Beds announces first Heritage cohort

Mon 19 July, 2021
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The first cultural practitioners participating in the University of Bedfordshire’s National Lottery-funded Heritage Impact Accelerator project have been announced.

At the start of 2021, the University successfully applied for a grant worth a quarter of a million pounds from the National Lottery Heritage Fund to extend activity and deliver an enterprise-focused support project for local cultural practitioners and organisations working across the heritage sector in Luton and wider Bedfordshire.

Overseen by the Arts & Culture Projects team, the Heritage Impact Accelerator will run for approximately two and a half years, culminating in the summer of 2023. It will expand upon previous TestBeds activity with a focus on enterprise, extending activity to support and build the capacity of twelve local practitioners and organisations. The project aims to deliver enhanced heritage-focused projects, develop new partnerships and increase levels of contributed and earned income.

Emma Gill, Arts & Culture Projects Manager, said: “We are building a strong transactional relationship with the National Lottery Heritage Fund and it has been a privilege to work with them as partners to get to this stage of the project. We are now at a point of delivery and we can't wait to get started!

“We have received a broad range of applications for the Heritage Impact Accelerator and listening to the personal experiences of the applicants through the interview process was a humbling process – it allowed us to get a better sense of how the University can support local practitioners to thrive."

The Heritage Impact Accelerator offers a ten month ‘incubator’ programme that will be delivered to two cohorts between 2021 and 2023.The project’s first six successful participants have been announced and include: dancer and DJ Perry Louis, writer and PR consultant Carly Smith, writer and performer Paul Vitty, fashion entrepreneur Aimee Gomez, musician Paul Jolly and theatre practitioner Lizzy Fretwell.

"Heritage Impact Accelerator"


Perry LouisPerry Louis is an all-round talent with a diverse mix of experience in all things related to Jazz, Soul and Funk Music:  Dance, Choreography, Teaching, Promoting, Marketing, Producing, DJing – you name it, Perry’s either done it or doing it. Perry’s career started in the mid-1970s when he developed a passion for Dance in the UK clubs, listening to Soul, Jazz Funk, and Jazz. Since then he has had a prolific career across the world in music and dance, and has joined the Heritage Impact Accelerator to create an archive for the jazz funk artform and explore new methodologies for capturing this vital part of social and cultural history.


Carly SmithCarly is a proud fourth-generation Lutonian with a keen interest in social history. She has been an active member of Luton Heritage Forum since it reformed in 2018 and has been researching the history of the town since long before this date. Carly is particularly interested in where built and intangible heritage intersect and uncovering the hidden stories of Luton’s young people, both from the past and today. She read Journalism at the University of Bedfordshire before reaching Director level during her career in Public Relations. She a proud mum to three fifth-generation Lutonians and continues to work as a freelance writer while pursuing her passion for young people’s heritage through the Heritage Impact Accelerator programme.


Paul VittyPaul is a creative practitioner with a passion for history and 15-year track record of delivery award winning community projects alongside a long career as a writer and director for Stage and Screen, and hopes to consolidate both in his growing heritage practise. In 2020 he wrote an education programme for History Knights and wrote and presented their recent documentary on the History of Pirates. Paul is the chair of the charity Leagrave Youth and founded The Luton Youth Festival, which in 2021 celebrates it’s 16th anniversary. He is also is a Legend of the Year Award Winner (V Volunteers south east) for inspirational leadership in recognition of his skill and expertise in creating community based support programmes and projects. Current projects including working as an outreach consultant on the restoration of a 12th century church.


Aimee GomezAimee Gomez is a Creative Producer in the fashion industry working on a variety of international events including runway shows, photo shoots and brand development. She is the founder of The Fashion Breakdown, an inspirational fashion recruitment company that provides careers advice as well resources to help break down the different careers within the industry and how to get into them. Aimee joins the Heritage Impact Accelerator looking to Luton’s history in textiles to grow a new strand of educational practise for young people interested in a career in fashion and the history of fashion in their town.


Paul JollyAfter meeting the pianist and composer Mel Davis, who was a supply teacher at his Luton school in 1962, Paul Jolly began to explore jazz and improvised music, commencing a long and continually successful international career as a jazz musician, curator, and educator. With others in 1976, Paul was a founder of Luton Community Arts and administrated the multi-disciplinary and iconic Luton arts centre – known as ‘33’. His roles included music programming, educational courses, and financial / legal responsibilities for the Charitable Trust (LCAT). In 1989 Paul established 33 Records, which to date has released over 350 albums of contemporary jazz and related music.

Paul joins the Heritage Impact Accelerator to explore the archive of ‘33’, capture the voices of those who were involved, and measure the impact the building and its people have had on the Luton of today.


Lizzy FretwellLizzy Fretwell is a writer, performer and theatre maker based in Luton. She believes the arts are a tool to connect communities and start important conversations, and joins Heritage Impact Accelerator to further explore the heritage aspects of her community-led practice. She is Co-Director of new multi-arts company 'Holding Space Collective LTD' which will explore collaborations between live and digital art forms, building on her existing practice in digital community arts.

Lizzy is also a proud Associate Artist and Assistant Director of Next Generation Youth Theatre, and was Assistant Director on Luton’s Pilot Year of Culture ‘People Power Passion’ in 2019. Her recent audio arts projects include: ‘We’ve Chosen Here’, which explored buildings and green spaces in Luton that spark memories of lost loved ones; and ‘Listen In My Shoes’, exploring how safe young women feel walking in areas of Luton.

Rae Leaver, Heritage Projects and Partnerships Officer, said of the cohort: “We were delighted to have such an incredible set of applications from the Luton community for this opportunity, and it was almost impossible to choose just six people for this round. In this cohort we have a wonderful blend of interests, experiences and priorities, and I cannot wait to see the impact of each of these incredible practitioners over the next ten months and beyond.”

Over the next ten months the six participants will explore new avenues of their practise through co-working, attend workshops with leading professionals in the Heritage sector, pilot outreach programmes in educational settings and receive tailored one-to-one support in developing and submitting bids for their projects. 

As well as supporting the six Heritage Impact Accelerator practitioners, the Arts & Culture Projects team are providing specific support to all shortlisted applicants to ensure they can grow their practice over the coming months in a targeted manner.

Applications for the second cohort are set to open in January 2022. From November, the University of Bedfordshire will be offering support for anyone planning to apply for the next round through the Heritage Enterprise Hub, alongside a free, needs-led programme of activity for the public.

For more information about the University’s Arts & Culture Projects and to find out how to apply to be considered for the next cohort of the Heritage Impact Accelerator, visit: www.beds.ac.uk/arts-and-culture-projects

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