The heartbeat of the East Midlands, Leicester has long been best known for its close ties with the Walkers crisp factory, but very little has given the people of Leicester much pride in recent times. Despite being one of the larger cities in the UK, it regularly gets overlooked, as it’s saddled between Birmingham and Nottingham.
However, the last few years have seen Leicester rise from obscurity to become a city bustling with culture, investment and innovation. This article is designed to shine a spotlight on some of Leicester’s most celebrated exploits in recent times.
The city of Leicester is said to have more traffic lights than any other British town or city. It was the first city in the UK to deploy traffic lights and wardens combined in a bid to clamp down on unsuspecting motorists that were driving too fast. However, the first fully-automated traffic lights were found at Piccadilly Circus in London (1926) and Wolverhampton (1927).
Leicester is the UK’s first city to sign up to a worldwide programme designed to tackle the sharp rise of type 2 diabetes sufferers in urban areas. The Leicester Diabetes Centre has joined forces with similar organisations in Mexico City, Rome, Copenhagen and Shanghai to raise awareness of type 2 diabetes via the Cities Changing Diabetes campaign.
The closest you will get to a British-Indian Bazaar
Leicester is a city with a proud Asian community. Its ‘Golden Mile’ on a stretch of Belgrave Road has become widely regarded by locals and visitors alike as a hub for some of Britain’s most authentic Indian restaurants, sari shops and jewellers. In fact, the Golden Mile has been described as the closest that the UK has to an “Indian Bazaar”. The region really comes to life towards the end of the year, as the city’s seasonal lights celebrate both Diwali and Christmas – the former being the ‘Festival of Light’ for the city’s Hindu residents. According to an itv.com Central News story, Leicester’s Diwali celebrations are the biggest in the world outside of India. The city welcomes 40,000 Hindu visitors on 30th October, with a spectacular firework display marking the culmination of the fortnight-long Festival of Light.
A quick glance at the Guinness Book of World Records reveals that Leicester lays claim to the world’s largest gathering of Daleks, with 95 participants dressed up as the Doctor Who enemies at the National Space Centre in November 2008.
Huge scratchcard jackpot wins
Not only is Leicester full of multicultural vibrancy, it appears to be teeming with luck too. The city is considered the ‘Scratchcard Jackpot Capital of the UK’, with a recent infographic on vegasslotsonline.com confirming that the East Midlands city has had 63 major scratchcard prize winners in the last two years alone – more than any other UK town or city. But Leicester’s scratchcard success goes back much further than 2016. In 2011, a modest roofer from Leicester scooped £1 million on a National Lottery £5 scratchcard purchased at a grocery store in Woodhouse Eaves.
Premier League fairytales
It would be remiss to talk about Leicester’s firsts and not mention the fortunes of its football club. Just two years ago, under the managership of experienced Italian Claudio Ranieri, Leicester City became Premier League champions. Nicknamed The Foxes, the club started the 2015/16 campaign as 5,000/1 rank outsiders to win the title. Throughout the campaign though, the team defied those adds thanks to a rock-solid defence and a powerful front line led by rags-to-riches striker Jamie Vardy, whose ‘Roy of the Rovers’ style rise to stardom has earnt him a call-up to the England national team. This was a once-in-a-generation season for Leicester, who took advantage of underperforming sides such as Manchester City and Chelsea to secure the title with games to spare.
Britain’s biggest supermarket chain, Tesco, boasts its largest supermarket store in Europe right here in Leicester from 1961 onwards. The existence of supermarkets would quickly revolutionise the way the people of Leicester and the rest of the UK did their grocery shopping, greatly enhancing the range of foods and drinks available to British people from overseas.
Quality of life
Leicester is officially one of the best places to live in Britain, according to pwc.co.uk’s 2017 index of economic wellbeing report, which takes into consideration a plethora of factors such as quality of life, affordability of housing and availability of jobs. In terms of economic growth, Leicester outperformed a number of larger cities throughout the UK in 2017, including Birmingham, Manchester, Newcastle and even London. However, if regional cities such as Leicester are to maintain their economic and reputational revival they must continue to address the pressures on residents in terms of housing, transport and skills. Nevertheless, local infrastructure strategies will also be underpinned by large-scale private sector projects such as High Speed 2 (HS2) which should improve the Midlands’ economic links with the capital and the north of England.
The country’s largest planetarium
Leicester is home to the National Space Centre, housing the UK’s largest planetarium and museum, providing fascinating artefacts and interactive galleries on life in space. Named after Sir Patrick Moore and opened by the man himself in 2012, it offers an innovative full-dome 360-degree planetarium and a plethora of educational opportunities for schoolchildren and adults alike. As the city at the forefront of Britain’s space exploration, Leicester has been thrust even further into the global spotlight. Shows hosted at the Sir Patrick Moore Planetarium include ‘Astronaut’, which delves deeper into what it takes to become an astronaut, including the physical exertions on the human body when entering space. British European Space Agency astronaut Tim Peake has been a regular visitor to the National Space Centre. After his six-month spell on the International Space Station, Peake was awarded an honorary degree by the University of Leicester during a visit in October 2016.
Leicester is the home to alternative rock gods Kasabian, who lay claim to being the biggest British band in the music industry today. These guys have five successive number-one records, countless NME, Q and Brit Awards and have already headlined Glastonbury Festival’s iconic Pyramid Stage. The band still proudly live in the Leicester area and are vocal Leicester City supporters, hosting a double-header celebration of the Foxes’ Premier League title-winning season at the King Power Stadium.
Outdoor covered markets
Leicester Market is the heartbeat of the city, located in the Market Place, just south of the city’s iconic Clock Tower. The market has been on its current site for almost seven centuries and remains today the largest outdoor covered market in Europe, let alone the rest of the UK. With more than 270 different stalls, selling everything from fresh fruit and vegetables to haberdashery and jewellery, it’s a way of life in Leicester.
Local radio stations
Leicester lays claim to having the UK’s first ever local radio station too. First broadcasting in 1967, Radio Leicester was the first British station to launch before the likes of Radio Leeds, Merseyside and Sheffield. Established as an experiment to try and challenge pirate radio stations, BBC Local Radio was deemed a huge success in Leicester.
Leicester is also set to become the first UK city where the British white demographic will become a minority. Half of Leicester’s 329,000 population described themselves in the 2011 Census as white British, compared to 63.9% in 2001. According to the city’s deputy city mayor, Rory Palmer, Leicester is “a very real reflection of modern, vibrant, multi-cultural Britain”.
What else does the future hold for Leicester in 2018 and beyond? To help underpin the economic development and support new enterprise in Leicester and elsewhere in the county, the Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership (LLEP) is working hard on a variety of initiatives. The LLEP has helped more than 13,000 businesses grow since launching more than three years ago. It has also overseen a decline in the number of Leicestershire residents claiming benefits, falling from 22,000 in 2013 to just 8,000 three years later. Furthermore, Leicestershire’s talent pool remains as competitive as ever. It boasts three world-class universities within its LLEP area, one of the largest creative clusters in the country and a tourism economy which has grown for seven successive years up to 2015. It is very clear that the people and businesses of Leicester are in good hands.