The Hat District

Purpose-designed creative work, show and share spaces in the cultural heart of Luton

Luton Culture Trust is developing a collection of inspiring creative work, study and show spaces called the ‘Hat District’ in old factories within the Plaiters Lea Conservation Area of Luton.  Inspired by the town’s hat making and manufacturing heritage, the Hat District will once more contribute to the local economy and creative vibrancy whilst regenerating the area and boosting pride of place.

Following successful funding bids, the Trust has secured £7.2m towards refurbishing three hat factories and building Hat Studios.  The collection of imposing buildings will provide 25,000 sq. ft. of new workspace for the creative industries. This will enable 133 additional jobs and further inject life into a vibrant cultural district that will attract 135,000 new visitors by 2022.

The Hat District is the best connected creative workspace cluster in the UK, being a two-minute walk from a mainline train station (22 minutes to London) and bus station connecting the region. In addition it is only 10 minutes by car from the M1 and London Luton Airport.

The Hat District vision

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. The Trust will curate a vibrant mix of creative industries, workspaces, activities, shops, bars, cafes and arts within the Hat District and already runs the Hat Factory Arts Centre. By 2022, it will be a bustling neighbourhood where artists, makers, students, producers, audiences, visitors, learners and creative businesses can share their knowledge and skills. The Trust will nurture and develop creative start-ups and entrepreneurs, whilst providing small to mid-sized creative industries an environment where they can grow and thrive. This ‘creative ecosystem’ will self-feed and develop through a charitable approach to shared learning and re-investment.

The Hat District portfolio consists of three buildings and one new build:

  • Hat Factory Arts Centre – 65-67 Bute Street (reopens mid 2019*)

  • Hat Works – 47 Guildford Street (opens mid 2020*)

  • Hat House – 32 Guildford Street (opens mid 2019*)

  • Hat Studios – 33-35 Guildford Street (gap site – opens late 2020*)

*Estimated dates

The Trust is well placed to inject new life and vibrancy into this run-down area and protect the heritage of these old hat factories that are currently falling into disrepair. Two of these sites, Hat Works and Hat House, are vacant historic hat factories that will be brought back into new use. The Hat Factory Arts Centre will be refurbished to increase and widen access to the arts.  The buildings are centrally located in Luton between the station and the town centre.  Given the conservation area, consideration will be given to the design of the existing properties and Hat Studios as this will be a new building on a gap-site recently secured by the Trust.

The quality of arts, architecture, design, heritage and conservation will aim to exceed public and user expectations and set new standards for urban regeneration fitting for a town as exciting as Luton.

Please see the map below:

The Trust will encourage individuals and micro-businesses to progress from Hat Works to the Hat Factory Arts Centre work and production spaces.  Hat House and Hat Studios will be ideal for established businesses in the creative industry sector who want to set up their own independent workspaces on full commercial rents.  Established businesses will re-invest their time, expertise and rent into the ecosystem and creative practitioners starting their careers.  They will also benefit from being part of a creative cluster with access to new talent and ideas. Collectively, this will be a creative ecosystem that generates growth, innovation and creative industry success.

The project will become cost neutral over time. All income generated from hires, tickets and sales will be recycled back into arts programmes, events, conservation, marketing and estate management.  As an ethical landlord, the Trust is committed to safeguarding these hat buildings for arts and cultural use in the long-term.

Hat District Funders

This important and innovative cultural project has been conceived and developed by Luton Culture Trust and is made possible with investment from:

Looking for creative workspace in the Hat District?  Call 01582 547470 or email hatdistrict@lutonculture.com

Go to www.hatdistrict.co.uk  for our latest news. Follow the Hat District on social media:

Facebook: @TheHatDistrict
Twitter: @TheHatDistrict
Instagram: thehatdistrict

For more information about Luton Culture go to  www.lutonculture.com.

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