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Celebrating the completion of Hat Works Creative Workspace capital project of a Grade II listed building

23 April 2021

The Culture Trust, Luton are delighted to announce that a complex programme of careful heritage restoration and refurbishment of the oldest former Hat Factory in Luton is now complete. After four years and with the investment of £2.4m the keys were handed over to the Trust’s Chair, Nick Gibson, by Simon Last of Neville Special Projects on Friday 16th April.
 
Hat Works is part of the Hat District heritage regeneration project led by The Culture Trust to reanimate and reuse historic hat factories and transform them into inspiring and much needed creative workspace. Hat Works follows the completion of Hat House and the refurbishment of the Hat Factory Arts Centre led by the Trust in 2019.
 
Hat Works is situated in the heart of the Hat District creative cluster in central Luton between the railway station and Mall shopping centre. The Hat District is a growing dynamic creative community housed within (and at times bursting out of) the Hat Factory Arts Centre, Storefront Gallery, Hat Works and creative workspace at Hat House.
 
Celebrating the completion of Hat Works Creative Workspace capital project of a Grade II listed building
Hat Works key handover ceremony, creative workspace on the top floor, and Members’ Lounge
 
Hat Works will be the entry point for creative entrepreneurs eager to turn their idea into a creative business within a supportive and inspirational environment with like-minded others. Hat Works will provide a range of workspaces that will support the development of a creative community. Here members can develop ideas, collaborate and benefit from affordable and professional workspace. Whilst everyone is welcome, there will be a particular focus on young people and a cohort of pioneer members who are already in place to move in when the interior fit out is complete early this summer.
 
The ambition is to re-animate the conservation area with cultural activity, care for these important heritage buildings and promote the historic stories of this once vibrant hat trading town. Hat Works is being designed for creative and digital entrepreneurs, innovators and micro-businesses and will provide affordable work and social spaces in an inspiring heritage environment.
 
Marie Kirbyshaw, Chief Executive of The Culture Trust, said: “This well-loved old hat factory has been through a long but careful restoration and looks incredible thanks to the generosity of our funders and the skills of a highly specialist team. We have curated an eclectic mix of decorative and functional design features, restored heritage and added modern functionality so that Hat Works will inspire, and meet the needs of, a new generation of creative and digital start-up businesses.”
 
Hat Works capital works started in 2017 and the Trust has gratefully received funding to help deliver the much needed care and conservation work. Hat Works has been empty and unused since it closed last as a Hat Factory in 2006. Consequently, it has needed a great deal of careful conservation over the last four years, which included nearly a year of ‘drying out’ after the removal of a Himalayan mould. Local company Neville Special Projects has once more undertaken exemplary work in conserving and developing our Hat Factories under the thoughtful design direction of Fleet Architects, You & Me and with the guidance of Historic England and Luton Borough Council planning department.
 
The Trust is owner and custodian of this important heritage asset and wishes to thank the many project funders that have contributed to this project. The South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership (SEMLEP) has provided £3.96m funding to the Hat District creative cluster as part of the Local Growth Fund. Historic England has supported Hat Works with guidance, advice and grant funding throughout and The National Lottery Heritage Fund provided over a million pounds to undertake essential repairs and conservation work, refurbish the building and preserve the original heritage and factory features.
 
The Trust has also received support from the Architectural Heritage Fund, to help protect the historic qualities of this prominent building set in the heart of the Plaiters Lea Conservation Area, and also from The Linbury Trust and The Pilgrim Trust.
 
All funders have been incredibly supportive in enabling us to complete this project during COVID-19, our particular thanks goes to Historic England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund for providing COVID-19 additional funding.
 
Anne Jenkins Director, England, Midlands & East for The National Lottery Heritage Fund said: “Investing in heritage means investing in the local community it belongs to which is why we are proud to have supported The Culture Trust to restore and repurpose the Hat Works with a grant of £1,052,000. Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, this important heritage has been given a fresh lease of life and will now play a key role in regeneration of the local economy and be enjoyed by locals and visitors to Luton alike.
 
Judith Barker, SEMLEP Director of Programmes and Governance, added: “This restoration and refurbishment provides an exciting opportunity for creative entrepreneurs, offering a dedicated space for collaboration turning innovative ideas into creative businesses. We’re pleased to have supported this project, keeping Luton’s hat production history, while inspiring creativity in the heart of the town. We’re looking forward to Hat Works officially open its doors in the near future.”
 
Tony Calladine, Regional Director (East of England) for Historic England said: “We have supported the Hat Works project from the outset, offering guidance and grant funding to enable the restoration of this important historic building. Working in partnership with key agencies, we’ve collaborated to support and fund this innovative project. We’re delighted to see the Hat Works project come to fruition and look forward to seeing it flourish as an inspirational home for creative enterprise.”

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