Celebrating Leicester

There hasn't been much to celebrate since the Coronavirus took hold.   It has affected all of us in so many ways.  We must never forget the struggles, heartache and sadness that this infection has brought to so many.

As our world returns gradually towards a sense of normality or a new normality, perhaps we can start the process of placing this event in the context of our history.

I was asked to write a new book about Leicester well before the virus took hold.

Leicester Castle from Castle Gardens
Leicester Castle from Castle Gardens

The aim of the Celebrating series from Amberley Publishing is to highlight the positive and special events of a city or town's past.   Each book in the series looks at the historical celebrations of the past, and include remarkable local people, notable events and feats of great achievement and ambition.

I have divided my book into six chapters covering people, inventions, business and industry, institutions including sport and education, buildings (old and new), traditions, and music, arts and media.

So many history books focus on what is lost, but this new title aspires to explore traditions that retain a lasting effect to this day, industry that has provided employment and prosperity, festivals awaited with anticipation, local heroes and benefactors, restoration and rejuvenation and a city's 'famous fors' and 'firsts'.

Wolsey Knitwear poster
Wolsey Knitwear poster
St Martin's Centre
St Martin's Centre
National Space Centre
National Space Centre

Buildings and open spaces play an important role in defining the character of a city. Medieval churches and ruined structures speak of longevity; dignified town halls, towering mills and extensive factories stretching along waterfronts indicate a prosperous industrial past. Leicester's architecture and the green areas between the buildings is an urban landscape linking historically the Roman occupation to the role of technology in the city in the twenty-first century.

The people of Leicester have been placing their city on the world stage for centuries. Alongside many others, there have been missionaries, anthropologists, explorers of the Amazon, scientists and footballers, Olympic swimmers, machine tool manufacturers, water engineers, politicians, novelists, film directors, furniture designers, makers of confectionery and organisers of comedy festivals.

Leicester's history stretches back to before the Romans reached the area in 48 AD. Despite unsympathetic development in post-war years, it still has a rich heritage of buildings which are noble, fascinating, and delightful to view. It has centuries of traditions, and an impressive roll call of men and women who have gained recognition for their contributions to society, and in some cases by simply making us laugh.

Biddy Baxter MBE
Biddy Baxter MBE
Trevor Storer
Trevor Storer
Donald Hings
Donald Hings
Jennie Fletcher
Jennie Fletcher

A few quick facts about Leicester

  • A Leicester Poly students created the first-ever browser for the World Wide Web.
  • Ten million bags of crisps are produced here every day.
  • The man who founded Curry's PC World maintained steam engines here. 
  • The city's first billionaire began his career in the local market selling reject curtains.
  • It's the home of the UK's first mainland local radio station. 
  • It's where Gary Lineker first kicked a ball and where Showaddywaddy first played.
  • Thomas Cook organised his first holiday excursion from the city's railway station.
  • At a concert here, composer Sir Michael Tippett, as a boy, was first turned on to music.
  • Blu-tack was invented here.
  • So too were dimpled golf balls.
  • And the city's museum is where Sir David Attenborough was inspired by nature.
Four of Leicester's iconic buildings
Four of Leicester's iconic buildings

Celebrating Leicester is scheduled for publication in the Spring of 2021 but this could be revised because of the disruption to the printing industry caused by Covid-19.