Art borne out of lockdown goes on display

By Alfie Linville-Sibley

An exhibition showcasing multiple artists’ works over the national lockdown has opened its doors to the Leicester public today.

The Creative Lockdown exhibition at The Chapel Gallery in Town Hall Square is showing curated works of local artists that were created over the national lockdowns.

Luke Sibley, maker of OFF THE PRECIPICE AND RUN AWAY, a vast sculptural project consisting of one figure per 1,000 UK deaths due to COVID-19, said: “My intention was to mark the passing of our fellow British people, with faceless figures to hit at the randomness of the disease.”

Luke with OFF THE PRECIPICE AND RUN AWAY

Using galvanized steel wire and upcycled bike components to create the figures, which are unknown and blank, he said the onlooker can project what they want onto them.

With each figure taking three to five hours to complete, Mr Sibley worked in the evenings, projecting his current state of mind onto each figure, as he navigated the lockdown, some depicting major personal or world events.

Figure with his dog

Consisting of a large centrepiece and many individual figures, some seem to be vignettes, people distributing the vaccine, fighting the behemoth representing the virus, a man with his dog looking on in shock.

Sibley Art
OFF THE PRECIPICE AND RUN AWAY

He added: “It grew due to the number of men, organically becoming what we see today, 128 figures.”

Elaborating on this natural growth, Luke said his art was “spinning out of control as our normal life was put on hold … it incorporates my feelings and significant events along that journey.”

Held inside a 19th century Methodist church, the works of art surround the pews and are displayed disparately, with artists’ pieces displayed separately from each other, held together by their creation during the lockdowns.

Creative Lockdown, hosted at the Chapel Street Gallery, is open to the public from today until November 22, from 10am – 4pm weekdays.

The Virus

‘It was busier under Covid lockdown’ says Leicester Market trader

By Holly Dobson

A Leicester Market stall-holder has said that trade was a lot busier when stricter Covid-19 restrictions were in place.

Stephen Powley, a 57-year-old fruit and vegetable market trader, said: “Since it all went back to normal, we’re not so busy no more.”

Stephen Powley, 57, at his stall in the Leicester Market (Pic: Holly Dobson)

“When the covid was on, we were a lot busier. There were less stalls and rent was cheaper. Now it’s just gone dead,” he said

However, Mr Powley added that as Leicester city centre prepares itself for the winter months as the holiday period approaches: “I think it will perk up a little more.”

Another Leicester market trader has also spoken of how the pandemic affected his business.

Jason Lepreux, a fruit and vegetable stall-holder, said that the pandemic: “Massively affected business, at best 50 per cent or around 50 per cent of what we were. It’s a combination of everything.”

He added: “Everyone shops online these days.”

Jason Lepreux, 48, at his stall in the Leicester Market. (Pic: Holly Dobson)

In a report by Waitrose, 77 per cent of people now do some of their grocery shopping online, compared to 61 per cent before the pandemic hit. Two thirds of the respondents said they have used online shopping services because they preferred to not go to a supermarket.

Leicester’s Christmas ice rink returns next month

By Em Brooks

Leicester’s Christmas ice rink is set to return to the city centre next month.

The ice rink has been a big part of Leicester’s festive events in recent years with more than 25,000 tickets being sold for it in 2019 alone.

Last year, due to Covid the rink did not appear. However, due to restrictions being lessened this year, it is returning.

Appearing alongside the ice rink will be a Ferris wheel with various other holiday themed items appearing in the city.

Reacting to the news, a Leicester mother said about taking her daughter to go ice skating: ‘’It’ll be a great experience.’’

Another older couple added that they’re both: ‘‘Glad to see it return,’’ despite not planning on skating themselves due to previous injuries.

Holly Dobson, a student at De Montford University said: ‘’I cannot wait to get back on the ice.’’  

As with previous years the ice rink will be hosted by Icescape.

The rink opens from Thursday, December 2, to January 3, in Jubilee Square. It will be open to all ages, both night and day, sessions last 45 minutes on the rink with hired ice-skates and skate-aids available. There are also quieter sessions available as well as reduced prices for off-peak sessions.

Review: Easy Life at Morningside Arena, Leicester

Easy does it

by Abi Willock

“This is the biggest tour we’ve ever been on!” says Easy Life’s frontman Murray Matravers, beaming out at the crowd at Leicester’s Morningside Arena on Friday night.

The humble band are clearly ecstatic to be home, bounding around the stage. They’re also proud to be back. “Leicester is the best city,” says Matravers. 

From gaining the hottest record title with their single ‘Earth’ on Annie Mac’s Radio 1 show, to being nominated for three NME awards, Easy Life have rocketed in recent months.

This exceptional gig –  part of their ‘Life’s a Beach’ debut album tour – shows exactly why they have become so popular. Fans know how crystal clear their studio sound is, and their live performance proves to be just as striking. 

Matravers’ distinctive voice lends itself to his ever-poetic lyrics and the talent of Sam Hewitt is especially commendable as he switches seamlessly from playing keyboard to bass to the saxophone and sings backing vocals in between.   

Crowd participation adds to the vibrant atmosphere as Matravers surfs the uplifting hands of fans and shouted that he wanted to see “more people up on people’s shoulders” during Skeletons, a number that Easy Life performed on Jimmy Kimmel Live! in the US earlier this year. 

Slow Motion also creates a roar from the crowd as everyone puts their hands together and sparkling pyrotechnics light up the arena. Coming down on the rollercoaster of a show, the audience find themselves entranced by the beautiful opening notes of Temporary Love Part 2 as a sea of singing voices swayed along to the uplifting tune.  

Easy Life wow Leicester and are sure to do the same to cities nationwide on the rest of their album tour. Their homecoming show is a night to remember.

View from the crowd

“It’s hard to pick a favourite part of the night… every song was just fantastic,” says George Barrs, a fan of the band since they released their first single, Pockets. “I looked up at them on stage and realised, they’re just a bunch of guys from Leicester living their dream.”  

Elliott Luxton, who first discovered Easy Life when they were interviewed on BBC Radio Leicester in 2019, says: “They sound no different live, especially with their song Lifeboat. You couldn’t tell they weren’t in a studio. They’re almost better live.” 

‘I got lost and was scared – is that what’s happened to Brexit Britain?’

As the shadow of Brexit seems to darken over the UK, Catalina Constantin, a 21-year-old Romanian woman who decided to study in England, discusses the difficult three years in her new country.

Every day, I would take the bus from my university in Leicester to the suburbs of Northampton to return home.

Every day, I would follow the landmarks that I carefully picked out to plot my way home, like a 21st century Hansel and Gretel story, but with me as the main character in this strange new homeland.

It worked, too. I grew to recognise the big Victorian prison that looked like something from a fairy tale with its turrets and towers. The old church. The graveyard. The garage that sold cars with prices written in the windscreens in white felt pen.

Then one day, on my way home, I did not see those things anymore.

Studying hard. Catalina gets stuck into a DMU News Day.

It was dark. Cold. Pouring with rain. Everything seemed different. I decided to ask the driver if he was taking us all on a mysterious new route known only by him.

“No, love,” he said, with an accent that was short on vowels but long on impatience.

“You are on the wrong bus,” he sighed.

He stopped at the first stop and told me to get off and wait for the next one. There I was. Alone, in the middle of nowhere, under the dim light of the bus stop, surrounded by darkness and trees. Welcome to England.

The cold rain forced me to take the decision to walk home. I crossed the street. As I was walking, I could see a light among the trees. There was a house. Now, as I am reminiscing, I picture it as a beautiful painting. But I was afraid.

I quickly called my father and asked him to stay on the phone with me. I wanted to get home safe. He was in Romania. He was just as scared as me but trying his best not to show it.

It is normal to fear the unknown. My fear felt overwhelming and ever-present in my first year here.

My whole world had changed. I decided to move to England to be able to get a better education. When I turned 18, the only gift I wanted was two airplane tickets to England. I wanted to visit the country with my mother. I needed to convince her to move here with me. We did not have enough money otherwise.

Although I was excited, I had my doubts: “What life do I wish to have there? Is it worth it?” – breaking out of my comfort zone was not going to be an easy task.

I learned – like at the university – to push myself a little more every day. This was my lesson. My task. It was not written in my curriculum. But I did it every day. I grew better and more confident at it until I started to do it without realising it.

I had everything figured out.

I was going to finish my studies here. Get a job. After five years of living in England, I would have gained my settled status.

But then Brexit happened.

After the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union, all the happy solutions for my long-term life plan did not seem as simple as before.

I’m one of the lucky ones, however. Being here for three years means I am able to live here after I finish my studies. Students who came to the UK after Brexit in 2020, will not enjoy the same privileges.

Student visas will be required for all students who want to live here. The work permit and student loans that seemed relatively simple and straightforward for me to get in 2019 are now to be given under different circumstances.

“Not to worry,” I said to myself. The universities are trying to find ways to be able to financially support us. We all need time to adapt. But the tuition fees are higher now. For me it was £9,250, now it’s £14,250.

And the only good thing the United Kingdom seems to do at the minute is to provide visa extensions for up to a year after studies for EU and international students.

Parting from the people I love back in Romania was one of the most painful break-ups I have experienced. Some of us leave our countries hoping for a new life. A better one.

Some settle effortlessly. Some are torn by homesickness.

Seeing how the Brexit plan unfolded was not something that I thought I would ever witness in this country I learned so much about in Romania.

It felt like it distanced me even more from my country. I felt like a child who witnessed his parents’ divorce.

Today, the UK, this great country, this grand nation I dreamt of living and studying in, has somehow turned into this Brexit nightmare of skirmishes, of fights on petrol forecourts and empty shelves on supermarkets.

I still love many things about this country. I love the hum of the city and the quiet of the countryside.

I love the people – most of them – who are friendly and cheery and call me ‘love’ in shops, which always makes me smile.

Blue sky thinking. Catalina enjoys a coffee in her home city Bucharest, Romania.

I am not saying that I did not face any form of discrimination. Some people believe that immigrants are stealing their jobs. That we are Gypsy beggars. Or that we sound aggressive. But that is just a misunderstanding on their side. It is human nature. I don’t take that personally.

I had the opportunity of meeting a variety of people that were interested in my country and culture. There will always be people who turn against each other.

Will I stay here?

Possibly.

But I’m not as certain as I once was.

I am not sure if I want to live in a country where grown men fight each other for a tank of petrol. Or where I cannot get bread or fruit in the supermarket.

I do not wish to live in a country that reminds me of the communist dictatorship in Romania. I hoped I left that behind.

So, I like it here. I like what the UK is, what it represents and its people. I do not regret being here at all.

But the dream I had as a small girl growing up in Bucharest is not quite the reality.

I can see that.

I wonder why the politicians who have ushered in this new era can’t see it.