On Wednesday November 23, at 7.45am, Leicester seemed to make a unified sighing sound.
The world had just discovered that Hull had been selected as the City of Culture for 2017.With the busy streets of the most multicultural city in Britain filled with an endless array of museums, historical buildings, arts centres and a fantastic music scene, it seemed like we were destined to win the bid. However, Hull had a different idea.
Since joining De Montfort University as a student back in 2011, I originally thought that my allotted time at higher education fell, luckily, in three of the most exciting years in Leicester’s history for a long time. However, having learned more about Leicester’s past and future by many different educators, I’ve come to realise that this is just who Leicester is.
With so much to offer in such a compact city, it’s difficult to know where to begin and why we failed. The Royalty (yes, that is a nod to you Richard III), The Space Centre, The Curve Theatre, The Golden Mile (Belgrave Road), The Summer Sundae festival, our comedy, food, Caribbean and Pride festivals, two great universities, our annual religious celebrations and our sports events. These are only the ones that came to my mind.
Our bid, which took 9 months to compile and cost £125,000, consisted of a themed seasonal plan, dubbed “illuminating culture”. The bid, if won, could have meant a jackpot of £12m to be put towards cultural events such as concerts, art exhibitions and markets in 2017.
Dazzle, Spotlight, Shine, Radiate and Reflections all had a selection of events running through each season; these included hosting Radio 1’s Big Weekend, an international conference on arts and disability and various exhibitions.
However, despite not winning the title, the efforts of the team who curated the bid, who consisted of a “consortium made up of key local figures from the arts, business and media”, will not be wasted.
City Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby has already announced plans to celebrate the highlights of our city, with a series of events that will take place over the next 18 months. The content of these events, however, have not yet been revealed.
When the news of the loss was announced at the Curve Theatre, Sir Soulsby said: “We have so much to be proud of. Of course it is a disappointing day for us, but we must not, whatever we do, lose the ambition or momentum that we had whilst creating this bid.”
Of course, Sir Soulsby is right. We are Leicester. We will not be beaten down by the loss. We can take it and carry on. There is so much more that we can conquer in the future, who’s to say that this is more of a curse than a blessing?
When I came here initially, as an excited but nervous 19-year-old, I wasn’t expecting to grow fond of a city as much as I have. It was a place that I always associated with the red cheese before, and had no desire to know anything more about.
But, since being here, my eyes have been opened, and the place “Leicester” has so much more attached to it: university, memories, great friends, clubs and, most importantly, home. So, in spite of not winning, I would like to wish Hull well in their upcoming celebrations for 2017.
Their celebrations will be great, and will allow for them to create what we have already: culture, life and unity.
We may not have the official title, but we certainly are still the most cultural city in our hearts.