Graphic Novel for Luton aims to change 'negative perception'

image copyrightNicole Mollett
image captionVicky Hayford's story Headgear features Lutonian Johanne Hudson-Lett, a youth producer

Fourteen writers have come together to produce a book of illustrated short stories aiming to change the "undeserved negative perception" of their town.

Graphic Novel for Luton reveals "a side of Luton which is rarely seen" says writer Vicky Hayford.

Artist Nicole Mollett, said parts of the town were "not pretty" but she has been "blown away" by its creativity.

Some 800 free copies of the book are being handed out from Saturday.

image copyrightMegan Cars Hoang
image captionThe book's sole artist Nicole Mollette collaborated with 14 Luton writers including Simon Cleary

The graphic novel features real-life experiences of people who live and work in the Bedfordshire town.

It includes Headgear by Vicky Hayford, who wanted to inform a new generation about the town's hat-making tradition.

"I hope this work will reveal the side of Luton which is rarely seen - a town rich in creativity, as well as culture, which continues to flourish in the face of undeserved negative perception," she said.

Simon Cleary said his story, Windows, is about "coming home to Luton" and how towns are "moving towards a homogenised look - same shops, same hotels, same cafes".

He hoped his words could "warn Luton against becoming another satellite of London, another provincial town, another photocopy of a photocopy".

image copyrightNicole Mollett
image captionDawning by Lee Nelson is "born of my intimate engagement with Luton in the early hours of a summer morning" he said

Lee Nelson, who wrote Dawning, said the "distinct" town was "drowning in history - personal, industrial, proletarian, multi-cultural, political and national".

Ms Mollett, who drew all the artwork, said: "Luton has a very diverse community and any Lutonian will tell you they get upset and distraught by how the town is perceived from the outside.

"Some parts are not so pretty, but I don't know any town that has so much going on as Luton."

image copyrightNicole Mollett
image captionNicole Mollett said she wanted to "reveal the stories of Luton that only people in Luton would know"

An exhibition of the work runs until 29 March at The Mall shopping centre in the town centre.

The £18,000 project was funded by Arts Council England, Luton Arts Fund, with additional support from the University of Bedfordshire and The Mall.

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