I’m weirdly proud of my city. Most people up and down the British Isles don’t hold that strong a sense of local pride. Of course you hear people from places like Liverpool, Cornwall and Essex exerting their local pride but a proud ‘chisit’ is a rare sight to behold. Leicester often goes unnoticed on a national scale despite being one of the largest settlements in the United Kingdom. Many just see Leicester as a big town stuck between Birmingham and Nottingham, but it is so much more than that.
People had lived in the area for thousands of years, but Leicester began as a late Iron Age settlement set up by people from the Corieltauvi tribe. After the Romans fled British shores, the town’s urban function ceased to exist. Although listed as a city in medieval times, Leicester lost its city status for 800 years until 1919. Despite being one of Britain’s most important places for wealth, religion and trade, Leicester remained a borough. In spite of it’s lack of coal and iron, Leicester began it’s expansion and industrialisation in the 1700s.
Nowadays, Leicester is a superb example of a cross-cultural city owing to it’s large South Asian population. Despite this mix of ethnicity, culture and religion, little tension is experienced within the city between different groups. The city benefits from this influx of Asian culture in many ways such as; the locally known Golden mile on Belgrave Road, which provides some of the best curries in the country. Believe it or not, this obscure Midlands city boasts a lot of historical and social relevance. Leicester is home to the National Space Centre, one of the UK’s leading tourist attraction – I even know a family from San Diego who holidayed in Leicester for a week… really.
Leicester is a massive sporting city too, being home to the biggest rugby union club in the country in Leicester Tigers, the oldest British basketball club in Leicester Riders, multiple time 20/20 champions in Leicestershire CCC and of course the mighty foxes, Leicester City.
The surrounding areas in Leicester are also stunning too, when you take in to account the charming county of Rutland, which if we’re honest is Leicestershire in all but name. The Charnwood area of the county is home to some of the best woodland areas for miles and home to the infamous Bradgate Park where the 9-day-Queen, Lady Jane Grey once lived.
Leicester has actually been the home to many well-known names over the years. Famous ‘chisits’ include spud-flogger and England legend, Gary Lineker, as well as former City and England keeper, Peter Shilton. Successful band, Kasabian (who grew up a mile from my house), fashion expert Gok Wan (whose parents own my local chippy and Chinese takeaway). Engelbert Humperdinck, the Elephant man, Joseph Merrick, the world’s fattest man, Daniel Lambert and of course the legendary Attenborough brothers; David and Richard. You can even thank the city for the timeless classic that is ‘Return of the Mack’. Leicester is also famous for being the home of Walker’s crisps but many people are unaware that most of Britain’s beloved snacks are produced in the city or county, including Galaxy, Mars and Snickers in Ashby de la Zouch – you’re welcome.
The city also has its ties to the British monarchy due to the well publicised finding of Richard III’s body in late 2012. He was found buried in the Grey Friars area of the city following his death at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485 – the last King to die in battle. The Queen also personally chose Leicester as the first stop on her 2012 Diamond Jubilee tour and thanked the city for exceeding her expectations in welcoming her. The visit made such an impression on the locals that the council plans on opening a new complex called ‘Jubilee Square’ in the coming years.
To be clear, I’m under no disillusions. I realise Leicester will never be an iconic city of the world like Paris or New York but as far as Britain goes, Leicester, in my opinion is one of the best cities there is. Ask my Granddad – he’s compiled a comprehensive argument on why Leicester should actually be the country’s capital but that’s a different story altogether.
Interesting facts about Leicester
- Leicester is home to the biggest outdoor, covered market in Europe.
- The city lies on the River Soar and on the edge of the National Forest.
- With a total population of 329,600 Leicester is the tenth largest city in the United Kingdom.
- As one of the oldest cities in England, with a history going back at least 2,000 years – Leicester appears in the Doomsday Book as “Ledecestre”.
- BBC Radio Leicester was the first local BBC radio station.
- Leicester has the largest economy in the East Midlands and one of the largest in the country.
- Leicester hosts the largest Diwali celebrations outside of India, the largest comedy festival in the UK as well as annual Pride and Caribbean events.
- Leicester was Britain’s first ‘Environment City’ and was singled out for special praise at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.
- The name for a person from Leicester is a ‘Leicesterian’ or ‘chisit’, the latter deriving from the locals of Skegness (a popular holiday destination for Leicesterians), who noticed that the phrase ‘how much is it?’ sounds like ‘I’m a chisit’ in a Leicester accent.
- Leicester was the first place outside of London to have traffic lights and Tesco.
- Experts have determined that Leicester is the birthplace of modern standard English.