Leicester: The REAL City of Culture?

The Ella Morris Blog

Ella Morris | Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Leicester: The REAL City of Culture? written by Ella Morris for Downstage Centre, published on Tuesday, July 14, 2015Is Leicester the 'real' City of Culture? With so much already happening there, Ella Morris certainly thinks so.

2 years ago, Leicester went head to head with Hull to win the coveted title of UK City of Culture. Hull won. But did they?

First of all – what do you define as ‘culture’? Dictionary.com states;
Culture as defined by Dictionary.com

Secondly, the title ‘UK City of Culture’ is quite a confusing title. When I first heard it I had the impression that an awarded city (such as Hull) must be THE place to go for all things culture otherwise why be given such a grand title. In actual fact, ‘UK City of Culture’ seems to mean that over a period of time, a city is given a pot of money to enhance their ‘cultural’ offering.


With this in mind, Leicester doesn’t fair too badly.


Artistic Appetite

As a North-West Leicestershire native, I love living in Leicester. As a relatively ‘cultured’ person I feel very happy that my artistic appetite is largely satisfied – something that is very important to me. You don’t have to travel very far. Even if we refer to culture in terms of ethnicity, every culture is represented in Leicester and it's very much part and parcel.
If I did want to venture further to catch a show at say The National Theatre in London or The Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester I’m only a 1-2 hour train ride away. Other great nearby venues include;

•    The Royal Shakespeare Company, Stratford
•    Birmingham Symphony Hall
•    Outdoor venues such as Kilworth House and Tolethorpe Hall
•    The Core, Corby
•    Quad, Derby

Loughborough also has a fantastic reputation for producing outstanding quality musical theatre via amateur dramatics groups such as The ESNA Players, Greasepaint and Christchurch Theatre.

So what of Leicester?

Without question Curve theatre is the big pull and has worked really hard to put Leicester on the map artistically. I’m quite proud that it is an innovative theatre that seems to improve its offering year on year and attracts and develops really good talent. We also have the Dave Comedy Festival every February which hosts a variety of comedy in every venue imaginable and brings in visitors nationwide to see their comedy favourites mixed in with the more experimental and up and coming comedy acts.

HOWEVER to me, theatre is about community and this is where Leicester has really come up trumps the past year or so.

Theatre staple:

The Little Theatre: Forget its amateur status. This great little community theatre is largely run by volunteers who work tirelessly to produce 12 shows, a traditional pantomime (always sold-out) and host of other amateur/professional productions. Its run like a professional theatre where the company rehearse for six weeks with a week’s run to the public and have a full-time job. Now THAT’S commitment. Come and support these crazy thespians!


Pub Theatre:

Upstairs at The Western: Leicester’s only pub theatre. Run by volunteers, The Western pub is home to Off The Fence theatre company, who host a variety of home grown theatre as well as other performances that benefit from a small and relaxed yet quality setting.


Story City: A festival taking place as I write, is a collaborative effort between many local venues and theatre companies, bringing together digital performance, theatre, interactive, film and storytelling with one motto. ‘A city has many stories. Let’s share them’.

Music Venue:

The Cookie: A café by day. Entertainment venue by night! No more words (mainly because this video says it all). I want more of these venues please!

Disability and the Arts:

Embrace Arts at The Richard Attenborough Centre: It's main aim in life is to function as an inclusive arts centre, promoting ‘engagement in arts’ for people of disability. One summer, I formed part of the team from Speakeasy Theatre that ran a week long drama workshop for disabled youngsters. There’s nothing better than allowing these fantastic young people to express themselves through creative means, engage with others and have fun!

Independent Cinema:

Phoenix Arts: ‘Leicester’s Independent Cinema, Art Centre and Café Bar’ is my ‘chill’ place. A place to take time out, grab a glass of wine, have a bite to eat, watch a movie and have good banter with friends. Proving good cinema is not just about Hollywood blockbusters, you can catch anything and everything here.


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