Leicester Christmas lights switch-on draws record crowds

By Conor de Smith

Leicester’s annual Christmas lights switch-on saw record crowds as the city got the festive season underway last Thursday night.

About 22,000 people attended the event in Humberstone Gate and the area surrounding the Clock Tower to witness the illuminations.

The on-stage entertainment was headed by ITV Central News presenter Matt Teale and featured a host of celebrity guests including X Factor winner Sam Bailey, BBC Radio Leicester’s Martin Ballard, and band the Simpletones.

The switch-on itself was conducted by Leicester Lord Mayor Cllr Ross Grant and ‘Santa Claus’ before a rendition of White Christmas was performed by Bailey, who won the X Factor in 2013.

How Leicester City Council decorated the city.

Leicester City Council has spent an extra £50,000 on festivities having updated the stock of decorations over the last three years. The £170,000 comprehensive budget was distributed between 16,000 lights across 15 city centre streets, a 14m Christmas Tree by the Clock Tower, the Wheel of Light, and an Alice in Wonderland themed tableau, amongst other activities.

The giant ice rink, which will be 50 per cent larger than last year, opens on Saturday, December 8, while there have been decorations erected in St Martins for the first time due to extra funding.

Sarah Harrison, City Centre Director for Leicester City Council, said: “It’s really nice for people to come together. It’s the start of the Christmas season and we get more and more people every single year so we must be doing something right.

“We start planning in February. It is a very long process because there is so much to organise like the ice rink, ordering the Christmas tree, refurbishing the lights, changing the old lights to LEDs, and building the table. It takes a good six months to get Christmas organised.

“With the amount of time and investment we put into Christmas, the city centre looks fabulous to the point where even the most ‘bah humbug’ of people can’t help but smile. We now have these wonderful new public spaces which is why we have so many activities this year.”

Leicester tree lights up sky.

A street food event managed by Canteen UK was also held in New Market Square, allowing the public to enjoy an array of foods such as gourmet burgers, hot dogs, curry, and cheesecake.

Sarah Ventre, owner of curry stall Full of Chaat, said: “We were on board as soon as Canteen UK asked us to do it. We love Leicester and there is a really nice atmosphere here. We have been here since 10.00am and we have really enjoyed it.

“The community feel is another reason why we chose to take part. We’re from Birmingham and do a lot of local events which we enjoy doing, such as our city’s own Christmas lights, and this is very similar.”

The ever-improving event seemed to be a hit with crowds. Christina Allan, 20, a Leicester resident, said that this year’s spectacle has been the best yet.

“I really enjoyed the Christmas lights switch on,” she said. “My favourite bits were the Alice in Wonderland display and the reindeer in St Peter’s Square. It was much better lit than last year and it looked as though they made much more of an effort with the decorations this time around.

“The turnout was a lot larger for the switch-on itself which made for a better night and a much better atmosphere, even if it did take a while to leave the city centre after it had all ended.”

Newarke museum commemorates end to First World War

By Ollie Heppenstall

Commemorating the conclusion of the First World War, The Newarke Houses Museum is hosting the final of three exhibitions in their latest series.

Running until February 24, 2019, from the Trenches to the Twenties was organised by the Leicester Remembers project and focuses on the breaking of the Hindenburg line and the Spring 1918 offensive.

You can also explore the worldwide Spanish Influenza epidemic, the 1918 general election and the Britain to which millions of soldiers would be returning.

Leicester Remembers exhib 1

The exhibition features a ceremonial tunic from WWI

Museum Curator Philip French, who organised the exhibitions as part of the Leicester Remembers project, said: “The Leicester Remembers project was set up in 2014 at the start of the centenary commemorations, and they’ve been handling a great deal of the commemoration projects since then.

“They’ve all been successful so far, we’ve had a school come in so far and around 350 visitors last weekend, which we’re really pleased with. BBC Radio Leicester have been in too”

Within the third exhibition, a series of talks examine the part played by two battalions of the Leicestershire Regiment in the crossing of the St Quentin canal and seizure of the Ricqueval bridge as well as the part played by women in the Great War.

Mr French, added: “The first exhibition was based around mobilisation, mobilisation of not only the armed forces but also the workforce, while our second exhibition mainly honed in on the Somme campaign.

“Something else we’ve looked at is trying to dispel the myth of the First World War being the main instance of women getting into the workforce in huge numbers – that was already the case in Leicestershire mainly due to the huge amount of footwear and clothing that were made as part of the war effort, and made by an overwhelmingly high number of women.”

Philip French’s role as curator was to do the majority of the research and pitch it to the Royal Tigers Association.

He said: “The Royal Tigers association are an organisation set up for the benefit of former members of the Leicestershire Regiment. The exhibition’s all about creating a narrative that’s not only accurate but is a little bit different, hence why there’s such an emphasis on the immediate post-war period.”

Second World War commemorations have not been ruled out of the exhibition either.

Mr French, said: “There’s nothing set in stone yet, but something probably will happen – provided the research is right and the design of the exhibition works.”

The museum is open 11am until 4pm on Sundays and 10am until 4pm every other day and is located at The Newarke, Leicester, LE2 7BY.


Leicester pub saves disappointed gin fans

By Conor de Smith

Leicester pub The Black Horse has rescued gin fans left disappointed by the cancellation of Leicester Gin Festival.

The festival, scheduled for November 9 and 10, was cancelled after the organiser went into administration.

The Black Horse, Aylestone, has announced that it will now hold an event of its own on the same dates.

Those with a ticket to the festival can get a G&T and a talk with one of a number of distillers that will be at the event for free.

There will be more than 100 gins at the pub’s gin festival.

There will also be live music and food available at the traditional pub.

Pork Pie roundabout brought to halt

by Ollie Heppenstall

Wigston’s Pork Pie roundabout was brought to a near-standstill as a result of last night’s minimal snowfall.

The AA have reported delays of up to nine minutes this morning on the A426 Aylestone Road Northbound, between Leicester Road and Church Road.

Elsewhere, congestion on junction 29 of the M69 northbound between the M69 and junction 31 of the M1 have increased with delays of up to nine minutes.


Member of DMU staff wins FA prize

By Conor de Smith.

De Montfort University’s Grace Morgan has been named as one of the winners of the #JoinOurSquad initiative.


Morgan, a former Journalism student who is now a Graduate Sports Development Assistant at DMU, has won 10 tickets to the SSE Women’s FA Cup final at Wembley in May.

The winners were personally chosen by Manchester City forward Nikita Parris and Twice the Health as part of the FA Girls’ Football Week.

Participants were encouraged to share their experiences by sharing a ‘squad selfie’ using #JoinOurSquad to stand a chance of winning prizes.

That is exactly what Grace Morgan, 23, opted to do and it ultimately paid dividends for the Leicester City Women player.

“I’m over the moon to win the tickets and I’m so excited for the cup final,” she said. “It will be the first time I’ve been and it’s a great opportunity for the girls to see a professional game live too.

“I never in a million years thought I would win. There were so many amazing events held all over the country throughout the week at different institutions, the week was a total success.”

A number of activities took place at universities and colleges across the country. De Montfort had five days of events including a campus crossbar challenge, free five-a-side games and a Soccercise class and UV football.

The event took place from 6-12 November and is a national campaign that aims to encourage girls to take part in football.

Grace added: “I think it’s fantastic to have these weeks because it offers girls the opportunity to join events for beginners and not feel intimidated, they really can come along and give it a go without any obligations to sign up.”

Students looking to get involved with women’s football should follow @DMUWFC on either Twitter or Facebook.