Many Irish were involved in the construction of Luton’s growing housing estates and the national motorway infrastructure. By 1971, 6% of Luton’s population was Irish-born. In recent years Luton’s diversity has been underscored with the arrival not only of new residents from the most recent EU accession states, particularly Poland, but also with foreign students coming to study at the University of Bedfordshire. Today, approximately 35% of Luton’s population is of a Black and Minority Ethnicity background.
Luton has a long and proud history of welcoming arrivals to the Town from overseas and, with more than 100 languages being spoken in the Town; it is one of the most vibrant multicultural environments in the country. Luton has a large Irish community, as well as people from all over Europe, Pakistan, Kashmir, Bangladesh, India, Africa, the West Indies, Vietnam and Bosnia. Luton’s culture, entertainment, shopping and nightlife benefit greatly from this rich variety of communities, with a wide range of markets and restaurants, some of the most culturally diverse outside London.
Luton hosts a range of events throughout the year demonstrating a commitment to creating a strong and cohesive community in Luton. These vary from events that are internationally recognised to others that are much more locally inspired. The common thread that runs through all of them, however, is that their basis and energy are directly derived from Luton’s communities and there is a real sense of local ownership. The variety of events reflects the diversity of Luton’s population giving each a unique Lutonian flavour.
The Luton International Carnival – the largest one-day carnival in Britain – is a testament to the Town’s community spirit. It regularly attracts over 80,000 visitors, who come to join the celebration of our multi-cultural heritage. To cement Luton’s reputation as this country’s home of carnival, the UK Centre for Carnival Arts was created as the UK’s first dedicated centre committed to training individuals and organisations in the disciplines of carnival arts.
Luton’s St Patrick’s Festival celebrations are the largest regionally, taking place over a week, including 17th March and incorporating a Gaelic sung Mass, parade, live entertainment and drama performances. The event is organised each year by Luton Irish Forum volunteers with the support of Luton Borough Council, the Irish Government and local businesses. An estimated 15,000 people attend Festival events.
Other events include the Luton Mela, an award-winning Festival highlighting the best in Asian performance and visual arts and Hightown music, arts and food Festival.
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