DMU celebrates Black History Month 2021

by Abigail Beresford

De Montfort University is celebrating Black History Month 2021 by offering students the opportunity to attend a series of events to celebrate African, Asian, and Caribbean communities within society.

These include talks led by guests, such as Artistic Director, Aakash Odedra, as well as events that students can get involved in, including Afrobeat and Bollywood dance.

“Black History Month allows us to reflect on old past times, to better society for future generations. The university is helping society grow, celebrating our community,” said Sai Hemanth, a DMU graduate from Leicestershire.

To find out more, visit https://www.dmu.ac.uk/current-students/hot-topics/2021/september/dmu-black-history-month-2021.aspx to see the full list of events that are on offer.

A student guide to places to eat and drink in Leicester

Just started at De Montfort University? Never been to Leicester before? Want some recommendations on pubs, cafes, bars, restaurants and takeaways in the city from a like-minded spirit who’s pretty much the same age as you? Ah. Sorry. Can’t quite help you there. Journalism lecturer Jeremy Clay will have to do instead.

I know what you’re thinking. ‘Here I am, in a strange new city, with no idea what’s what. I wish I had some tips on things to do and places to go from a dreary, middle-aged, white man.’

Well, it’s your lucky day.

But before we begin, you should probably follow Cool as Leicester. It’s full of stuff about bars, restaurants and whatnot, and it is not run by a dreary, middle-aged … etc.  The website is here.

Leicester has all the usual chains, from the blah-blah burger and pizza places to the likes of Revs, Cosy Club, Brewdog, Hogarths, Five Guys, Tim Hortons, the Giggling Squid, Rileys and so on. We’ll take it as read that you know all about them, shall we, and press on to the independent stuff that help make Leicester tick.

This is just an introduction, mind – some suggestions, to get you going. This is your city now. One of the pleasures of moving somewhere new is finding your own favourite places.

Pubs and bars

Let’s start on home turf. The Soar Point is one of DMU’s go-to pubs, with screens showing BT and Sky Sport, pool and foosball tables, and a balcony overlooking the Mile Straight (that’s what they call the stretch of canal that runs by the campus. And if you think that’s a little bit odd, wait til you hear about Frog Island).

At the city end of the campus is the Bowling Green. They screen live sport here too, and the food menu includes all-day breakfasts, which is handy for those days when your body clock is catastrophically out of sync with Greenwich Mean Time.

If you go through this medieval archway …

… you’ll find:

a) the church where Chaucer is said to have married;

b) the castle where Parliament was once held, and where everyone arrived armed with bats in case it kicked off;

and c) Leicester’s smallest pub: a bonsai boozer called The Castle, which is run by the SU. Or at least it was before the pandemic.

Will it be open again now? Good question. Erm, I haven’t checked. If you’re a Journalism student, there’s your first lesson, right there.

Cross the canal from the campus and you’ll find Braunstone Gate, home to 2Funky Music Café, Natterjacks, the rock bar the Metal Monocle and the city’s original brewpub, the West End Brewery.

The chances of your taste in pubs coinciding with mine are so remote it’s hardly worth me mentioning some of the ones I like the best. But I’m going to anyway. The Globe has been going since 1720, so it would be rude not to visit. The Rutland and Derby is a handsome old pub with a menu that includes Canadian catnip poutine among the usual suspects. The Black Horse, also on Braunstone Gate, is brilliant, and you’ll absolutely love it – but maybe in about 25 years’ time.

Wygston’s House, on Jubilee Square, is both one of Leicester’s oldest and newest pubs, as it opened in 2017 in a 15th century building. It’s not the cheapest place to drink but you’ll be sitting in a place that was already quite old when Shakespeare was born. Plus it does two-for-one on gins on Fridays until 9pm (I’m not on commission for any of this, honest).

The Tree, on the High Street, describes itself as a neighbourhood hang-out, which may or may not make your teeth itch, depending on which side of past-it you are (excuse me, while I attend to some furious teeth itching). But people are really fond of it, and it has a spiffy little garden. Plus, they allow dogs in, so if you’re missing your own, and want to treat someone else’s as a fleeting surrogate, knock yourself out.

At one point, people might have called Firebug a bit grungy. Insert the current term here. It’s open until 4am every single night of the week and has a pop quiz on Tuesdays, should you feel the need to answer questions about … *Googles band names from the last decade* … girl in red. Cough.

If bars, cocktails and/or gin are more your thing, try Sophy, 33CankStreet, The Gadabout, Manhattan 34, The Exchange Bar, Bruxelles, 45 West and the Bottle Garden. Though best not on one night. And good luck with your finances.

Don’t drink? Need a night off? &KITH is a cafe and dry bar with non-alcoholic cocktails.

Food

If Leicester people can agree on one thing, it’s that they can’t agree on which is the best samosa shop. Which is a bit odd, as it’s clearly Mithaas on the Narborough Road. They do swoon-inducing, cheap veggie curries too.

Belgrave Road, the self-styled Golden Mile, is variously said to be home to the biggest or one of the biggest Diwali celebrations outside India. It’s also quite possibly the veggiest stretch of road in Britain, with loads of meat-free restaurants. There’s a little-known bit of media law that requires every national journalist visiting Leicester to go to Bobby’s for a quote (and in the hope of blagging some free bhajiis, no doubt). 

Kayal, on Granby Street, near the railway station, has taught a culinary trick or two to Paul Hollywood and the Hairy Bikers. It serves up seafood, meat and vegetable curries from the tropical Kerala region of India, while its sister restaurant Herb, just across the street, is purely vegetarian and vegan.

Even in Leicester there’s a risk of mediocre take-away curry misery. Play it safe by trying the splendid Little Club or Paddy’s Marten Inn (as seen on Jamie Oliver’s Great Britain).

Full disclosure: I’ve not been to Istanbul. Nor have I been to Istanbul, on the Narborough Road. But I know for a fact – a fact – that people rate them both. It’s usually crammed.

There’s no sign outside Casa Romana, just a green door on an unassuming side road off Belvoir Street (it’s pronounced Belvoir, by the way. You’re welcome). Inside, you’ll find one of the best Italian restaurants in the Midlands: simple food, done brilliantly. Book in advance: Casa Romana is half-restaurant, half-cult, with a devoted following.

Casa Romana doesn’t do pizzas, mind. When you crave a *proper* pizza – and with the power of suggestion, it’s quite possible that’s suddenly right now – then Maurizios delivers, in more ways than one. 

Nearer to campus, Peter serves traditional Neapolitan pizza made with hand-shaped, fermented sourdough that’s a country mile away from the standard American-style stuff churned out by the chains. This is the place that Claudio Ranieri where brought his Leicester City squad to reward them for the first clean sheet of their title-winning season. Peter also do DIY home pizza kits, if you want to give it a whirl yourself. (Ranieri not included.)
Even closer to campus is Bagos. They deserve your custom if only for this:

The Korean-inspired Grounded Kitchen is a Leicester success story which has spread across the Midlands. The original store is on Queens Road, deep in Leicester University territory, with a new outlet just opened at Fosse Park shopping centre out near the motorway.

And if we are breaking the rule a little by mentioning smaller scale chains, say hello to Tamatanga, Bodega Cantina and the newly-arrived Afrikana. Birmingham’s opulent Varasani is making a foray into the East Midlands with a new restaurant on the High Street due to open later this year – stand by for an all-out Instagram onslaught.

But sometimes (read: with indecent regularly) nothing else will do but a good fry-up. In which case – *taps nose, winks* – haul your bones to a Leicester institution, the Rialto, in Malcolm Arcade, which first opened in 1963. When the restorative power of hot oil + salt has worked its magic on you, they have games consoles. Honourable mention for dezombification breakfasts: Cafe Two Ten, at the far end of Narborough Road.

Café Roma, on Halford Street, is a good bet for pasta and a proper espresso, and actually feels a bit like being in Italy, if you face away from the window and/or squint a bit. Head towards the Curve theatre, and you’ll find Grays Coffee Shop & Kitchen. Well, you will, if you know where to look. It’s squirelled away in the LCB Depot business centre, but it’s no works canteen. The current menu includes tuna toasties, vegan burgers and quadruple-cooked chips. Quadruple! Have some of that, you thrice-cooked slackers.

The Victorian tellers and clerks who used to work in the striking Grade II-listed former bank by Every Street, near Leicester’s Town Hall Square, would be quite startled to hear it ended up as a coffee house, and even more so – once you’d explained the concept – that it’s vegan.  Prana, needless to say, is far more likely to make you coo ‘get a load of that ornate cornice work’ than your usual cafe. Obscure fact: the name Every Street, comes from the taxi firm that used to be there, which boasted their cabs went to every street in Leicester. Huh!

Crafty Burger is a much-loved regular pop-up restaurant which runs on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at the St Martin’s Coffee Shop – random review on TripAdvisor: “I have never been disappointed”. By St Martin’s Coffee Shop, we imagine they mean, rather than life generally.

Bread and Honey, a stone’s throw from the campus – if you can lob a stone several hundred feet, that is – packs a lot into a small place: home-made soups, fresh cakes, Belgian single-hot chocolate and Monmouth coffee too, which apparently makes people who know about such things levitate slightly with joy.

In case of sunshine – or gloom, or joy, or simple persistent nagging by your sweet tooth – try Gelato Village, on the edge of St Martins Square. USP: luxury ice cream, made with Leicestershire milk by two splendid men from Turin. The result is about as far from a Strawberry Mivvi as it’s possible to get. What’s that? Oh, ask your Nan.

Want to eat and work? Try the The Distillery, which offers lunch, bottomless soft or hot drinks, wifi and power for a tenner. That’s bottomless, as is in you get refills, not a calamitous flaw in the mug design.

If you’ve got a visit from the family pencilled in, and they have deep pockets, push the boat out with a posh curry at Chutney Ivy (opposite the Curve theatre and handy for the Exchange bar). North Bar and Kitchen, which promises British classics created with flair, is a short walk from the campus, on the Hinckley Road. Keep going along the road – no, further … more … no, you haven’t gone wrong, promise – and you’ll eventually come to Winstanley House, a smart wedding venue/hotel/restaurant/bar on Braunstone Park. It’s in the city, but you’ll feel like you’re right out in the sticks.

Winstanley House

Back in the centre of town, The Case has been feeding mums, dads and their freeloading student offspring for decades. Restaurant reviewers would probably use the words space or room approvingly.

A final tip: Leicester’s LCB Depot, near Curve theatre, hosts #LastFriday at the tail end of each month, with street food stalls, music and arts.

‘Lockdown has been tough – but my confidence and study skills have improved through lockdown restrictions’

DMU student Sahar Hussain tells Pythias Makonese that although she has struggled during lockdown, it has taught her many valuable lessons.

Sahar Hussain, 21, is currently doing a Masters in Research Applied Health Studies at De Montfort University. 

“I have been here for four years-the first three years were for my degree and now my one year for my masters,” she says.

She thinks the COVID 19 pandemic had many adverse effects on people in general, including herself. Being locked down and learning online makes uni life difficult, she says.

“There have been many effects on my studies and I think the biggest one has been trying to understand the lectures we have had, especially now some of the modules are completely new and we need more time to grasp them,” she says.

Sahar Hussain in the library: “I have found the lockdown tough – but it has improved my study skills.”

In terms of her education, she has found that her assignments are harder to complete – mainly because she finds it harder to concentrate during long online lectures.

“For me, personally, it has been the online activities and workshops we have to do that I have found most difficult,” she says.

“For example, I find it very hard to concentrate during online lectures compared to when I am attending lectures within the classroom.  I think students can be distracted especially when they are by themselves on a computer,” she says.

Sahar claims the effects of online learning have affected her quite severely.

However, using the library as her primary source of work and research has been helpful, she says.

“During lockdown I have noticed that the library has been a lot quieter and I have been coming to the library Monday to Friday – every single day due to there being fewer resources at home,” she says. 

She found disturbances at home unbearable because of different people coming in and out of the house . And at home her wif-if was slow. It made studying and watching online lectures even more difficult.

“I think one of the biggest lessons I have learnt is to be more independent to try to find better and more suitable ways to study. My confidence and study skills have improved through lockdown restrictions,” she say

 Sahar believes that the arrival of the vaccine will help to ease the lockdown. However, she still recommends that extra care is needed.

“I think we still need to be very careful with social distancing and putting on masks. We must take these measures because we are still currently not done at all with this pandemic,” she says.

Only leave your home if you have to, says Sahar. She only leaves her accommodation to study, go to the library and fetch essentials.

Sahar Hussain highly commends how DMU has handled the COVID-19 situation – especially with the introduction of the hardship fund.

Hypocrisy and neglect: The government’s handling of student COVID-19 testing

DMU journalism student Samuel Hornsby gives his opinion on the contradictions of coronavirus testing for uni students.

Photograph by Tim Dennell: Accessed via Creative Commons.

Down by the River Soar sits The Watershed, a building which usually houses sports events for De Montfort University.

Recently, though, as there have been no sporting events, the budding has been transformed into an NHS Test and Trace centre capable of mass testing for students and staff alike.

Before returning to in-person teaching, students are required to undergo two lateral flow tests taken three days apart – and the facility is offering booked appointments at the venue to test all students.

For those travelling back to in-term accommodation for upcoming face-to-face study it is ideal. Only a short walk from the campus and the building can handle the high capacity of rapid tests that are imperative to ensure an outbreak does not occur.

Everything seems peachy – until you factor in commuting students. For them being tested prior to returning isn’t a simple as one may initially think.

If such a student had to travel in for the test on public transport and then tested positive, then they are knowingly putting people in danger when travelling back. Clearly, this is not an ideal or practical situation.

However, the university has clarified if there are local testing facilities nearer to the student’s home, they can use those instead. This seems to be the ideal solution to the problem and minimises risk.

Unfortunately trying to get tested locally as a university student is a Kafkaesque bureaucratic nightmare with each department just as bewildered and confused as the last who throw you from person to person like a game of pass-the-parcel.

Let’s go through the journey of finding out where you can get tested locally and try not to pull your hair out in frustration.

The natural place to start is the government booking website where you put in your postcode and then get sent to the page of your relevant county council. On there it lists all the testing sites. When you search up said sites you realise although they are called walk-in centres you still have to book before the test. Fine. There’s a phone number so this shouldn’t be a problem.

The phone number does not go through to the testing centre and is instead a generic NHS number. They have a list of testing sites but not how to book at those sites, so they recommend contacting the district council. This is because they are a smaller body that should know more about specific local testing in your area. Turns out they don’t.

District Councils only have the same list as the NHS which provides the names of facilities without any further information, but they do give you the government website to book through. A huge leap forward, it’s just a shame that leap is into a previously unseen pit.

When booking through the government website you have to provide a reason for why you wish to be tested.

Reasons include: being an essential worker, showing symptoms of coronavirus or have been invited to receive a test as part of a trail amongst other possible criteria.

School students are also allowed to have access to such tests through booking, but this excludes university students who if they do not any other criteria will be greeted with a message of not being eligible to book a test at this point in time.

This begs the question as to why they cannot access local testing centres, especially when school children, as well as sixth form and college students, can. It was the same government policy that told them to go back to in-person education. That policy didn’t specify university or school, it simply said ‘students’, yet where they get easily accessible testing, university students do not.

If you are lucky enough to live in a city, then you may find yourself able to access a non-bookable community asymptomatic testing site for those living in rural areas these are not an option as they only cater to the boroughs in which they are set up.

Furthermore, to rub that extra bit of salt in the wound, to order a home test kit from the government website you must once again fall under a category from the aforementioned list of criteria that excludes those at university.

When trying to find a way to test locally an NHS staff member on the phone admitted they have had to tell people to simply lie in order to get the tests they require. They confessed it may not be moral but they aren’t being given other options.

So, if you are a commuting student, good luck, stay safe and cross your fingers the government will be more consistent with their next set of COVID-19 policies.

Diary of a house party: ‘10.45pm. There’s a man at the door. We definitely didn’t invite him. He has a Leicester City Council logo on his outfit. Ah. We’ve fudged up.’

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By James Cannell

House parties. We have all been there, whether it be invited to one, next door to one or hosting one. I usually find myself being the latter. However, for the first time in my partying career, I have found myself facing my toughest challenge yet: a noise complaint. Here’s how it happened.

8.30pm

The door opens, and students come pouring into the house. Now I am accustomed to large crowds in small places. I excel in them. But through some lunacy, myself and my two other house mates thought it to be a good idea to invite at least 30 people to our, narrow, thin-walled house. Within the hour, our two- to three-person sofas are working at double capacity and the arm chairs faintly resemble refugee camps.

9.30pm

The alcohol is flowing, the drum and bass music is pounding and my sorry attempt to retain control is dwindling.

It’s not a problem. “The best parties are always the ones you can’t remember in the morning,” a friend of mine always says.

There’s another party happening next door. Just over the fence.  At this point, one of my house mates takes the initiative to make first contact with them. With a mighty heave, during which I am almost positive he has put his back out, he lifts the fence from its rightful place. And so, the parties merge.

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Image by Thomas Breher from pixabay.com

10pm

The merge isn’t a problem for me either. I am all for new faces. It’s just the fact that the party has not dispersed between the two houses, but we’ve added to the number of heads in my living room.

At this point, a game of ‘civilised’ beer pong has begun.

I say ‘civilised’ in such a way because the level of competitive chanting was something similar to Donald Trump shouting nonsense at an innocent journalist who was just minding his own business.

The game ends with me landing the final shot into the cup. During the celebrations, a drunken friend decides to chock slam another through the beer pong table, which is actually a door that we had found on the side of the road. Because of the fact it was a fire door, the two ricochet off the table, like a tennis ball against brick.

10.15pm

Upon closer inspection, we realise the table is in no fit state to continue the night. Because me and my fellow housemates didn’t buy the door/ table, we have no monetary or emotional tie to it, but that didn’t mean its retirement is any easier. In a moment of mourning, the music switches to The Sound of Silence. A dramatic change from the heavy, bass from before. A reverent hush is demanded as all 45 plus people are urged to file outside and pay homage to the table. Not the most unusual thing I have ever done, but maybe the most meaningful thing I will do tonight. It’s at this point that my stupid, drunk brain thinks it would be a good idea to set off a firework.

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Image by PublicDomainPictures on Pixabay

10.20pm

As the song comes to a close, I stand in front of the crowd, firework in my hand. I raise it to the sky, the fuse is lit, the fuse makes contact with the firework, it ignites.

At this point I realise reading the instructions would have been a good idea. See this firework is attached to a stick. I’d assumed that the firework would shoot off the stick. It didn’t it. It went off in my hand. At head level. The damage is minimal, luckily. Everyone laughs it off and the party continues.

10.45pm

Now as many students may know, 11pm is when you should quieten down the music. No more loud noises, right?

Turns out noise complaints can be made any point. I discover that after cleaning the soot off my arm.

There’s a knock at the door. With one house mate passed out upstairs and the other calming down a hysterical girl, it’s left to me to answer the door. There’s a man stood there. A much more mature one. Someone we most definitely didn’t invite. Ah. We’d fudged up. The reason I knew this instantly had to do with his outfit. Smart but causal, but with the Leicester City Council logo on it.

11pm 

The party has been shut down. Someone has complained about the noise we had been making. Whether it was the firework so close to the ground, or just the heavy bass we’re not sure. All we know is that it’s over, and we are to expect a council hearing soon.

Still, it had been one of the best parties we’d had and yet, come tomorrow, we will be  very much able to remember it.

Well, maybe. We decide to throw caution to the wind and go out.