… Central Bedfordshire College have brought Dunstable Town Centre to life by moving their annual end of year Art Exhibition from the college campus to 4 vacant shops in the heart of the Quadrant. Dunstable is no different to any other small town up and down the country – every time you walk through the town centre there’s another boarded up shop or that thing you went in to town to get – you can’t get because the shop has closed down. Well someone at the college had a great idea to bring a bit of life to proceedings.
For almost a week – starting tomorrow 21st June and going on until next Wednesday 26th June – the empty shops will have art installations on show and students and teachers will be on hand to discuss work and generally help viewers get around. The 4 shops are close in proximity to each other near the exit from the Quadrant onto High St North.
I really can’t think of a better way to use empty shop carcasses – I don’t know what financials are going on but I would hope the college have a good deal with the landlords and when I say that I mean I hope they are getting the space for free. This exhibition should increase the footfall in the town centre dramatically over the next few days.
While you’re in Dunstable don’t forget the college’s more permanent space at The Store – in between the college building and the Gary Cooper – where they are also exhibiting photography, sculpture, graphic art and graphic design.
The project was designed for the student to deconstruct something and work with it. This student deconstructed a doll and made casts of the component parts – I thought these pieces were fantastic!
If you are in the area in the next week it would be an hour well spent looking around the exhibition – grab a coffee from Costa and have a wander. I might see you there!
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 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 !!
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.
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.
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.
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.
… 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 !
… 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 !
… 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 !
… 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.
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.
Friday night walk to Dominic Square – weekly shop with Mum – and fish and chips for Friday night dinner !
This is where we used to do the weekly shop – before the days of superstores !
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 !
… 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