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Mural artist Richard Wilson working on his giant mural to celebrate Leicester City winning the 2015/16 Premier League title.
 
© Copyright Mat Fascione and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

 

 

Yesterday my dream died.”

Last Thursday brought the news that many people were expecting but probably just as many hoped would never come. Leicester City Football Club sacked Claudio Ranieri, the manager that helped them win the Premier League title last season and took them to the Champion’s League.

 

I don’t think there is anyone that expected Leicester to repeat their success this season, but it’s fair to say they’ve not been doing very well. In football, when teams fail to produce good results with alarming regularity it’s only a matter of time until the manager gets sacked. I’m not going to discuss whether this is right or wrong – everyone has an opinion.

 

All I want to say is that Leicester will be a poorer place without Claudio. He was a true gent who loved us just us much as we loved him; a man who would shake the hand of every person present, from journalist to cameraman, at press conferences, and the manager who rewarded his players with pizza for a clean sheet.

 

I told them, if you keep a clean sheet, I’ll buy pizza for everybody. I think they’re waiting for me to offer a hot dog too.”

He bought the players bells for Christmas as a reminder not to slip up in training.

 

From the beginning when something was wrong I’ve been saying: ‘Dilly-ding, dilly-dong, wake up, wake up!’ So on Christmas Day I bought for all the players and all the staff a little bell. It was just a joke.”

His interesting use of English was an endless joy. He described Jamie Vardy thus:

 

This is not a footballer. This is a fantastic horse.”

He was the Italian who introduced the Leicester supporters to opera by bringing Andrea Bocelli to the King Power Stadium to sing Nessun Dorma in celebration of the Premiership win. The fans, always extremely vocal, were still chanting, so Claudio held his hand up in the universal sign for “keep it down a bit, guys” and they did.

 

And so we say a very sad goodbye to a man who captured the imagination of a whole city. He made our dreams come true and in return we took him into our hearts and loved him for it. If his gentlemanliness was ever in doubt this is the statement he released after being sacked:

 

Yesterday my dream died.

After the euphoria of last season and being crowned Premier League champions, all I dreamt of was staying with Leicester City, the club I love, for always.

Sadly this was not to be. I wish to thank my wife Rosanna and all my family for their never-ending support during my time at Leicester.

My thanks go to Paolo and Andrea, who accompanied me on this wonderful journey. To Steve Kutner [Ranieri’s agent] and Franco Granello [his Italian agent] for bringing me the opportunity to become a champion.

Mostly I have to thank Leicester City Football Club. The adventure was amazing and will live with me forever.

Thank you to all the journalists and the media who came with us and enjoyed reporting on the greatest story in football.

My heartfelt thanks to everybody at the club, all the players, the staff, everybody who was there and was part of what we achieved. But mostly to the supporters. You took me into your hearts from day one and loved me. I love you too.

No-one can ever take away what we together have achieved, and I hope you think about it and smile every day the way I always will.

It was a time of wonderfulness and happiness that I will never forget. It’s been a pleasure and an honour to be a champion with all of you.

Claudio Ranieri

 

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Two weeks ago we had a blizzard in Leicester, hail storms and lots of rain. Yesterday the city was sizzling in the long-awaited heat of a late spring and early summer. But it wasn’t just the May sunshine that was raising temperatures in the heart of the East Midlands, our local football team, the Blues, the Foxes, Leicester City, was going to be presented with the Premier League trophy after the evening’s match against Everton at their home ground, the King Power stadium.

 

In some cities the presenting of a big football trophy is not that remarkable. Some football clubs in this country have won trophies more times than I can be bothered to research. For many, it is an almost inevitable conclusion to the football season.

 

I don’t claim to be a football fan; however, I am a huge supporter of my home town and will always root for its sporting teams whenever the opportunity arises. Leicester City supporters are used to disappointment – I’ve only ever been to see them play three times and they lost each time – so it will have been no surprise that at the beginning of this season there seemed little hope of glory.

 

Despite a late resurgence in form at the end of last season and somewhat surprisingly avoiding relegation, Leicester City started this season as rank outsiders. The bookmakers were offering odds of 5000-1 that they would go on to win the league such was the lack of expectation. You could get the same or better odds if you wanted to bet on Elvis being found alive this year!

 

There are many theories about how a team made up of rejects, has-beens and complete unknowns led by a manager, Claudio Ranieri, who had never won a major title, came to win the most coveted trophy in English football for the first time in their 132-year history. The more sensible of these theories talk about incredible teamwork, camaraderie and work ethic coupled with time to relax and the promise of pizza for a clean sheet. Some suggest that Buddhist monks have had some influence through prayer – the club is owned by the Thai businessman, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, founder and CEO of King Power Duty Free. The more romantic like to think that Leicester’s success may have something to do with the reinterment of Richard III. As outlandish as it may seem it is true that the team’s fortune took a turn for the better after the city excelled itself and reburied the much maligned King with dignity and honour.

 

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With the events surrounding the discovery of Richard III and his subsequent reinterment, Leicester showed the world what its inhabitants have known for much longer: we are warm and welcoming; we are tolerant, truly multi-cultural and cosmopolitan; and most of all we are fiercely proud. In a world that is increasingly intolerant and bigoted, Leicester stands out as an example of how to do it right. With this global recognition came a new-found self-confidence and we all know what a boost self-confidence can be.

 

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Leicester City’s meteoric rise to the top of the Premier League is not the only sporting success we have to boast about this year. Mark Selby, the Jester from Leicester, won his second  World Snooker Championship; Leicester Riders became British Basketball League Champions, BBL trophy winners and play today in the hope of winning the BBL play-off final and claiming the treble; Leicester City Women won Women’s Premier League Midlands Division One title – football again – with a 100% record; and Leicester Tigers are in the Premiership Rugby Union play-offs hoping for an 11th English title, having finished in the top four for a 12th successive season! Our cricket team has had less success but even they won their first County Championship game in almost three years just a couple of months after the reinterment of Richard III.

 

As I wandered around the city yesterday afternoon there was the beginnings of a carnival atmosphere. There were blue shirts everywhere, people were blowing horns and carrying Leicester City flags, and random groups of people wearing football shirts kept suddenly bursting into football chants. There are banners hanging from the streetlights on the high street depicting all the Leicester City players, in the depths of Marks and Spencer hangs a Leicester City flag, and they are selling blue sausages in the market. As I made my way back to the car, supporters were starting to fill out the city’s pubs, spilling out onto the streets and raising their voices in song. I turned a corner, away from the drinking establishments and wandered down towards the restaurants. A big blue light installation has taken pride of place in St Peter’s Square and surrounding it are all the usual restaurant chains associated with a cosmopolitan city, many with tables outside continental-style. They all looked pretty full and while the atmosphere was a little more sedate than elsewhere there were still blue shirts everywhere.

 
This little gem is a hip hop track written by local musicians. If you can make out the lyrics they are full of little Leicester-isms, local references and just so much stuff that makes me smile from ear to ear. “We ‘soar’ like the river that flows through the city” is just one such example.

 

 

I love my city. I love its optimism, I love its pride and most of all I love its people. They come from all cultures, all ethnicities, all backgrounds but together we are all Leicesterians, all “chisits“. I could not be more proud of Leicester City Football Club. I could not be more proud of Leicester. We have shown the world that with grit and determination, a fearless attitude, more than a little hope and maybe the support of the last Plantagenet King it is possible to achieve your dreams.

 

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Forgive the long break, but I’ve finally got my new home straight and the computer unpacked and plugged in. I’ve been spending my short Easter break sitting at my new desk in my new study – so many bookcases it’s practically a library – and indulging in some family history research. It’s proving to be more frustrating than anything else but that’s the nature of genealogy. Anyway, I digress.

 

Leicester Cathedral illuminated by the Richard III logo, with the statue of Richard III looking on. My photo.

 

Unless you’ve been in some kind of media black out zone over the last few weeks you’ll know that Leicester has been hitting the headlines. And although I’m obviously biased I have to say “didn’t we do well?” I could not be more proud of my city.

 

One of my favourite headlines from the flood of newspaper articles and suchlike appeared in, of all things, The New York Times:

Richard III, Previous Visit a Bust, Is Warmly Received 530 Years Later”

Much as I would have liked to have been in the city to see the procession and soak up the atmosphere I couldn’t resist the opportunity to see the cortège pass my parents’ house. I wasn’t lucky enough to get a ticket to the only service taking place at a time when I didn’t have to be at work, so standing outside their house and watching as the hearse passed was a pretty special moment. I stood there watching as the police motorcyclists approached me and felt strangely anxious. I pointed my camera in the right direction and decided that video would be better than photos, pressed the button and hoped for the best. This was the result, all 23 seconds of it:

 

 

I went back inside the house and burst into tears. I don’t really know why. I just felt somewhat overwhelmed by the whole thing. I’d been listening intently to BBC Radio Leicester who were doing a sterling job of covering the day as the cortège travelled from Bosworth Field, to Dadlington, to Market Bosworth, and so on into the city. Thousands and thousands of people lined the route. Our village, Newbold Verdon, was teeming with people. From my point of view, my parents’ house was ideally placed as it’s not in the centre of the village which meant I didn’t have to fight for position. Afterwards, I went home and downloaded the film and a couple of photos onto the internet. Twenty minutes later I had an email from a news agency wanting to use my video. I filled out the form they sent and gave permission fully expecting nothing further to happen but, sure enough, my video made it to Yahoo! News. It was all very surreal.

 

My parents were actually at the Service of Compline that took place to welcome the mortal remains of Richard III into the cathedral. They were there as invited members of the congregation. I watched the service on television. Annoyingly, it wasn’t shown in its entirety because Channel 4 decided we’d rather watch Jon Snow discussing the finer points of whether or not Richard III was an evil child murderer and other such mindless and pointless tabloid TV – we wouldn’t. Luckily, during the sermon my parents appeared clearly on screen for quite some time and I got rather overexcited – frantic texts were exchanged with my brother.

 

Excited parent-spotting aside, I found what I saw of the service deeply moving and once again was moved to tears. My parents both said afterwards that they too found themselves unexpectedly emotional.

 

Fast-forward a few days during which I had a very hurried visit to the cathedral to see the coffin (not up close) and it was time for the reinterment. I was working, frustratingly. My dad was lucky enough to be at the service as a volunteer. I did suggest he might like to snaffle Mr Cumberbatch for me; however, he’s good, but he’s not that good!

 

I kept checking Twitter for photos and updates of the proceedings and when I got home I grabbed a cup of tea and sat down to watch the service. The cathedral had never looked so beautiful. The service was wonderful and moving, Cumberbatch’s reading of the poem by Carol Ann Duffy was perfect. Again, the whole thing was oddly surreal. Having spent much of my childhood Sunday mornings in the cathedral, to then see it in such a light with such people in attendance was bizarre, but in the best possible way.

 

What a privilege for Leicester and Leicestershire to get to honour Richard III in such a way. The people of the city and county showing the world how much he means to them – with dignity and honour.

 

But how do you bring to a close such an unprecedented week of events? I read up on all the events taking place and saw that on the Friday evening, after the Service of Reveal where the tomb would be revealed (I’ve still not seen it), there would be something called Leicester Glows. A fire garden was promised and fireworks from the cathedral roof. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect but was determined to go. A friend had come to stay for the weekend as she was attending the Friday service so I rushed into the city after work to meet her and my parents and grab some dinner.

 

Darkness had fallen over the city as we made our way back to the Cathedral Gardens. There were again hundreds, if not thousands, of people gathering and across the medieval quarter of the city 8000 flames were lit.

 

Candles in Peacock Lane, Leicester. My photo.

The fire garden in Cathedral Gardens, Leicester. My photo.

 

The crowds could so easily have felt oppressive, but everyone was in high spirits, marvelling at the beautiful sight of so many candles burning, chatting and joking with strangers, smiling and waiting with bated breath for the main event. If the cathedral had never looked so beautiful on the Thursday then the city had never looked so beautiful on that Friday evening. Not ever.

 

The main event turned out to be thrilling and wonderful, even if slightly heart-stopping. Watching fireworks quite literally bouncing off the cathedral steeple is nothing if not nail-biting. But it was quite a spectacle and beautifully put together, resulting in a spontaneous round of applause. Here’s a video of the full display:

 

 

After the fireworks were over the crowds, and us, spent time milling around admiring the flames. They were quite mesmerising and the smell of candle wax will forever transport me back to that evening. It was magical.

 

Leicester Glows was the perfect end to the most remarkable week. I’ll never know how it got signed off by Health and Safety but I’m inordinately grateful and pleased that it did. 8000 naked flames sounds dangerous but my goodness they looked stunning.

 

Leicester Glows, Cathedral Gardens (the yellow light beam is the projection of the RIII logo onto the cathedral steeple). My photo.

 

So, Leicester did what it promised. It reinterred Richard III with dignity and honour. But more than that, it showed what our city can do and what its people can do. It showed that we have a great sense of community and that we are warm and welcoming and all-embracing.

 

A beautiful film for Leicester Glows by the Big Difference Company (who organised the event):

 

 

On this Easter Sunday they will have been rejoicing in our cathedral that “Christ is Risen”. Like the King we have reburied, Leicester is often much maligned but I truly believe that now all the pomp and ceremony of the reinterment has passed, we can honestly say that Leicester is risen.

 

Happy Easter to you all.

 


 

If you want to see more photos (click “Images”, don’t use the drop down menu) and read more about the week’s events then please take the time to visit the King Richard in Leicester website where there are blogs by The Revd Pete Hobson (Acting Canon Missioner) who led the Richard III Project for the cathedral, and lots and lots of photos. You can even order copies of the Orders of Service – please don’t be tempted by eBay.

 

 

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Leicester wins the battle of the bones

Richard III fell in Leicestershire at the Battle of Bosworth Field. The battle was the last one of significance in the Wars of the Roses, a civil war that was all about power and the right to rule. He was buried in the city in a consecrated grave in a position of honour by his successor, the man responsible for his demise but a closer relative than any living today. The ravages of time rendered him all but forgotten, perhaps helped by the fact that it suited his successor to deny him a celebrated burial place. Leicester has, largely unwittingly, watched over him for over 500 years. I think it wonderful and appropriate that the city that embraces all comers should get to watch over this controversial figure for eternity. He will be welcomed into our lovely cathedral and laid to rest with great dignity as befitting his status. I look forward to paying homage.

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I know many of you have an interest in or are at least curious about British accents and the way in which they differ so much across the country. Because Richard Armitage was born and raised in Leicestershire there has been occasional talk on Twitter and on some blogs about whether or not he ever had a Leicester accent himself.

 

As someone who has lived in Leicestershire since the age of five I’ve wanted to write a little about this subject for some time but it may surprise you to learn that in my time here I’ve never picked up the local accent.

 

I was born in Essex as were both my parents although none of us have an Essex accent. We left when I was 18 months old and moved to Sussex until the move up north to Leicester. My parents have what can best be described as a standard English accent or RP (received pronunciation) accent. I do too except mine is littered with East Midlands-isms. It’s all in the vowels – specifically the a and the u. My a has survived without a Midlands intervention but my u has succumbed.

 

The best description that I have ever read of a Leicester accent and the dialect that goes with it was posted on the Leicester Mercury website today in an article discussing why the Leicester accent is undergoing changes:

Why Leicester accent is undergoing changes

 

The article reminded me of expressions I haven’t heard since I was at school. It also reminded me of the July fortnight – everything would close or operate on reduced opening hours for the first two weeks of July and everyone, especially those in the city, would migrate the 100 miles or so to Skegness. Skeggeh, as it’s known round here, is a seaside resort on the Lincolnshire coast. It’s not known for its great beauty but it has a sandy beach and most importantly, is the closest seaside resort to Leicester which is about as far away from the sea as it’s possible to get in this country. During those two weeks all the Skegness newsagents would stock the Leicester Mercury – our local newspaper – which prior to the fortnight would publish a list of stockists so you could keep up to date on goings on back home while enjoying the dubious weather of the British summer. I’ve never been to Skegness. My dad’s place of work didn’t shut for those two weeks and even if it had “Skeggeh” would never have been our first choice of holiday destination.

 

The accent does differ as you move around the county and there are particular nuances that are peculiar to specific villages. I wish I knew more about it and had a better ear for picking these things up but sadly I don’t.

 

There are certain words that I associate with Leicester that may or may not be peculiar to the region:

Cob

A cob is a bread roll. Different parts of the country call it different things e.g. batch, barm cake etc, but round here it’s a cob and people are particularly partial to a chip cob.

Croggie

Giving someone a croggie means giving them a lift on your bicycle – round here that means having them balance illegally on the cross-bar!

Jitty

There were a lot of these in our village – an alleyway.

Mardy

This was used all the time when I was at school. Someone was always mardy about something which means they were grumpy or moody and probably sticking their bottom lip out as far as it would go!

Oakie

An oakie is an ice cream and the van that comes round with the annoying music is the “oakie van”.

Tabs

Ears. An old-fashioned expression is “Ah’ll bat yer tabs” which means “I’ll box your ears.”

 

The best known of all Leicester expressions is “me duck” but I don’t say it and neither does anyone in my family. I don’t suppose anyone in Richard Armitage’s family uses it either as it tends to only be used by those native to the area and by that I mean, those whose families have been settled here for several generations and from what I understand, his have not.

 

I’ve been asked several times if I think Richard Armitage has any trace of a Leicester accent and I have to say no. I don’t think he has any trace at all. Occasionally his u sounds are a bit like mine but that’s where it ends. He definitely speaks in an RP accent which could be because he moved away at a young age or because he’s had any trace of a regional accent trained out of him. Either way, I’d love to know if he can do a Leicester accent although I’d be surprised to find he can, it’s very difficult as I’m about to prove.

 

Just for a laugh, I decided to have a go at reading some of the newspaper article out loud. This is the result:

 

So there you go … that’s me trying out the Leicester accent and failing miserably. The only way you’re ever going to hear a true Leicester accent is to come up here and visit.  If you need a tour guide, let me know!

 

 

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I am not especially well travelled but I have been to some wonderful places, the memories of which will stay with me forever.

 

I have sat on a beach in Jamaica as I dipped my toes in the Caribbean Sea and watched a tropical storm flash on the horizon.

 

I have trekked into the Sahara desert astride a camel and watched the scorching sun set over the endless sand dunes, and then, the next day, watched it rise over the Chott El Djerid, the largest salt lake in North Africa.
 

Waiting for the sun to set in the Sahara, near Douz, Tunisia. My photo.

 

I have lain on a beach on a tiny island off the coast of Tunisia watching shooting stars dance across the sky surrounded by nothing but the blackness of the night and a few rustling date palms.

 

I have walked the streets of the beautiful city of Valletta in Malta, up and down endless steps, and inside the stunning St John’s Co-Cathedral.

 

I have stood at the top of a snow-capped Austrian mountain watching cable cars as they disappear into the valley below.

 

Mountains near Mutterbergalm in the Austrian Tyrol. My photo.

 
I have waded through a flooded St Mark’s Square in Venice.

 

Flooded – Piazza San Marco, Venice. My photo.

 

I have been to so many places in France they are too numerous to mention: Paris, the Camargue, the Loire, the Dordogne, Provence; the list is endless.

 

In the United Kingdom, again, I couldn’t possibly mention all the places I’ve been but…

 

I have seen the ever-changing storm clouds scud over the Isle of Skye in the Inner Hebrides.

 

I have fallen in love with a fishing town in Devon called Brixham.
 

Brixham, Devon. My photo.

 

I have searched the surface of Loch Ness hoping for a glimpse of that elusive monster supposedly lurking in its depths.

 

I have paddled on an empty windswept Essex beach.

 

Frinton-on-Sea, Essex. My photo.

 
I have been for a ghostly punt on the river Cam in Cambridge and taken a cable car over the river Thames in London.

 

The Thames Cable Car, London. My photo.

 

I have walked in the footsteps of my ancestors all over this land but my favourite place is only 15 minutes from my front door. The photograph in the banner at the top of this blog was taken there.

 

Old John, Bradgate Park in February. My photo.

 

Bradgate Park is approximately 830 acres of beautiful countryside; a former medieval deer park that was first enclosed over 750 years ago. It may be known to some of you as the birthplace and early home of Lady Jane Grey (9 days Queen of England in 1553). The ruins of the Tudor Bradgate House still stand in the park.

 

Bradgate House in October. My photo.

 

Fallow deer in Bradgate Park in November. My photo.

 
For me, it’s a great expanse of unspoilt open countryside in which, even whilst surrounded by hordes of visitors on a hot summer’s day, I can still lose myself, breathe in plenty of fresh air, and relax.

 

Bradgate Park in June. My photo.


It is an ever-changing landscape as it goes from lush green to golden brown with the seasons. In the warmer months the deer, both red and fallow, can be found grazing happily amongst the crowds, but they withdraw as the winter sets in and remain mostly hidden in the areas of the park reserved exclusively for them, until spring arrives.  You can choose to remain in the valley and walk alongside the meandering River Lin or go to the highest point in the park and gaze out over the Leicestershire countryside.  The land’s geology is, unusually, on full display. There are large rocky outcrops everywhere and apparently some contain some of the oldest known developed forms of fossil animal life in Western Europe.

 

On top of the hill and in the wide open spaces it seems to be perpetually windy but there is shelter to be found. It is a place of contrasts and great beauty, a favourite place of families, dog-walkers, cyclists, runners and, of course, me.

 

In the 17th century, the Grey family, through marriage, became associated with the Earls of Stamford. Bradgate House remained occupied until 1719, after which it ran into disrepair, falling to ruin by 1790. The park remained part of the Leicestershire Estate of the Earls of Stamford until it was sold in 1928 to an industrialist called Charles Bennion. He presented it, in trust, for the quiet enjoyment of the people of Leicestershire, and there, with some additional donated land, it has remained; a source of endless pleasure to all who visit.

 

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King Richard III by Unknown artist.
oil on panel, late 16th century (late 15th century)
Given by James Thomson Gibson-Craig, 1862
Primary Collection
NPG 148
© National Portrait Gallery, London.

 

It was a cold, dull and damp day in Leicester last Friday but I was determined it wouldn’t spoil the afternoon. A friend had come to stay for the weekend and I was going to show her around Leicester. I’ve never been hugely fond of the city, feeling a far greater affinity with the south of the country, but, on Friday, I saw it through someone else’s eyes for the first time and realised that it’s a far more interesting and friendly place than I ever gave it credit for.

 

We went to the cathedral first. Now I’ve written about the cathedral before: about what it means to me and why I think it is fit for Richard III, but things have changed. The way I feel about it hasn’t changed and nothing has changed that would be perceptible to the casual visitor, but it has changed. It’s stepped up.

 

My friend’s first reaction was to exclaim how homely she found the cathedral. It’s a warm and welcoming space and now, having stepped up to meet the coming challenge of caring for the remains of the last Plantagenet King, it is more so than ever before. There are more people to meet and greet you as you enter the church, to offer assistance and to show you around. They now offer free tours of the building to meet the increasing demand of tourists wanting to know more about it. And, most surprising of all, there’s a “pop-up” café in the south aisle. This isn’t a permanent fixture but has existed in some guise for a while now. Since the announcement that Richard III had indeed been found and would be laid to rest within the cathedral, they’ve opened the café every day. But, this is no ordinary café.

 

When we arrived there were quite a few people already seated at small tables adorned with pretty tablecloths. There were none free. A kindly gentleman asked us if we’d like a drink and set about making us a pot of tea. Once he’d filled a tray with the tea and some very dainty tea cups and saucers, we turned around to find someone had produced a table and chairs, complete with pretty tablecloth, seemingly out of thin air. People bustled about offering refills, making more tea and coffee, and serving some excellent looking home-made cake. Nothing about this is that unusual until you realise that we weren’t asked for any money. On the table where the drinks were being made was simply a small bread basket for donations should anyone have felt so inclined.

 

White roses left by the Richard III memorial stone. My photo.


When we made our way to the Richard III memorial stone there was a small crowd of visitors around it listening with rapt attention to a cathedral volunteer as she talked about the King. There were white roses placed by the memorial and I know the cathedral has seen a steady stream of visitors bearing more white roses in the last week or so. Some people come to view the church, some to view the memorial, some simply to pay their respects. All are welcomed.

 

We went to the Guildhall next and joined a small queue to view the exhibition – Richard III: Leicester’s Search for a King. We didn’t have to queue for long and the wait was alleviated by the easy banter of the lady who was controlling the queue. She was friendly and obviously very proud to be part of such an important event. We were given leaflets to read and then, once inside the exhibition, left to wander through at our own pace.

 

As someone who has avidly watched the press conference and read all the news I could get my hands on regarding the discovery of Richard III, I didn’t read all the information there but, considering the short timescale for putting the exhibition together, it is very impressive. It’s even interactive. For me the most interesting thing was being able to stand in front of the horizontal screen showing an image of the skeleton. You could touch various points on the screen and more information was then displayed with further photographs. It was very well done and was like having the real skeleton laid out in front of you. Everybody viewing the exhibition seemed to be engaged and interested. Most of all, they were enthusiastic.

 

The exhibition is housed in a modern extension of the Guildhall, but we also explored the old part of the building. It’s shocking to think that I’ve lived in Leicestershire since I was 5 years old and never been inside the Guildhall. It is a fascinating building, the Great Hall having been built around 1390. It has everything you might expect from a building of its age: lots of wooden beams, creaking stairs and floorboards and nothing is straight. It’s a wonderful space and is still fully used as a venue for music and theatre as well as weddings and such like. If you’re brave enough, you can peer into the Victorian police cells. I did this without realising there was a light you could switch on first and completely freaked out when I saw a shadowy figure seated inside. I don’t usually scare easily but these took me somewhat by surprise!

 

Jewry Wall & St Nicholas church, Leicester. Source.


Venturing back out into the cold we made our way to the Jewry Wall – a large section of wall that was once part of the Roman town’s public baths. I haven’t been up close to it since I was at school and was surprised by the sheer scale of it. It doesn’t look like much from a distance but up close you get a real sense of just how huge it must have been. Right next door to the wall is a small church: St Nicholas. This church has a very long and complicated history and is somewhere I have never visited. The external brickwork is interesting because it’s obvious that some Roman bricks have been used in its construction. We were especially lucky to find it was open so we stepped inside. The interior is quite dark but rather beautiful. A gentleman who appeared to be cleaning the chancel looked up and said something like, “You won’t find him here!” At any other time this might have seemed a little odd but we knew exactly what he meant.

 

Wandering around the city with my friend she reminded me to look up. Leicester is a modern city with modern shops and some very modern architecture; however, if you look up and venture away from the main shopping areas there is much to see. A lot of Georgian and Victorian architecture, some of it quite impressive, can be found all over the city but behind some of the façades and round unexpected corners there is still evidence of a much older city.

 

Leicester’s Curve Theatre by night. Source.

 
We spent the evening in one of the most modern attractions, Leicester’s Curve Theatre. It is unlike any other theatre and has no traditional backstage area. The theatre is in the centre of the building and at the end of each performance they raise the walls separating the backstage area from the foyer, thus revealing some of the mysteries of the stage. It is a wonderfully versatile and creative place that not only hosts touring productions but produces new works too. Its modernity does nothing to impede its sense of community and it’s just as important to the city as the remains of the Roman baths.

 

The impending reinterment of Richard III will bring a whole new dimension to Leicester. It will bring more people to the city and raise Leicester’s profile not just in Britain but worldwide. As for the cathedral: I mentioned that I thought it had stepped up, and for me the most important way in which it has done this, is by not changing what it is that makes it such a special place. They continue to do all those things that make people feel welcome; they just now do them on a slightly larger scale.

 

That Richard III will change Leicester is inevitable. But, I’m confident that he will never change Leicester people. We will continue to be a diverse and multi-cultural community. We will also continue to make visitors feel welcome. Whether that’s by sharing our knowledge and generosity in the cathedral, by encouraging people to share in our heritage, or simply by exchanging some banter in the shops, market or museums, I am sure that our friendliness will prevail.

 

UPDATE: Photos taken by my friend on our Leicester tour can be viewed on Flickr here.
 

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