Luton is the largest town in Bedfordshire, and is surrounded by the beautiful north Chiltern Hills.
It has excellent transport links to the rest of the UK and Europe, and lies just 50km north of London – the capital is only a 30 minute train journey away.
The town is home to Luton Town Football Club, London Luton Airport, The University of Bedfordshire and Luton Carnival which is the largest one-day carnival in Europe. Luton was for many years famous for hat-making, and was also home to a large Vauxhall Motors factory; the head office of Vauxhall Motors is still situated in the Town.
Luton boasts a wide collection of pubs, clubs and restaurants as well as the Galaxy Leisure complex, which offers an several restaurants, an 11-screen cinema, 16 bowling lanes, a trampoline park, an arcade and much more.
According to the 2011 Census, Luton has the highest percentage of Irish living outside of London. 6,126 [3%] of Luton residents ticked the Irish box, whilst just over 195 [0.1%] ticked the Irish Traveller box. This is not a true reflection as the majority of second and third generation did not tick the Irish box in the Census.
Luton’s culture continues to expand, and as reported by the Office of National Statistics, Luton has the most Polish-speakers in the East of England with 8,006 (4.1% of the population) and is ranked 5th in England and Wales (1st is Ealing, 2nd is Slough).
Luton is a vibrant multi-cultural town with a warm heart that has welcomed generations of new people who have made their home here. People continue to bring their interesting histories to make Luton what it is today.
The period after World War II saw many Irish people move to the UK in search of a better life for themselves and their families. Most settled in the major cities such as London, Birmingham, Manchester, Coventry, Liverpool and the surrounding areas. These people had a positive affect on industry and services, working in construction to rebuild and develop the UK infrastructure, in hospitals as nurses and care workers, and the newly developing car industries.
Many people raised families and educated their children. They contributed to society and their local community. Many prospered and achieved their goal of a better life. Others did not.
Research, substantiated by the 2001 national census in the UK, demonstrates that Irish emigrants have not achieved the same level of economic or health gains as other ethnic groups or the indigenous population. Homelessness, poverty, addiction and poor health is all too common among first and second generation Irish.
Voluntary organisations, such as Luton Irish Forum, have a long involvement with the Irish communities in these cities. Through their work on the ground with the Irish population these groups identify the urgency that is required to prevent greater deterioration in health and economic status. For some it is genuinely a matter of life or death.
RehabCare became involved with the Irish community in Luton when LIF asked RehabCare to conduct research into the needs of the Irish population in the town. Helena Duigan together with other colleagues carried out this research in a most professional and dedicated way. Through our numerous visits to the town we learned firsthand the many success stories and the contributions the Irish people have made to Luton. However, we also learnt that many others who had worked for numerous years in industry, supporting themselves and their extended families back in Ireland, had now become increasingly isolated.
This study explores the current situation of the Irish population of Luton, it examines the populations self-identified needs, the level of service provision currently and barriers to access, and makes strategic recommendations to bridge the gaps and improve the Irish communities quality of life today. It represents the most extensive and authoritative research on the Irish community of Luton to date.
Download the report here
The objectives of the report include understanding the degree to which the large second and third generations of people of Irish descent in Luton engage with their Irish heritage, and what can be done by Luton Irish Forum to attract a broader membership in the future. The report, written by Head Researcher Mr Jonathan McElhatton, a student at the University of Southampton, recommends ways in which community service providers, such as Luton Irish Forum, can continue to exist past the generation they originally sought to assist.
During July 2009, University of Southampton student Jonathan McElhatton a student of Bachelor of Sciences in Geography began his third year dissertation research project. He decided to embrace his own familys’ history of Ireland-England migration and design a topic focusing on the identity of the Irish community in Luton; his place of birth and the area in which his parents and grandparents have lived for many years. Close conversation with Luton Irish Forum directed focus for the project towards the self-perceived identity of second and subsequent generations of Irish descent, and the impending crisis that cultural sustainability presents for the future of Luton Irish Forum. How can the Forum, an organisation that provides critical services and entertainment to hundreds of Irish people in Luton, continue to exist past the generation of elderly, Irish-born members to which it is currently dependant?
A detailed, 32-question survey was edited between Jonathan and LIF, and distributed widely across Luton and Dunstable. Roman Catholic churches, schools, shops and organisations were contacted.
With over 140 sets of data and using a range of statistical data analysis tools, Jonathan has uncovered a 73 per cent level of ‘Irishness’ amongst the second and subsequent generations who responded to the questionnaire. This, he deduces, is a very healthy level of identification with their Irish cultural heritage. He goes on to explain that second and subsequent generations have a strong link to the Roman Catholic Church. Finally, and most importantly, he identifies where Luton Irish Forum must shift focus so to engage younger generations of Irish descent. Bearing in mind the strong levels of Irishness identified in answer to sub-question 1, the results show that 44 per cent of respondents, despite identifying with their Irish cultural heritage, quote lack of knowledge and disinterest as reasons for disengagement with Luton Irish Forum. This, Jonathan believes, signifies an issue between the services provided and the effectiveness of publicity and advertising. The results also show that significant interest exists in at least four of Luton Irish Forum’s current services, therefore requiring more to be done to access these interested people. Proposed services show great interest amongst second and subsequent generations.
In this way, Jonathan concludes that a future for Luton Irish Forum certainly does exist. Considerable identification with their Irishness and moderate levels of engagement with other community services in Luton support the continued importance of Luton Irish Forum in future years. However, more must be done to engage the younger generations, with a move to some new services/activities, greater levels of publicity and advertising and, in particular, a shift away from the perceived focus on the elderly, first generation, as this also proved a significant reason for disengagement amongst second and subsequent generations.
Once engaged, second and third generations can begin to tackle issues inherent to the Irish community in Britain, for example social care, physical and mental health, isolation, and economic inactivity.
Download the report here
Luton Airport Guide – the definitive resource to help you find everything you need when travelling to, from and around Luton Airport. https://www.luton-airport-guide.co.uk/