I have just come back from visiting my parents, in my home town of Luton. As usual, I drove around seeing the sights before dropping in the folks. I even dragged my poor wife into the Mall Shopping Centre, that was called The Arndale back when I lived there. It’s a weird thing to come from Luton. It’s town that you hear about a lot on the news, but never in a good way. It’s the home of the English Defence League, radical Islamists and has bred a couple of terrorists. On news coverage alone you’d think it was a hell hole place to live. And it really does have it’s problems, but it still holds a place in my heart.
Sadly Luton seems to have been developed with division in mind. For as long as I can remember there was an area of Luton where the Asian community lived, Bury Park. This was just the way it was. When the by-pass around Central Luton was built it cut this area of Luton away from the main town, and really emphasised the division. This led to further separation of the disparate groups that made up the population of Luton, and that made people view each other as even more different. They fell back on the security of their culture and that fed a stronger feeling of division and difference. I remember what it was like to grow up in this kind of atmosphere. At my school there was two Black kids, Corey and his brother, and three Asians, my best mate Alex and his two beautiful sisters. Oh and one crippled kid… me. Not exactly representative of the Luton population but maybe of the area I grew up. At school we could see no difference, but whenever we were around adults we were reminded of the “them and us” attitude. Luckily back then rebellion was hard wired into us, so the more grown ups disliked us all mixing together, the more we did it. You have no idea the hullabaloo when two of my mates came out as being gay! The tragedy was that as we grew up this mixing of colours and cultures seemed to fall away somewhat. I can’t really complain, as I moved away from the town that bred me.
But however much Luton wasn’t a shining example of community cohesion, everyone kept on going. This was thanks to the fact that jobs were easy to find. All thanks to the massive Vauxhall car factory, and all the subsidiary work that brought. That was until it totally shut down. This led to unemployment on a scale that had never been seen before. Within a few months Luton started to fall apart. The massive unemployment led to a major problem with drugs and crime, and of course the divisions between communities grew. A radical Islamic movement grew and started campaigning on the streets of the town centre, which did not please many Lutonians. Hence the rise of the EDL. Now anyone who reads my blogs will know my politics, so I hope I don’t need to say how I feel about the right wing EDL, but it is the obvious outcome of building a town with division built into it’s fabric. All of the communities of Luton feel under threat, and have fallen foul of the old divide and conquer routine.
Sadly the simmering feelings of people in Luton were ignored while things were good, and so it all went wrong when bad times hit. Allowing the car plant to close ruined Luton, and all the people of my home town should have got together and fought for a better deal. They should also have received better from local Let’s face it, the parent company of Vauxhall Motors didn’t shut the German plants down, mainly due to their government acting, German union having some power and labour laws being strongly in favour of the worker. This is what happens when we all allow UK manufacturing to be moved abroad, all in the name of profit.
Whatever problems Luton may have, I still feel at home there, and have fond memories of growing up there. I only left to further my career, although I’m not sure that worked out. I know that most people there want to live together in peace and dream of a time when this town, filled with history, tradition and pride will rise again. Of course before that happens it will have to ride the storm of council job losses and budget cuts. I know that if the people of Luton work together they will get there, and if anyone can think of a way this Luton boy can help please just shout!