When I first arrived in Luton my removal man pointed up the road - 'best chip shop in Luton' and then down the road 'best strip bar in Luton'. He said if I remembered those two things I'd be fine. I've been here five years now, it's the first place I've felt settled and it's the first place I've really called home. I've campaigned for my local MP here (the great Gavin Shuker), I've met my awesome neighbours here (the nicest neighbours I've ever had - they keep inviting me round, I keep failing to return the offer because I'm worried they'll judge me for still living like a student at the age of 31) and at a time when I'm having a balcony put in on my work room (yes, a balcony, I'm not ashamed, telly money), I think I'll stay here a while. I have a local butcher (he now knows my sad order - chicken for one, beef mince for one, maybe a pork chop), I have a local greengrocer (he's called Tony and he was cut out of Come Dine With Me even though they did film in the store) and I have a local pharmacist. I have everything a middle class mildly bohemian person could want.
I moved here after Luton was awarded 'Crap town' status by the Crap Towns publication (in 2002's volume 2, in volume 1 Hull won - 'Luton, the new Hull') - mostly because I could afford the prices (my bank had given me a price range of £140-150,000 - that got me a three bedroomed house in Luton or a tiny studio flat in South London, Luton won) and because I wanted to work in a room that wasn't also my bedroom. I'm also very shy and kind of wanted to not know anyone in the place where I lived - so was quite apprehensive when neighbours from all sides said hi and when Tony started smiling whenever I came into his shop (the man's a businessman, he smiles whenever anyone comes in the shop but I didn't know that then). But my third reason for moving here was I knew there were problems in the town, and I was quite intrigued by the place, that's the sort of shitty 'writer as tourist' bollocks that makes everyone hate us (and me hate myself).
It's economically deprived certainly, like all manufacturing towns overdependent on one industry (van manufacture), Luton has had it's share of hard times. It's massively racially divided, and the racism runs deep, no-one uses the word 'paki' anymore, but the word 'asian' is used with some disgusting intent at times, and there are essentially two town centres (one which largely serves Luton's white and afro-carribean community, the other that serves it's Pakistani and Bangladeshi community). And it's got sink estates like Marsh Farm which barely feel part of anywhere. Luton's sort of a town on the edge. And I don't know whether I'm a tourist here, I probably still am, but I do think - if Tory cuts don't bite too hard - Luton is capable of great change. So what if the English Defence League started here and this is where the bombers stopped on the way to July 7th bombings (they took the same commuter train I use)? Luton also has one the largest multi-racial carnivals in Britain as well as one of the largest melas, it has some of the nicest and hardest working people I've ever met in it, and I don't know whether they'd want me, but I'm proud to be a Lutonian.
Written by Jack Thorne
Directed by Joe Murphy
5 – 29 August 2010
£6 - £10
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