Mammoths, Cabbages and Community

Published: 29th April 2019

Cabbage Island was a local history project that explored the history and area of Luton. This resulted in a touring exhibition which started at the All Saint’s Community Centre, then went to Chatham library, before eventually finishing at Luton library, and proved to be very popular. I was fortunate enough to volunteer on this project. I helped out with researching and putting the exhibition together, before attending the exhibition events and talking to local people who came to see it.

Before I started working on the Cabbage Island project, I knew almost nothing about Luton. I thought it was a dodgy area – one that you didn’t go to unless you absolutely had to. How wrong I was! I had no idea it had such an amazing history and so many beautiful spaces.

Putting the exhibition together was really fun as I’d never done anything like that before. It gave me the opportunity to learn loads of new things about Luton, that I never would have found out about if I hadn’t taken part in this project. For example, did you know that a man named Robert Dadd discovered fossils of a mammoth in Luton?

My favourite thing about working on Cabbage Island was meeting elderly people who had lived in Luton all their lives. They were so excited to see an exhibition about their local area and I loved talking to them and hearing their stories. Being able to connect people with the exhibition pieces really brought them to life.

One of the key features of the exhibition was recordings of interviews of past and present residents of Luton. People could then put headphones on and listen to these recorded interviews. This was a great way to get people of all ages involved, everyone from young children to elderly people would listen to them. This is a great example of how the Cabbage Island project was able to bring people together. The use of recordings gave a greater realism to the exhibition than it would have had if he had just used posters and shown transcripts of the interviews. The range of ages of people who were interviewed also helped to show how much Luton is still changing even today.

Cabbage Island really changed my perspective on Luton. Not only is it full of interesting historic places and landmarks, but I also found out that Luton has a wonderful close-knit community. So many of the residents seem to know each other and get along, and it’s just really lovely to get to witness so many people come together and reconnect thanks to the Cabbage Island project.

Alex , Cabbage Island Volunteer and ICON Theatre Intern