Following Luton Culture Trust’s successful funding bids to bring over £6million of new investment to Luton, work has recently begun to transform three former hat factories into 25,000 sq. ft. of new workspaces for creative industries. The Hat District development comprises three key buildings at the centre of Luton: the formerly derelict Hat House at 32 Guildford Street, Hat Works at 47 Guildford Street and the existing Hat Factory Arts Centre situated in the Plaiters Lea Conservation area.
The vision of the project is to create more work opportunities, amplify cultural vibrancy, preserve important heritage buildings and breathe new life into the heart of the town, by creating a bustling creative neighbourhood. The work is being masterminded by Luton Culture, an arts and culture charity which runs the Hat Factory Arts Centre, Wardown House, Museum and Gallery, Stockwood Discovery Centre, Luton’s Library Theatre, Luton Libraries and some community centres.
The journey begins at Hat Works which will house workshop and co-working spaces ideal for start-ups and entrepreneurs who want to develop their creative ideas, services or designed products. The building will also provide a reception for all Hat District visitors and tenants, bookable meeting rooms, and a made in Luton showcase area. The Hat Factory offers a theatre, comedy bar, café, skills workshops and education spaces, start-up and retail units, and a diverse and stimulating year-round arts programme. At Hat House, more established creative businesses can lease professional workspace in the former factory building.
Luton Culture Trust is a charity so all rental income will be re-invested back into arts activity, events, facilities and promotions to support and grow the District’s offer in the future. Major funding for the Hat District has come from the SEMLEP local growth fund (£3.961m), Heritage Lottery Fund (£127,900) and Arts Council England (£499,500). This adds to project capital funding from Luton Borough Council (£340,000) and grant funding from Historic England (£44,000) and The Architectural Heritage Fund (£25,000).
Marie Kirbyshaw, Chief Executive of Luton Culture and Hat District Project Lead, said of the vision for the Hat District:
“I look at this stunning straw hatters clock in my office every day - it is broken and doesn’t tick so I have set it to 20:22 which is when the Hat District creative workspace project will be delivered. By then we will have achieved 133 new jobs, 25,000sqft of new creative workspace, a sustainable financial model for the Trust, 193,000 new visitors and we will have regenerated an incredibly important area of Luton. I am determined to transform these empty and broken resources into vibrant and culturally relevant assets once more.”
The Architectural Heritage Fund is a registered charity, working since 1976, to promote the conservation and sustainable reuse of historic buildings for the benefit of communities across the UK, particularly in areas of deprivation. It is the leading heritage social investor and the only specialist heritage lender operating in the UK.
For further information contact: Lucie Oakley, Support Officer: 0300 121 0752