Wardown Park Museum Makers smash Guinness World Record for Straw Boater Wearing

By Culture24 Reporter Published: 20 August 2014

Why did 797 people assemble in a Luton park on Saturday to wear straw boaters?

a photo of a crowd of people throwing their hats in the air
The good people of Luton throw their straw boaters in the air© Luton Culture
It was a sunny Saturday afternoon at Luton’s Wardown Park as over 700 people gathered together to have fun and wear their straw boaters.

The reason? A mixture of local community pride, a collective desire to bang the drum for the culture of an oft-maligned town and a determination to raise the profile of their much loved, Wardown Park Museum.

There was also the small matter of smashing the Guinness World Record for the Largest Gathering of People Wearing Boater Hats.

Most Guinness World Records are by definition eccentric undertakings, but Luton was the perfect setting for this particular one, due to its long association with the hat industry, many examples of which are held at Wardown Park Museum.

It is also 100 years since boater hats were first produced in Luton by local milliners, when they were the hat of choice during the summer of 1914 at the onset of WW1.

Between 1.30 and 1.35 pm a hush descended on the assembled throng of boater wearers as the Guinness World Records Adjudicator checked that everyone was wearing their hat. 

After a few breath-taking moments as some hats fell off toddlers’ heads, or were accidentally knocked off, 797 successful participants easily smashed the previous record of 250. A loud cheer and a shower of boaters rose from the jubilant crowd.

“People of all backgrounds made up the 797 who wore their boaters with pride at Wardown Park Museum, bringing this record home where I believe it is most deserved" said a delighted Karen Perkins, Director of Arts & Museums.

a photo of person in straw boater holding up a framed certificate
The Guinness World Record© Luton Culture
“It was a wonderful event showcasing the spirit of community within our town - with many generations taking part, I was proud to be amongst them with my own family.”

As well as the record, the day achieved its aim of raising awareness of Luton’s heritage and the great work of the Museum Makers volunteers who have worked tirelessly to promote Luton’s heritage and to help transform Wardown Park Museum into a thriving asset.

The volunteer group have taken on the challenge of raising the public fundraising target of £60,000 towards the museum’s redevelopment fund, which is in the process of working to secure Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) backing.

So far a HLF stage 1 application has been agreed and the museum has received initial support of £167,000 of the £1.837 million needed.

The Museum Maker team numbers were swelled on the day, as people signed up to the worthy cause.

Ray Aldous, a participant who attended with his best friend of 64 years Roy Sanders, said he had enjoyed a “very pleasant, warm day”.

“If we carry on with these activities in Wardown Park with such really very good young volunteers to guide things through, the future looks very promising,” he added. 

“I’ve served in the RAF and am now 82 years old and have mobility problems, but feel very fortunate and pleased to have taken part, both of us do.

"I feel things are moving forward, things are happening and I wanted to be part of that, and it’s made me very proud that I was.”

See www.museummakers.co.uk for more information.

More photos:

a photo of a family of three wearing straw boaters ion a crowd
© Luton Culture
a photo of smiling people behind a rope line
© Luton Culture
a photo of a crowd of people throwing their hats in the air
© Luton Culture
What do you think? Leave a comment below.

More on Wardown Park and Museum Makers:

Luton Wardown Park Museum attempts Guinness World Record for wearing straw boaters

YouTube video inspired by Pharrell's Happy goes viral for museum lovers in Luton

Rare 18th century hat recovered from cottage wall revealed at Luton's Wardown Park Museum

More on the venues and organisations we've mentioned: