have quietened down regarding gang related trouble recently – the police launched a big operation recently to raid houses of suspected gang members on both the Lewsey Farm and Marsh Farm estates – numerous arrests were made and numerous weapons recovered. I’d like to think the intervention of the police and the positivity coming from this afternoon’s speakers has made a difference and things have indeed quietened down. Superintendent David Boyle made the point that things seemed more calm on the streets but the police were not taking their eyes off the ball and work was still on going to both calm situations and bring recent event perpetrators to justice.

Superintendent David Boyle
Superintendent David Boyle

Victor Evelyn (otherwise known as BLAPPS – Better Living And Positive Propaganda Society) and his friends roam the streets of Marsh Farm through the night and into the early hours of the morning – as a kind of community support team. They interact with the kids and if need be do their best to quash the spark of trouble. BLAPPS told me they are not a vigilante crew but are there as community elders ready with a video camera to work with the police should things get out of hand.

BLAPPS
BLAPPS

Many leaders of various groups got up on the steps of the town hall to speak – all with the same positive message – here are some of them here – along with some of the crowd that gathered.

Pastor Lloyd Denny
Pastor Lloyd Denny
Leeroy Jenkins (R)
Leeroy Jenkins (R)

I’d like to thank Leeroy Jenkins on the right in the picture above for bringing the rally to my attention – he does a huge amount of work with many youth groups in Luton and I’ll be attending the next Luton in Harmony meeting thanks to him.

PART of the crowd
PART of the crowd

DSC_6128

 

I’d like to thank everyone that got up to speak today ! Without these guys working with the kids on the streets of Luton it would undoubtedly be a horrible place to live. There have been some terrible things happen in Luton recently but with the positive attitude of everyone at the rally today Luton will pull through. Best of luck with everything and I look forward to meeting you all again soon.

Steve

 

Dominic Square and Shop 33

Dominic Square
Dominic Square

I’ve had a very busy week with work and didn’t think I was going to get around to visiting the businesses up at Dominic Square but I was determined to do it yesterday afternoon and I’m glad I did – I met some great people and had a good laugh at the same time.

After getting a rejection to take the picture of a couple of guys sitting on the benches in Dominic Square I was a little worried I might be out of luck but the shop owners were very happy to oblige. What I noticed most from visiting the two shops I did was the overall determination to do the right thing by their customers and to have a laugh while doing it. Here is Mohammed …

Mohammed the butcher

Mohammed is the butcher at the Halal Meat and Food Centre – business is going well – there is a large Muslim community in Luton and Lewsey Farm is no different. After being in the shop for about 10 or 15 minutes talking with the guys, it occurred to me  that not everyone who came in to buy meat was Muslim and I can see that with the shops friendly manner and their diverse range of goods people prefer to use the halal shop than the more mainstream supermarkets that are on Dominic Square. With the recent mud flinging about Lewsey Farm I wanted to know if the shop had experienced any trouble over recent months and Mohammed looked at me quizzically and just shook his head “No, we don’t get any trouble here, this is a nice place”, which of course is very encouraging, they have the odd thing stolen through shoplifting but I think you find that everywhere.

Having had a chat, a laugh and taken a few pictures of Mohammed I headed for Asia Coiffure situated on the corner of the square. I knew the shop had been a hairdressers for a long time but I also knew that it wasn’t always a hairdressers but I couldn’t remember what it used to be. Muni and Sharnia work in the shop and Sharnia had in the back of her mind that it was a bakery in a past life. As soon as she said that I remembered going over on a Saturday morning and getting a large bloomer (always a large bloomer) for sausage sandwiches for lunch. Saturday lunch in our house was always sausage sandwiches !!

Mr Muni the barber

Again, Asia Coiffure doesn’t see any trouble but then Sharnia remembered, knock down ginger (where the kids knock on the door and run off ), well I used to do that and I don’t consider myself a major trouble maker – we had a bit of a giggle about knock down ginger.

So if the odd bit of shoplifting and a game of knock down ginger is the level of trouble Dominic Square shop keepers are seeing it’s all very encouraging – it’s no more than it was 30 years ago and therefore goes against the general perception of how rough and uninviting Lewsey Farm currently is – no racketeering nor firebombs ?! Who’d have thought it.

Shop 33

And last but by no means least I read on the Luton Today website that Luton Community Arts Trust had opened a shop in High Town and were championing local artists and musicians so I popped up and met them. Chris and Anthony have both recently left university.

Chris (L) was studying Art at the University of Bedfordshire in Luton and worked with the Luton Arts Community Trust for all of that time. Chris is also lead singer and lead guitarist of local alternative rock band Flexy Boys.

Anthony – Flexy Boys band manager, he became manager because he’s the most regular gig attendee, as I am official photographer for Percy’s Blues Jam, because I’m the only one that turns up with a camera (see previous posts) – went to the University of Hertfordshire where he studied Music Journalism, English Literature and Film Studies – he has now left university with a Masters in Film Studies !

We had quite a chat about English Literature – George Orwell and Oscar Wilde were common areas of interest and their both dying relatively young (Orwell died at 47 and Wilde 46 – so we weren’t far off Anthony).

And, just as a little plug for myself, the guys have kindly agreed to put some of my black and white pictures on the walls for sale – so at 92 High Town Rd, a 2 minute walk from Luton Train Station, I would confidently say you find the best shop in town.

Not sure at the minute what next week’s topic will be but I’ll do my best to buck the trend of negative thought about Luton and or LU4 Lewsey Farm.

Have a good week – thanks for reading and of course comments always welcome.

Steve

Jamming (and Dunstable’s very own Johnny Cash)

At the end of the last post I mentioned my focus on LU4 and Lewsey Farm would probably extend to LU3 and LU6 (and probably beyond but staying within LU….). Well this week I’m focusing on a bunch of guys that get together to have a blast with some instruments. It’s a jamming session – it’s not a formal set from start to finish so if that sounds a bit blase it’s not meant to – believe me when these guys get together they blast out the tracks ranging from Jimi Hendrix to John Lee Hooker.

Gin House Delta (L-R) Dave / Percy / Bluesy

Lead singer (and bass player) Bluesy and drummer Percy both live in Luton and lead guitarist Dave comes up from Harrow – they meet at the White Swan in Dunstable on the first Thursday of every month for a jamming blues session. Being a jamming session all comers are encouraged to bring an instrument and jump up on stage ! This week’s skiffle board player also did a great rendition of Johnny Cash’s Falsom Prison – you have to be on your toes – Dave was outside using spotify learning Falsom Prison once he heard Skiffle Man wanted to sing it and he kicked it with a fantastic gravelly voice to boot.

Percy and Dunstable’s very own Johnny Cash – Percy had just found out they wouldn’t be around to play at Knebworth hence the grimmace

Percy …

… paints and decorates your house or office by day – rides 100 miles on his road bike on a Sunday morning and does his Keith Moon bit in 3 different bands by night – he’ll be at the Greyhound in Dunstable next Friday – 14th June – I’ll be there !

Dave – you need a nickname Dave !

Dave …

… and Percy first met in Jersey where they are both from and played gigs there before they both came to England. I used to work with Dave – he’s a techie – in fact he describes himself as “Geek, Dad, Gamer, Guitarist, SysAdmin, SmartOS, FreeBSD, OpenBSD, Solaris, Linux, Ruby fan etc.” on his blog so if you understand any of that – well done! He’s been playing guitar from a very young age and once told me “I pick up the guitar every day – even if it’s just for 5 minutes” – so that’s how you get so good !

Bluesy

Bluesy …

… lays carpets by day – I happened to bump into him in a warehouse in Letchworth on a cold January morning – I’d only just seen my first “Percy’s Blues Jam” a few days before and there he was bent over, arse in the air rolling up some carpet – I thought I recognised him. Bluesy is bass guitarist and lead singer – his take on Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” was something special !

This blog is taking on a new life – it started as a poetry blog but I’m now looking for the positives in and around the LU(4) area to try and combat all the bad press it’s been getting lately – Percy, Bluesy and Dave (you need a nickname Dave) are a full on positive and I urge everyone to get along to the White Swan on the first Thursday of the month.

Next week I’m hoping to get around to some local businesses in and around Lewsey Farm and see how they are getting on and what they think of the recent spate of bad news …

What’s good in your area ? Comments always welcome !

Thanks for stopping by – have a good week everyone !

Steve

LU4 – is …

… where I live. Luton – Bedfordshire – UK – LU4. From the outside it’s a bit of a shithole but it’s where I live and it’s where I grew up. LU4 is where we moved to when I was 8 – when Dad was looking for work. I captained the school cricket team for 5 years in LU4 – I played rugby for the school on Saturday mornings – cold wet winter Saturday mornings – a Saturday morning when only 10 of us turned up to play – the opposition were arriving soon and we only had 10 – we needed another 5. So we bomb blasted around the estate to try and find some more players – there was no such thing as a mobile phone in 1983 and not everyone had a home phone – so off we went – 20 minutes later we were all back – with 2 extra players. “Sorry lads” the teacher said “we can’t play with 12, we’ll have to cancel” – not sure what we said but we made it quite clear we weren’t about to give up that easily. The opposition arrived and we played – the 12 of us never played tougher or harder than on that cold wet Saturday morning – and we won – 12 against 15 – every tackle went in hard – every pass was made – and everyone of us was absolutely knackered at the end of it.

That – is grit – and determination. We didn’t have much – but what we did have – we made the most of it.

LU4 is a bit like that – it’s a shithole – if you look from the outside. If you come here – from the outside – you might feel intimidated. Since January this year there have been a number of shootings and stabbings – resulting in a number of deaths. I’ve been to areas of London – with a laptop in a bag over my shoulder or a camera hanging around my neck – and just thought to myself I shouldn’t be here but when I’m on Lewsey Farm (LU4) I don’t feel worried at all. Maybe I know the escape routes maybe I feel as if I could stand and argue with the knowledge I was here while you were a sperm – whatever it is I don’t feel intimidated by the youths around here.

FUCK THE PIGS

I’ve been spending time with my camera lately and I’ve been thoroughly enjoying it. I’ve found the love for photography I had many years ago and thought I would put the refound love of photography together with a desire to document where I grew up, where I left for the Royal Navy and returned to, where I had my first girlfriend, where I bought my first house, had my first (and second) child, where my children have gone to school and where we still live today.

Dominic Square

Friday night walk to Dominic Square – weekly shop with Mum – and fish and chips for Friday night dinner !

Used to be the Co-op

This is where we used to do the weekly shop – before the days of superstores !

Hampton Road

Just around the corner from Luton Town Football Club – where we walked the 5 miles home after watching Luton play Man Utd in 1985 when they were in Division 1 – got a right rollocking for not telling my parents we were walking home – we were in heaven – we’d just lost to MAN UTD – MANCHESTER UNITED – had been in Luton – they were GODS !

Woodside Industrial Estate …

… is across the road from where I grew up – and of course – was our playground. I still pick up kit to install from this industrial estate today – big project starting at the end of June.

This post is meant as a bit of background to LU4 – where I grew up – where if you didn’t know better you might think it’s a bit of a shithole – but where I kind of love. The idea is to try and update the blog (I haven’t written any poetry for ages and don’t feel inclined to) with snippets of photographs and/or words to document the life of LU4. It will probably stretch to LU3, LU6 and maybe further afield but the plan is to show my manor.

Bailey’s intention was to find subjects in his immediate neighbourhood which offered the minimum amount of obvious visual stimulus … from NW1 (1982) by David Bailey