If you've ever read this blog, you'll know how much we love bigging up our home city of Leicester and indulging in the cultural happenings it offers up. So we were very intrigued when we heard word of a new magazine with a similar mindset. John Helps is the man with the plan, and has been kind enough to jot down his thoughts on the matter for us...
Leicester is wicked. It took me a very long time to come to this conclusion – passing variously through stages of absolute hatred, resignation and overwhelming disappointment at various points over the last decade – but we’ve reconciled our differences and it’s finally feeling like home.
I think it helps that the stars have aligned to make this one of the greatest periods in living memory for Leicester – between Richard III and the football there isn’t much to complain about in terms of national profile and local enthusiasm.
It wasn’t always this way - we all remember – and if we’re not careful we’re in danger of slipping back in to a post-premiership-champions malaise.
I came to a bit of a realisation pretty early on in my time here. Sitting around complaining that nothing happens in your city is pointless.
Nothing happens unless somebody makes it happen, and if you want what YOU want for your city, then that person almost always has to be you – if not directly then by persuading others to get involved. Apathy is the absolute killer.
The Robot Needs Home Collective has become the banner under which my friends and I try to create awesome things. That’s basically the remit. We started White Noise Festival, then Handmade Festival. We persuaded The Cathedral, The Guildhall, and a handful of churches, galleries and other weird and wonderful spaces to let us put on some of our most memorable shows of the last ten years. We’ve managed to get Leicester bands and festivals on to the national stage, and we’ll keep doing that for as long as people keep listening.
Thankfully there are a tonne of others with exactly that attitude in the city at the moment. I don’t remember a better time for happenings of all shapes and sizes – there are gigs, festivals, comedy, art and performance and more restaurants and coffee shops than there has been for ages and it feels like there’s a real buzz in the air…
But Leicester still has the power to disappoint. For every sold out show, there will be an empty room. For every bustling coffee shop, there is an empty restaurant. It’s always been hard to tell people about what’s going on, primarily because there just isn’t the infrastructure to do it.
As good a job as the fine people at Leicester Mercury and BBC Leicester do, it feels like an uphill battle. These aren’t the target markets for most of us, and although we came painfully close to convincing the city council to provide better provision for us to spread the word it was snatched away at the final hurdle - ironically seemingly forgotten once Richard III and premiership success reared their heads.
So, in the spirit of “being the change we want to see in the city”, a swift Facebook post and a couple of emails to people who I thought would be good at this sort of thing and we have an “alternative” newspaper on the verge of being birthed in to the world.
She’s called Great Central and she’ll be out quarterly (to start with) focusing on arts, culture and entertainment. Previewing rather than reviewing and bringing peoples hard work in to the public consciousness. It’s a long battle, but I’ve already been astonished by the amount of positive feedback and support we’ve had, and it just keeps growing.
It really feels like this is something the city needs and has been crying out for. Hopefully with a little time we can be a small part of the solution to that problem.