Gazelle lead singer Ryan Dunn on effect of lockdown: “It really put a spanner in the works”

By Samuel Gill

Lockdown has affected many businesses, such as the entertainment sector, with live music having no potential roadmap in sight for bands to return to venues since the lockdown earlier this year in March.

Ryan Dunn is lead singer for the Leicester-based band Gazelle who, as well as a following in their home city, started to gain major traction further afield before lockdown.

Speaking about the effect of the lockdown from their perspective, he admits that there were big plans in the offing.

“Just before lockdown, we had a few things in the pipeline that were looking really good for us. There were television appearances and a few festivals so it really put a spanner in the works. It was quite annoying to be honest. We’re just hoping we can continue that when we get back,” said Dunn.

A lockdown demo was released by the band called This is My England ahead of the 75th anniversary of VE Day and this time has led to music being made differently including for Dunn and Gazelle.

“I’ve been writing a lot of new music and getting a few tunes down so I suppose in that respect, it’s been a bit of a blessing to get that time to write some new tunes.

“I think you can be a bit more experimental. I think it’s a time you can reflect and try and work out how you stand and hone your skills a bit more.”

Dunn’s last gig was at The Cookie back in March as a solo acoustic set with The Magic Mod, a sign which still adorns the venue today and like many, he didn’t think it’d be this long since his last gig.

He added: “To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to think at the time. I wasn’t too worried about it. I was a bit reluctant to go into lockdown so it was nice to get that last gig in and I definitely didn’t expect it to be almost a year. If you actually go by the Cookie, The Magic Mod is still there, it’s a bit weird to see.”

PRECURSOR: Ryan Dunn on stage at The Cookie before lockdown – Photo – Robert O’Brien/ Snake Oil Music News

So how does he see the future of live music and venues? Dunn believes it has been an apparent issue since lockdown began.

“I don’t think they’re doing enough to protect venues, pubs or any sort of small business. I think they jump to put us into lockdown too quickly sometimes and don’t stop to think of the consequences it has on the businesses.”

A closer look at Leicester Riders’ Morningside Arena’s COVID secure efforts

By Samuel Gill

After a previous article regarding Leicester Riders’ start to the season without fans and the efforts of those involved with the Morningside Arena, Leicestershire Press were invited down to see these first hand this past week.

An appointment needed to be booked in advance to come down to the arena and this will be the same on game night to enable segregation in times between those coming in.

As an arena, it is already set up for events seating wise with 1m+ distancing with the seats designed to accommodate this meaning nothing has had to change.

But on arrival, a temparature check is completed by the staff on site and you are required to download an app and sign up for a guest card which is then used to enter the turnstiles in the arena.

Hand sanitiser stations are utilised all over the arena for quick and easy access and a one way system is used as well.  The courts are also split up into three zones meaning if self isolation is needed, they can pin point who has been with them for Track and Trace.

Ventilation is also heavily used as well as on a business side, the use off the same system for the app so fans can easily purchase merchandise or refreshments while on site.

Fergus Garner works for both Leicester Riders and Morningside Arena and has seen these changes first hand since the country was forced into lockdown.

“It’s been good as it’s given us some down time to really focus on bedding in the new system and putting in these procedures as usually we’re quite busy with events and basketball so we don’t get that time so we’ve kind of used it to our advantage,” he said.

“We are on top of all the procedures so when fans do come back, I think we will be more than ready.”

Riders are set to kick off their season at Morningside Arena on 8 November without fans but against the Newcastle Eagles which begins their BBL Cup campaign.

Leicester barber believes future is bleak in event of second lockdown

By Samuel Gill

Barber Cameron Hallam in his shop on Evington Road before the pandemic.

Among the industries to be hit the hardest by the Coronavirus pandemic is hair and beauty, especially in Leicester where the restrictions have lasted longest.

Leicester-based barber Cameron Hallam, who has owned Cameron’s Cutz since 2005, spoke to Leicestershire Press and believes that businesses closing is inevitable if a second lockdown or a circuit breaker is introduced.

“I feel that is in the air. I’ve just got the same anxious feeling. I’d not be surprised if they did this circuit breaker. I hope I’m wrong, I think it’s definitely possible,” said Hallam.

“The general government have got to support the local government to support the local business. If they do that in the right time frame which I doubt they will because it took a long time to get support when it went into lockdown before. If they don’t, you’ve got to start thinking, I can’t keep doing this.”

“There’s no furlough, that doesn’t exist for any small business or anyone like myself. You’re going to wander up high streets and you’re going to see places closing. The rent doesn’t go away.”

Hallam due to his reputation is often booked up but since the lockdown, his usual turnover has gone down and he believes there is a main reason for this.

“I would say it has impacted me up to 25% less than I’d usually take in turnover. If you look it across the board, people are doing less. I think people are worried for their jobs and their futures. I always think of a haircut as a luxury. It’s a treat because you want to feel good and look good. People are not going anywhere.”

Reopening was heavily impacted by a local lockdown for Leicester and he believes that as a city, they were treated poorly.

“That was probably the toughest thing from all of this for me personally. When they initially gave me the date of July 4 for Hair and Beauty to reopen, I thought ok I’ve got the date there, there’s a light at the end of it all. Then to get the local lockdown, that took the wing out of my sails that was tough,” he added.

“Psychologically that impacted me. I felt Leicester got done a bit as well. I feel we were a bit of a social experiment.”

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.”

Leicester night walkers raise money for cancer charity

By Conor de Smith.

The streets of Leicester were illuminated by hundreds of people taking part in the city’s first Shine Night Walk in aid of Cancer Research on Saturday.

More than 800 glowing walkers came together at the weekend to raise more than £40,000 in crucial funds for Cancer Research UK.

The 10k walk started at 7pm at De Montfort University and passed landmarks such as Leicester Cathedral, the Clock Tower, New Walk and Victoria Park before ending back at the university.

Those who took part could raise money for 12 different areas of research such as bowel cancer, brain cancer, breast cancer and other forms of the disease. It cost £14.99 to enter and additional fundraising could be organised by walkers through the charity.

Heather Royrhorne-Finch, of Asfordby, launched the event with a starting horn. The 38-year-old programmes and relations manager for the civil service was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma in 2009 while her sister and father have also survived the disease.

“It was a real honour because there are very few people lucky enough not to have been affected by cancer so it could easily have been someone else sharing their cancer story,” said Heather, who underwent a life-saving stem cell transplant in 2011.

“I was thrilled to be asked to share my story with the 800 people taking part. Every walker has either directly battled cancer or knows someone who has and not all cancer patients are as fortunate as me to have survived.

“Seeing everyone in their glitter, neon and fairy lights setting off into the city was emotional and uplifting,” she continued.

“People getting up and doing something that could benefit them one day but will definitely benefit others is inspiring. The distance doesn’t matter, it’s the effort that is important.”

Every year, more than 1,100 people in Leicester are diagnosed with cancer and there were more than 4,800 cancer patients on GP registers in March 2015.

Cancer is the second most common cause of death, accounting for 25 per cent of all deaths in Leicester and a third of deaths in under 75-year-olds.

Emma Sperring, 37, was diagnosed with malignant melanoma in 2016 and walked with her dad and sister-in-law.

She said: “I really enjoyed the night walk, though it was really hard work, especially the last 1k. The atmosphere was really friendly and motivating.”