Luton has received a lot of bad press in recent months. It is widely known to be the birthplace of the right-wing street movement – the English Defence League – and the home of some vocal radicals propounding an extreme form of Islam.
This has not helped the council and its partners in setting a positive vision for the diverse town. The response by the council, its partners and the wider community has been encouraging, and we think innovative. Under the banner of Luton in Harmony, the council is promoting a holistic campaign to promote positive aspects of life in Luton and to build inter-faith and cultural dialogue and understanding.
The council describes its campaign thus:
‘Luton in Harmony is a campaign supported by the Luton Forum, aimed at drawing our communities together. We wish to strengthen the message that we will challenge violent extremist ideology, wherever it comes from, and unite the town in supporting, giving voice to, and celebrating our diversity.’
The campaign includes an extensive calendar of events aimed at promoting cultural understanding, shared values and active citizenship, including Luton Council of Faiths’ Faith Walk and a Love Music Hate Racism event in St George’s Square.
An innovative campaign
But the campaign goes much deeper than that, and has involved the creation of an innovative community campaign that provides citizens with access to downloadable posters, pledge cards, t-shirts and simple-to-use advertisements that can be uploaded on local business websites. The result has been a widely disseminated, community owned, and visible campaign. Have a look at Luton Borough Council’s campaign resource pack.
Public interest seminar
On 16 February OPM will host a free public interest seminar: Creating resilient and integrated communities in the Big Society. We hope that examples like Luton will be discussed.