We are sad to say that there will be no High Town Festival this year because of the constraints of the current global pandemic. In a typical year, we’d be well into festival preparations for this year by now and would have already had several meetings to create an action plan and start booking entertainment, stalls, health and safety arrangements, road closure etc. However, it was quite clear in the early part of this year that we were unlikely to even know whether events like the Festival would be able to go ahead, giving us too little time to make adequate preparations for it to happen. Given the Festival’s reliance upon the council’s insurance and approval, we felt that it would be unwise to proceed.
On top of this, there have been some key changes to the festival team which will have an even more significant long-term impact on the festival. This leaves the current festival team in a position where it cannot commit to carrying out a future High Town Festival without someone – a group or organisation or individual – who could take this on as a project as well as looking for future funding, and committing to making the event happen.
This has drawn the team to conclude that for now the High Town Festival will come to an end for the foreseeable future. We feel that the 8 years that the festival ran for (including 1 online last year!) were a great success and will hopefully be an encouragement to the community to continue to grow the spirit of High Town and similar such events.
This is obviously sad news, and as a team we felt both a sense of real gratitude for what the High Town Festival has meant for this community as well as a sense of sadness and loss. In order to celebrate the 8 brilliant years of its existence, we will be creating some content to celebrate the journey the Festival has taken over its time.
on behalf of the High Town Festival Team
Who is the ‘High Town Festival Team’?
The ‘High Town Festival Team’ has been a group of local residents and organisations that has changed a bit over its 8 years. Since its inception, the team has comprised local councillors, council officers, the High Town Community Development Worker, volunteers from Friends of High Town, and representatives from organisations like Hope Church, the Luton Irish Forum, Active Luton and St Matthews Primary School as well as individuals who have taken on aspects of responsibility within the festival.
For all of those who have ever helped make it happen we are hugely grateful. We also recognise other contributors like the High Town Methodist Church and NOAH who have assisted with venue space, volunteer hours, lending of equipment. Also, local shops and businesses like The Bricklayers Arms, The Brunch Bar, Royal Pharmacy, Cloudies Vape Shop and London Edge who have assisted with practicalities and sponsorship to help make it the event that it’s been.
The Festival has always been a wonderful celebration of collaboration and community togetherness and there isn’t space to celebrate all of the groups and individuals who have made it the event it was.
What if funding unexpectedly became available?
While finding funding each year to support the festival has been integral to its success in being able to grow each year, there is much more to making a festival happen than that.
Fundamentally, what makes it work is a team of committed volunteers and paid workers who all contribute to the various things that need to happen to make it work. The Festival Team doesn’t have the capacity to fulfil the demands of making a festival happen.
What’s needed to actually make it happen? Can’t we just have a smaller thing?
There’s a surprising amount of work put into what can often feel like a happy ‘pop-up’ event on High Town Road. But, as we said in the statement, preparations often start 9 or 10 months before.
Logistics, administering stall bookings, money-handling, licenses, insurance, road-closures, health and safety, programme booking, publicity, social media content, managing volunteer teams, liaising with the local community, fundraising and a bit more besides all take time, work and attention to make the event happen.
A small event will often need most of the same things doing, even if it doesn’t take quite as long. In truth, we want to honour what the High Town Festival has been to the community and we made a decision not to slowly cut it back and back to become, essentially, a different event.
What happens next?
Well, depending on your diary management, you have a free day on July 3rd this year and the first Saturdays of July from here on out.
We’ll be producing some content to celebrate what the festival has been and will leave the Facebook page up, though it’ll be inactive. The website will also continue to exist for a little while to archive these wonderful events.
If a group of people became interested in running this festival or something similar, we’d certainly be happy to have a conversation and would be supportive of such a venture, but this would have to be a well thought out project and we could only offer our learning and experience of our time running the festival.
Thank you all once again for making the High Town Festival the ‘community event of the year’ from 2013 to 2020.