People Power Passion was Luton’s pilot year of culture; an ambitious programme that would demonstrate the impact of arts and culture on Luton’s people and places.
Their aim was to create a programme with a strong skills-development offer and a deep understanding of the barriers that exist to a career in the arts.
The feedback from audiences has been positive, the project has achieved the goals to improve participants confidence, civic pride, community cohesion and life chances. The long-term impact on participants is predicted to be extremely beneficial, with a number of participants gaining employment or higher-paid employment as a result of their involvement.
One example that the project is particularly proud of is a young woman with experience of homelessness who gained her first ever job as a result of the confidence she developed from the programme. She has said that ‘The old me, grumpy and sad, is gone. I’m now confident and happy to be contributing to my community.’
Six events over five months connected Luton’s past with their diverse and vibrant present. The events were made by, with and for Lutonians and featured spoken word, theatre, dance, music, new writing, craft, circus and virtual reality. People Power Passion had innovation at its heart. Luton is a town experiencing severe economic and social deprivation and the project was designed to test new approaches to accessibility and new ways of collaborating with communities and professional artists.
The evaluation framework consisted of five themes:
1. Health and wellbeing: To improve physical and mental health and wellbeing of Luton residents.
2. Society and Community: To improve civic pride, community cohesion and aspiration.
3. Place-making: To connect local people to their public spaces and improve perceptions of Luton’s public realm, as well as to improve the perceptions of Luton nationally as a great place to live and work.
4. Economy: To significantly impact Luton’s economy and ensure the positive impact benefits local people.
5. Arts & Culture: To improve the creative skills of local people as well as enhancing local appreciation of high-quality arts and culture projects.
What the judges said:
‘Blimey this initiative is epic. The issues identified by the nominee in terms of social challenges and negative perception of Luton is daunting. To step forward and say – arts and culture is our toolkit to deal with this is really inspiring.’
‘Clearly a truly life-changing experience for everyone involved, an exciting and ambitious project for life in Luton.’
Photo credit: June Essex