The University is thrilled to be delivering testbeds, an exciting new arts incubator for artists and creative practitioners. testbeds is an innovative arts impact accelerator that will significantly develop the arts & culture landscape in Luton. 

The University was awarded £375,000 by Arts Council England to support artists and cultural organisations develop the skills to thrive economically, creatively and socially within Luton. It is part of £1.5m investment by Arts Council England to enhance the arts and cultural infrastructure of Luton. You can read about the Luton Investment Programme here

testbeds has been informed by current thinking and practices in the commercial start-up and entrepreneurship contexts.It will immerse theatre-makers, dancers, game designers, public artists, fashion designers, milliners, visual artists, designers, film-makers, circus artists and writers in a collaborative hothouse for ideas incubation and career development. It will enhance local artists' capacity to live, work and thrive locally as well as spearhead innovative, cross-disciplinary research into the employment of arts & culture as catalysts for change.

By enhancing entrepreneurial skills, collaborative partnership working and fundraising ability, the project focuses on developing artists from diverse backgrounds as placemakers - enhancing their capacity to make a lasting difference to Luton.

“testbeds has been developed with funding through Arts Council England’s Luton Investment Programme. We wanted to find a way to support artists and arts organisations develop the skills to create a thriving business. The Artist Accelerator will do this by providing local artists with access to resources, space, knowledge and skills development to establish a lasting legacy of art and culture in Luton, whilst the Catalyst Co-lab will place artists within the University as visiting artists, leading to exciting cross-disciplinary research projects.”

- Professor Helen Bailey, Executive Dean of Academic partnerships, University of Bedfordshire

The Luton Investment Programme was developed to raise ambition, provide development opportunities and foster partnership working in Luton. It will ensure that the town has a cultural offer with something for everyone. The Programme also complements the Arts Council’s existing investment of £686,531 in Luton through its Creative People and Places programme. In addition to testbeds, there are three other strands of activity supported through the programme: 

a new cultural celebration

Drawing on its experience of creating the successful Imagine Watford, Watford Palace Theatre will create Imagine Luton. This will be a celebratory, high-impact cultural festival in Luton showcasing the best outdoor and site-specific work. This open and inclusive outdoor festival will bring together international and regional artist, including commissions for regional artists to make new work. It will celebrate Luton as an exciting cultural destination and a vibrant, thriving town.

a public realm arts plan

Luton Culture will deliver As you Change So Do I an experimental programme of public art, including a new large-scale work for the Hat Factory Arts Centre by locally-born artist and Turner Prize nominee Mark Titchner; engaging thousands of passers-by every day and acting as a beacon for Luton.  The programme, which includes of artist residencies, projections and billboard-art to animate streets and empty buildings, will initially focus on Luton’s cultural quarter but will grow over three years to impact more widely. 

a 10 year vision, strategic arts and cultural plan for Luton

Luton Borough Council will develop and deliver a 10 year strategic vision for arts and culture. The plan will support a joined up approach to creating an inspiring, inclusive arts and cultural offer in Luton, helping to create models of best practice and developing lasting relationships. It will draw on the strategic priorities of both the Luton Investment Programme and Luton Borough Council, responding to the super diverse population of Luton.