An interactive exhibition has just opened in Luton. Visitors to The Storefront can photograph, write, walk and talk about the River Lea as part of Luton-based artist Abi Spendlove's project Tributary.

It celebrates the River Lea, which rises in Luton and Houghton Regis. Responding to the river's original Anglo Saxon meaning – which translates as 'Bright River' – Spendlove will record people's impressions of the Lea, tracking its place in local mythology as it meanders towards the Thames.

She will invite visitors to participate in curated walks tracking the river's progress through the town centre, make a new film and create a participatory painted poem about Luton's hidden river.

The River Lea passes almost unnoticed through Luton as it travels from its sources in Houghton Hall Park, Lewsey Park and Leagrave Park to the lakes at Luton Hoo. Rerouted to accommodate the urban environments through which it passes, the Lea is a hidden river, which Spendlove will bring into the consciousness of the town as residents and visitors pass the Storefront en route from the station and car parks to the shops.

Tributary will showcase a collaborative poem on the gallery walls and a large hand-drawn map of Luton which highlights the river's broken and disjointed course. Spendlove is also a making a new film focussing on the light play around the source of the River, and will create a soundtrack in which local residents recall their stories of the Lea. The stories pay tribute to the river, connecting it with the rhythms and reflections of both a historical and a contemporary experience.

The final part of the installation is a series of experimental drawings made using ink and melted ice from the Lea. Spendlove will also experiment with some live ice work in Storefront during the official launch of the project on Thursday 29 June.

Tributary is at The Storefront, 64 Bute Street, from 26 May - 29 July. It is open Thursday – Saturday, 1pm – 6pm and the artist will work in the space regularly on Fridays throughout the course of the exhibition.

Tributary is organised by Departure Lounge in collaboration with Luton Culture and is part of 'As You Change, So Do I' a three-year programme of public art events funded by Arts Council England's Luton Investment Programme.

More details:

Events and Participation: Painted Poem (ongoing throughout the exhibition)

Three different maps will be available in the exhibition for visitors to collect. Each will mark the route of a walk from the Storefront to the river (a short, medium and long walk) and visitors are invited to take one of the walks, see the river and write a word, sentence, paragraph or poem about it. The maps can be returned to the Storefront or words can be submitted via email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Those submitting by email can also send a photograph, which will be printed and displayed in a book in the exhibition.

River walk with Abi Spendlove: Saturday 10 June 11am - 1pm
Meet at the Storefront for a river walk to the lakes at Wardown Park. Pens and notepads will be provided for a creative writing activity which will take place at the park. The impressions gathered at the parkwill be added to the developing wall text on return to the gallery.

Suitable for children and adults. Free of charge.

Please note, this event is limited to 20 participants and is available on a first come basis. N.B. Parents will be required to remain with their children for the duration of the event

Showing of Mystery River, Saturday 17 June, 3pm

Baby Group Thursday 6, July 10.30am - 12pm

Suitable for babies 0 - 2yrs

Inviting a new audience to the gallery, Spendlove will create a familiar Baby group set up: play mats, toys, tea coffee also offering 'sensory play' relating to the themes of the exhibition (e.g. Rainmakers, coloured cloths & ice cubes) to encourage interaction and conversation.

Limited to 10 babies:

N.B. Parents will be required to remain with their children for the duration of the event

To reserve a place for any of the above events please visit or call the Box Office on 01582 878100

Please note all event times are currently provisional please check with the box office in advance

#AsYouChange #loungeluton


Reflections on the River Lea

Design by LTD Design Consultants and build by Garganey Consulting.