New cohort of creatives for University’s heritage project

Wed 04 May, 2022
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The University of Bedfordshire’s Arts & Culture Projects team has announced the second cohort of community practitioners for its Heritage Impact Accelerator project, funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

In response to the COVID-19 crisis, the University of Bedfordshire successfully applied for funds from the National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF) in 2021 to extend activity and deliver an enterprise-focused support project for cultural practitioners and organisations working in the heritage sector in Luton and wider Bedfordshire.

Overseen by the Arts & Culture Projects team, the Heritage Impact Accelerator offers practitioners a 10-month incubator programme which aims to build the capacity of 12 local practitioners and/or organisations to deliver enhanced heritage-focused projects, develop new partnerships and increase levels of contributed and earned income.

After successfully supporting six local creatives as part of the first 10-month cohort last year, the project’s next participants have been announced as visual artist Abi Spendlove, activist and changemaker Claire Abji, artist and political activist Abigail Adams, writer David Landau, heritage pioneer Shabeena Parveen and community worker and artist Fiona Martin.

Emma Gill, Manager of Arts & Culture Projects, said: "After an extensive recruitment process, I am pleased to announce our latest cohort who will be working alongside the University of Bedfordshire as part of Heritage Impact Accelerator. These individuals demonstrate the range of heritage practice, projects and ideas that are flowing out of Luton, with rich opportunities for local people to access, participate in and learn more about the tangible and non-tangible heritage found around us.

“I am grateful to the National Lottery Heritage Fund in continuing to support us, as well as my team who work tirelessly to provide a responsive and meaningful learning process for those attached to the programme.”

Over the next ten months the six participants will explore new avenues of their practice 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.

Click on the names below to discover more about the latest Heritage Impact Accelerator cohort:


Abi Spendlove is a visual artist based in Luton, UK. She studied Fine Art at Byam Shaw and Central Saint Martins in London and completed a Fine Art MA at the University of Hertfordshire in 2018. Her work has been exhibited internationally including New York and Tokyo. She has undertaken several public and private commissions and has experience running workshops and giving talks. Her work is included in collections including Zabludowicz, Franks Suss and Olivier von Schulthess. She joins Heritage Impact Accelerator to build on a body of work around the River Lea.


Claire Abji is an Equality Diversity and Inclusion activist and changemaker, working with organisations to create better opportunities for marginalised people. She is experienced in culture change, policy and strategy development, recruitment, coaching and organisational development. Claire has over 10 years of management expertise, working within local government, NHS, charity, and private sectors. Claire is currently serving her local community of Luton by volunteering as a Trustee for the charity Level Trust. She is also the co-founder of Unheard Luton, a community creative arts and wellness project for marginalised people living in Luton and the surrounding areas. Unheard Luton aims to create a platform for the unheard stories of Luton’s intersectional feminist and BIPOC LGBTQ+ community, whilst also connecting them and giving this community a place in Luton’s heritage narrative.


Abigail Adams is an interdisciplinary artist and political activist born and raised in Luton. Their work centres on the relationships between people and their environment, their histories, and society. With a strong belief in the power of art to radically change accepted norms and perspectives, Abigail hopes to combine their social and cultural work through the Heritage Impact Accelerator programme. By engaging Lutonians in their natural heritage, Abigail seeks to question how we interact with our green spaces and make our mark on the environment, extending this line of questioning through to how people historically have made their mark on the town through protest and community organising.


Born and brought up in London, David Landau grew up in Wembley, where he nurtured his love of writing and football stadia. The former has sustained a career in journalism that has spanned more than twenty years; the latter led to a life-long fascination with architecture. David's work took him to Luton, where he bought a period house, and discovered there was a dearth of heritage and retrofit building professionals in the town. He hopes to be a catalyst for developing those skills within the community.


Shabeena Parveen is a born and bred Lutonian. She is a graduate with a vast amount of experience from various fields. She has a passion to support and help people. She looks forward to working on the Heritage Impact Accelerator programme.


Fiona Martin is a community worker and artist, and an active member of the Luton Irish community, with experience of delivering heritage learning programmes. Her community development practice puts people first, developing projects, events and archives that tell people’s stories, focusing on viewer participation and shared experience. She has recently developed the More Luton project which includes a website hosting community archive. Fiona hopes to use a mixture of digital technology, events, and cultural traditions to engage a range of people at multiple levels.

As well as supporting the new 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. This support is delivered through the Heritage Enterprise Hub – a needs-led, free programme of activity for the public, run by the University. Support available through the Hub includes practical advice about applying for funding, profiling of local and national funding bodies, one-to-one support, networking opportunities and panel events with cultural, heritage and education professionals.

For more information about the University’s Arts & Culture Projects and the Heritage Impact Accelerator, click here.

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