Schools concert 2016

Saturday 5th March

Loughborough Endowed Schools spring concert
De Montfort Hall

Tonight’s programme would have been a challenge for a professional orchestra; but 400 school students gave a performance of which many professional choirs and orchestras would have been proud.

Students aged from nine to eighteen delivered an impressive selection of musical delights; in the first half works by Sibelius, Chaminade, Grandjany, Warlock, Karrick and Monti; then, in the second half, Mozart’s Requiem.

What we saw tonight was just how much music education has advanced over the past forty years. This country has no shortage of opportunities for young people to demonstrate their musical talent, from the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain through to regional and city orchestras and in the choral sector The National Youth Choir, several for children and the many church-based groups and choral scholarships of our prestigious academic institutions. For young musicians there is much to aim for. What stands out is that, here in Leicestershire, we have a music tradition that clearly rates highly at a country-wide level.

Tonight’s programme began with Alla Marcia from the Karelia Suite by Jean Sibelius. This well-known piece is one of the great lollipops of the classical music repertoire. A delightful confection of jaunty melodies offers a good start to a programme, although, I suspect, the youthful musicians were not quick to warm up, as some of the playing tended to be somewhat plodding and lacked the vigour and sparkle that you would hear from more seasoned performers. Even so, the piece rolled off the stage with satisfying precision and commitment. Flautist Emilie Harlow joined the orchestra for Cécile Chaminade’s Concertino. Now in year 13 at Loughborough High School, Emilie has performed with the National Schools Symphony Orchestra and is a member of the National Youth Wind Orchestra. Emilie gave a delightful and engaging performance of the 1902 work by the French composer whose concertino is an examination piece for flute students. Few would contest that Harlow passed with flying colours.

The stage was rearranged for the next piece, performed by the 16 or so members of the string ensemble. Harp soloist Aoife Miralles joined them for Marcel Gandjany’s Aria in Classic Style giving a vibrant and charming delivery of this piece by the French-born American composer. This was followed by three movements from Peter Warlock’s Capriol Suite based on Renaissance dance tunes.

The items on tonight’s agenda were introduced by compère Peter Sargeant who talked about the music while the stage was re-organised for the various groupings of the first half. After the string ensemble had left the Symphonic Wind Band came to the stage, comprising flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, saxophones, trumpets, horns, trombones, euphonium, tuba and percussionists. They began with Brant Karrick’s Memor Vita! A poignant piece written in memory of a boy who died of cancer at the age of 14. In it, some of the musicians sing acapella, part of a song – How Can I Keep From Singing – unusual if not unique for a wind ensemble but they all sang beautifully. This lively celebration of life is full of vibrant rhythms and engaging tunes. The combination of wind and brass produced plenty of ear-pleasing harmonies.

More stage adjustments saw a range of percussion instruments taking centre stage in readiness for the arrival of Jake Baum for Monti’s Czardas arranged by Gert Bomhof. The rich and exhilarating rhythms of Hungarian dance music were vividly and dexterously brought to life by Baum on the xylophone, marimba, vibraphone and glockenspiel. Some might remember selections from this piece in Lady Gaga’s song Alejandro. The melodies we heard were memorable; tunes we have often heard before. In the fastly-paced Friska, Baum was able to show off his considerable talent as a percussionist. The piece illicted sustained applause and ended the first half of tonight’s programme.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Painting by Barbara Krafft
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Painting by Barbara Krafft

The story behind Mozart’s Requiem will be remembered by some from the film Amadeus (1984) directed by Milos Forman, written by Peter Shaffer and starring Tom Hulce. In it we saw the 35 year-old composer, on his death bed, dictating the score of his Requiem to Salieri, his life-long rival. Terminally ill, the young composer died before he could complete what many would say was his greatest masterpiece, a work shrouded in myth and fable not least those manufactured by the playwright Alexander Pushkin and the composer Rimsky-Korsakov. Started in 1791, but never finished by Mozart, The Requiem Mass in D minor was conducted, in tonight’s performance, by Richard West with soloists Isabel Bridgeman (soprano), Joanne Edworthy (mezzo-soprano), David Morris (tenor) and Nicholas Crawley (bass-baritone). On stage all tiers of the choir stalls were filled with the members of the LES singers, serried ranks of children and youths supplemented by adult singers.

This great work of musical genius is a daunting challenge for experienced choirs and orchestras; to see it performed by a group of school children and students is astonishing and to hear it performed with eloquence and fully-powered solemnity is nothing short of stupendous. The whole evening was highly enjoyable and impressive but to take on the Requiem and deliver it with considerable ability is quite an achievement. The LES brought together their choir, Chesterton Cantamus and Burton Choristers, Loughborough Singers, and LHS’s year 7 singers. The Introitus and Kyrie won over the sizeable audience and then the Dies Irae. With its urgency and feverish string parts, the forces required from the choral parts are challenging, to create that sense of dread needed by this incredible piece of musical brilliance. Just as the Rex Tremendae calls for considerable resoluteness and stature to capture its feeling of majesty and awe. Tonight the huge forces marshalled in the DMH were magnificent and the concert was inspiring.

I was very pleased that the LES invited me tonight; being there was not just very enjoyable but revealed how far musical education has come (since I was at school) and what a wealth of talent there is in Leicestershire. A lot of my time is spent watching teenage musicians playing guitars and singing pop and rock songs; so, to see those of a similar age-group playing orchestral instruments and being part of a choral tradition was an exhilarating change to my usual routine. What tonight did for me is to re-affirm that our county has a deep fund of skills and abilities in its younger population than is acknowledged or recognised at national level; not as much as it deserves to be.

Post scriptum

The LES Music School has added to its reputation for excellence the accolade of being an All-Steinway partner, one of only 175 establishments worldwide and of 22 in the UK (only 13 of which are independent schools.)

Find out more about LES Music School.

See also:

Our review of Lord of the Flies at Curve.

News about music in 2016.

Leicester Pride 2015

Saturday 5th September 2015

It is with great pride

that hundreds of people took to the streets today to celebrate Leicester’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. And what a marvellous event it was.

Leicester Pride parade 2015
Leicester Pride parade 2015

The parade started at Orton Square and made its way to Victoria Park.

The rainbow flag, Leicester Pride 2015.
The rainbow flag, Leicester Pride 2015.

As with all Pride parades there was the huge rainbow flag, the international symbol of gay pride, carried by a team of people, happy to show the world what being out and proud is all about.

Festival goers at Pride 2015. Photo: Trevor Sewell.
Festival goers at Pride 2015.
Photo: Trevor Sewell.

The crowd gathered at Victoria Park to enjoy a day of live music from the main stage and from the DJ tent for a show that lasted from 12 noon to 8pm.

The DJ Tent, Leicester Pride 2015.
The DJ Tent, Leicester Pride 2015.

On the main stage Councillor Rory Palmer, the deputy Mayor of Leicester, welcomed everyone on behalf of the city’s authorities.

Leicester Pride 2015. Photo: Trevor Sewell.
Leicester Pride 2015.
Photo: Trevor Sewell.

The stage brought a host of singers and dancers and entertainers.

Leicester Pride 2015. Photo: Trevor Sewell.
Leicester Pride 2015.
Photo: Trevor Sewell.

Artists from Leicester and around the UK came on stage to entertain the crowd.

Leicester Pride 2015. Photo: Trevor Sewell.
Leicester Pride 2015.
Photo: Trevor Sewell.

Two artists in particular were of international standing.  Sam Bailey, from Leicestershire and a winner of the TV series X Factor, was one of the star attractions of the day.

Leicester Pride 2015. Photo: Trevor Sewell.
Leicester Pride 2015.
Photo: Trevor Sewell.

Sam sang many of the songs for which she is known and remembered.

Leicester Pride 2015.
Leicester Pride 2015.

Another artist who is famous throughout the world is Lisa Lashes.

Leicester Pride 2015. Photo: Trevor Sewell.
Leicester Pride 2015.
Photo: Trevor Sewell.

During her appearance pyrotecnic artists put on some dazzling displays.

Leicester Pride 2015. Photo: Trevor Sewell.
Leicester Pride 2015.
Photo: Trevor Sewell.

The stage provided a whole day of entertainment free of charge for everybody who wanted to be there.

Leicester Pride 2015. Photo: Trevor Sewell.
Leicester Pride 2015.
Photo: Trevor Sewell.

The weather was kind giving festival-goers sunny periods and dry conditions throughout the day.

Artists on the programme included:

Lisa Lashes (DJ) , Robbie Lewis, (DJ), Gareth Hazard (DJ), Alex Dewinter (DJ), Bimbo Jones (DJ), Andy Smith (DJ), Rob Lambeth (DJ), Sparki Trowell (DJ). Stephen Bailey, Miss Marty, Miss Penny, Diva Fever, Brenda Edwards, Chris Shaulders, Lee Bennett, Lea Martin.

In an article about A History of Pride and Why We Need It, in the programme, is said

Influenced by the Stonewall Rebellion in the USA that started on 28th June 1969, The first UK Pride rally was hel in London in 1972 with 1,000 people marching from Trafalgar Square to Hyde Park, only five years after relations between two males had been decriminalised. The people who marched in this rally would have been subject to barrage of abuse and misconceptions somewhat similar to that seen only last year at a Gay Pride festival in Russia.

Nothing like this happened in Leicester in 2015. It was a day that many will remember with happiness and joy.

See also:

Our report on Leicester Pride 2014



Sunday 9th August 2015

The History of Music in Leicester

The second in a series of articles. These articles lay the foundations for a book bearing the same title. In this respect the articles sketch and outline a more substantial work into which much more detail will be deposited. This article has cantered through the content and has omitted a great detail of detail. My aim in publishing this article (and those that will follow) is to stimulate interest in the subject of Leicester’s musical history. The problem for me, in writing these articles, is not what to leave out – but what to put in.

Music and Technology

Imagine, if you will, that you are suddenly transported into a world where electrical gadgets do not exist. Perhaps this is our world, of today, and an alien power had beamed around the globe, rays that have disabled every small electrical appliance. We have no computers, laptops, smart phones, pads, tablets, radios, televisions… everything that we used to listen to music had been disabled. Now you are living living a world where, the only way you can listen to music is to hear it played live, in front of you, by musicians playing wooden instruments or other kinds of devices that can make sounds but without the use of any electrical power.

You are now in a world that existed before the invention of electricity. The only way you can hear music is the way that our ancestors heard it. It is always live and it is always played on instruments that are powered by the hand or the lungs of those using them. Since the creation of the very first musical sounds, that is how people heard music.

In Leicester, the introduction and mass ownership of electrical goods defined and shaped musical tastes. The gramophone, the radio, the television, the Walkman, the transistor radio and eventually the Internet changed the way people listened to music and changed access to music. Music lovers were increasingly given access to the music of other countries, cultures and eras. The depended on the introduction of either batteries or the availability of public electricity supplies. The first homes in Leicester started to be lit by electricity in 1894. The electric light bulb was invented around 1880. Electricity supplies began from around 1894 in Leicester.

What I want to do, in this article, is plot the time line of the way that electrical technology has changed the way that the people of Leicester have found and listened to music. Peoples’ access to music was revolutionised by the mass availability of the radio and the record player. Later the widespread adoption of television sets further increased access to music in the everyday lives of ordinary people. In Leicester the broadcast media, the growth of record stores and later on the emergence of the Internet, gave people more access to music than was the case when their only choice was live music venues.

Radios, record players and the television

Prior to the emergence of radio and record players, music was performed live and listening to it would have been a relatively rare event for the majority of people. This was changed by the advent of the mass ownership of the record player or phonograph

an early phonograph
an early phonograph

The record player was invented in 1877 by Thomas Edison. Also known as the Phonograph or gramophone, the record player began with a rotating cylinder, being replaced by flat discs in the 1890s. It was not until the 1980s that the traditional large record was replaced by the compact disk

Phonograph cylinders
Phonograph cylinders

To begin with, the phonograph was the preserve of the rich and did not achieve mass ownership until the 1930s, when factories began to mass produce players at a price that was affordable by the average household. This happened in tandem with the mass production of cheap records.

The rise of record players gave people access to music on demand and meant that people could listen to songs far more frequently than was previously the case, when going to a live performance was the only way that people could hear music.

It was not until the mid to late 1980s that the record player would be widely replaced by the Compact Disk player.  The CD became commercially available from 1982 although its mass availability in the UK would have followed a few years later. A recordable CD – the CD-ROM – came out in 1983/5. It was not until the early 2000s that the CD player began to display the widely used audio cassette player. The first commercial CD was released in 1982 but it was not until 1988 that CD sales began to overtake those of the vinyl record. In the 1980s (and probably into the 1990s) unsigned local bands would have recorded their music on to cassette tapes, unless they were wealthy enough to produce their own vinyl records. In the 2000s, bands started to produce music CDs for their fans when players became cheap enough for the majority of fans to own one.

The early 1960s saw the introduction of the music cassette, a compact tape-player which began to reach a mass market when Sony introduced its Walkman in 1979.

Sony Walkman
Sony Walkman

During the late Victoria period and early twentieth century, musical instruments became more widely available. The guitar became a popular instrument that was easy to learn and which could be purchased either new or from shops that sold them second-hand. It was in late Victorian times that pianos became affordable and many homes began to have them. Prior to that it was only the better off in society who could afford to purchase and play musical instruments. This created a sense of being able to participate in music rather than being just a passive consumer of it.

It was the mass ownership of radio receivers that really transformed access to music as well as musical tastes. In the late 40s and early 50s,when I was a child, I remember the radio being more or less constantly switched on. Our family home also had a record player which was played frequently. My childhood was filled with music. We listened to the Home Service, the forerunner of what we now know as Radio 4. Whilst all members of my immediate family owned music instruments and could play them, my main access to music was through the radio. When I became a teenager, I had my own radio and could choose which programmes I wanted to listen to; so, in this regard, my experience is typical of my generation.

An early radio set
An early radio set

The first radio transmitter was erected in London in 1922. The BBC’s Broadcasting House opened in May 1932. Radio Leicester was launched on 8 November 1967. During the years of the second world war, the television service was suspended and everyone listened to the radio (mainly the Home Service.) Programmes such as ITMA attracted 16 million listeners. The Forces Programme was launched in 1940 initially for the troops in France.

I remember Family Favourites, which started in 1945, and, having parents from a naval background, this was required listening in our home. The programme had a huge influence on my childhood and my familiarity with popular music. Other programmes, such as Listen with Mother – boosted the importance of radio broadcasting in our home and I think that was the case for a very large number of other people born in the post-war period.

In 1959 the BBC began to broadcast Juke Box Jury and DJs like David Jacobs, Alan Freeman and Pete Murray, started to become household names. New programmes started like Pick of the Pops. Music stars were born; Elvis and Cliff Richard owed their emerging popularity to the radio, as well as to record sales in the shops. The radio introduced the top 40 chart programme and, on Sunday afternoons, a quarter of the population tuned in to listen to it.

Juke Box Jury 1959
Juke Box Jury 1959

This period also saw the rise of popular music magazines and newspapers, such as The New Musical Express, Melody Maker and Record Mirror. Paper-based national daily newspapers also printed stories about the world of music and its celebrity stars. The forerunner of The Leicester Mercury began in 1874. By the time Queen Victoria died in 1901, the Mercury was a widely read local newspaper and it had begun to include photographs. When World War Two ended in 1954, the paper reported ‘Hot off the press, the Mercury captured the mood of the nation by producing a special VE. edition, while 10,000 people attending a thanksgiving service in Town Hall Square.’ Even in those days, great moments in history saw people celebrating or doing things face to face. They might have read the news but their immediate reaction was to take to the streets in large numbers.

Even though the BBC had a legalised monopoly on broadcasting, people listened to pirate radio stations, such as Radio Luxembourg and Radio London in the 1960s. The 1970s and 80s saw a considerable growth in commercial radio stations. The English version of Radio Luxembourg began as early as 1933. Radio Caroline broadcast from a ship in the North Sea, outside of UK waters.

In the years from 1933 to 1939 the English language service of Radio Luxembourg gained a large audience in the UK and other European countries with sponsored programming aired from noon until midnight on Sundays and at various times during the rest of the week. 11% of Britons listened to it during the week, preferring Luxembourg’s light music and variety programs to the BBC. [Wikipedia]

Commercial radio made its mark on the audiences of Leicester in the 1980s.

Centre Radio was the first independent local radio station to serve Leicestershire. It was based as at the lavish Granville House, Leicester, England. Centre Radio launched on 7 September 1981 in a blaze of publicity. The station’s licence was re-advertised and won by Leicester Sound, which commenced broadcasting on 7 September 1984. Leicester Sound merged with Trent FM and Ram FM in January 2011 to form the regional station Capital FM East Midlands, based in Nottingham. [Wikipedia]

With the advent of mass ownership of television sets, people began to watch rather than to just listen to broadcast programmes. As a child, I vividly remember watching the live broadcast of the Coronation (2nd June 1953) on a small black and white TV set in my parents home.

An early TV set
An early TV set

Top of the Pops started in January 1964 and for many years of my early life, this was a ‘must watch’ programme, as much as listening to the radio on Sunday afternoons, to hear the latest chart hits. Today, festivals such as Glastonbury, can be watched on the television. On YouTube there are innumerable video films of artists performing at Glastonbudget and other open-air live music events in our local area.

The first music festivals began

Live music was by no means killed off by the broadcast media and the record industry. Music festivals began to be organised in the UK, bringing a whole new approach to live music and access to bands and singers.

1989 – believed to be the start of the Abbey Park Festival – would have been influenced by the growing national scene for music festivals, the largest of which began in the 1960s. Glastonbury began in the 1970s and the forerunner of the Reading Festival in the 1960s. It was not until 2003 that Download started on the borders of Leicestershire as a follow-up to the Monsters of Rock events held at Donnington Park between 1980 and 1996.

Free festivals were held in the UK between 1967 and 1990. Some people might remember Roger Hutchinson, who who created the iconic Stonehenge Free Festival poster of 1987.

Roger developed a passion for local history and for much of the decade was busy preserving barges and canals – seemingly light years away from tripping at Stonehenge, but I think connected . Whatever Roger was involved in, he gave it his all and he was, despite not being very well in the last three years of his life, creative and positive and keeping busy, whether it was making a film about taking his dog for a morning walk , or creating his superb drawings of his beloved Leicester for the canal group.

He died in 2010. Su Barton knew him. You can find out more about Roger Hutchinson on Facebook

Poster for the Stonehenge Free Festival
Poster for the Stonehenge Free Festival

Many people with a knowledge of music from the 1950s through to the 1980s have contributed to articles available on the Internet.

My friend and one-time publisher Alan Dearling’s book Travelling Daze vividly evokes the early times of the free festivals.

Music festivals have, since their inception, rejuvenated interest in live music. By 2010, around two million people attended music festival in the UK. National events, such as Download, Reading and Leeds festivals and Glastonbury, have attracted large numbers of music fans from Leicester. These days, we can get some ideas of this from the postings they make on Facebook and Twitter. Many local festivals have attracted large numbers of people: Simon Says…, Summer Sundae, Glastonbudget, Strawberry Fields, Cosby Big Love, Foxton Locks, White Noise, all of these have proven to be popular with the people of Leicester and Leicester shire over the years. Many other large-scale public events such as Caribbean Carnival and The Belgrave Mela have provided live music alongside their other activities.

My previous article gave details of the rise of music festivals in Leicester.

Record stores in Leicester

The mass ownership of record players changed the way that people in Leicester listened to music. Previously, only wealthy people could afford to buy them. As the electrical equipment manufacturing companies began to produce ever cheaper players, more and more people owned them and also the records to play on them. This gave rise to the record retail trade in Leicester. Rockaboom opened in 1988; it joined Facebook in 2010.

Rockaboom on Facebook

An early transistor radio
An early transistor radio

Ultima Thule was established in 1989, originally in Exchange Buildings in Rutland Street, moving later on to Conduit Street. It was run by Steve and Alan Freeman.

Ten years ago Leicester was full of independent record shops and they were a recognisable feature of our City Centre. Music fans spent hours flicking through hundreds of records on a weekend looking for that special edition picture disc, admiring the album covers referencing politics, fashion – you name it. [Raegan Oates writing in The Monograph in 2013].

St. Martin’s Records, originally in St Martins Square, later moved to Horsefair Street. Martyn Pole told me that he bought nearly all his records there when when has a DJ in the early 1980s. Leicester people will remember Ainsleys, Archer Records, Back Track Records, Boogaloo Records and St Martin’s Records. HMV’s store in the High Street and Virgin Records in The Highcross centre (then called The Shires) also provided retail outlets in the city centre. After 15 years 2Funky closed in 2012. In its time it was a popular destination for record-buyers, especially those wanting the more esoteric and experimental genres of music.

This web page gives a comprehensive list of Leicester record stores

The record label – as a company that published recorded music – is less important now than it has been in the past. This is due mainly to the rise of Internet-mediated sources of music such as iTunes.

The rise of the record labels and their relationship with live music created a constantly changing scene in many parts of the country during the 1950s [Firth, 2010]

BBC Broadcasting house
BBC Broadcasting house

Music and technology

What is clear is that how people gained access to, and listened to, music was dependent on, and was reflected by, the availability of technology, as far as the electrical epoch is concerned. We can therefore divide musical history into periods characterised by the technologies that gave people the music they wanted to hear. Before the invention of, and distribution of, recorded music in the nineteenth century, all music was live. As the availability of electrically-operated music players grew, so various periods of music emerged: the era of the radio, the record player, the television, the personal devise and the growth of the Internet. These all figure in the timeline that I have used to divide my account of Leicester’s musical heritage.

Trevor Locke

An early record player
An early record player


Firth [2010] Firth, Simon, 2010, Journal of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music, 1,1

See also:

Previous Article The Music of Today


The History of music in Leicester

by Trevor Locke

Chapter 1 – Music Of Today

As soon as you write about today, it passes into the past. The word ‘today’ is an inherent misnomer. Today quickly becomes yesterday and ‘now’ is simply the present sliding into the past.

This series of articles traces the music that was heard and played in Leicester from contemporary times backwards. Contemporary times are those of the immediate past. Our journey starts in 2014; and works backwards.

The reason for this is that no music ever exists in isolation; all music (like any other form of art) has its roots; it takes its nourishment from the soil of its previous periods. Music is a tree that is sustained by the music of yesterday. What we hear ‘today’ cannot exist without the music made yesterday; this year’s music flowed from last year’s music, and so on, as far back as we can try to go.

These articles lay the foundations for a book bearing the same title. In this respect the articles sketch and outline a more substantial work into which much more detail will be deposited.

The articles are concerned mainly with popular music; although classical music is not ignored, my focus is on the music of the people. It is right that we should take, as our frame of reference, the whole community of Leicester. The music of Leicester is, and always has been, the cultural product of a wide variety of peoples. The people of this city are not, nor have they ever been, a monolithic group. Leicester is the typical city of diversity.

All music is a reflection of the time in which it was made; it is part of the community; it is a cultural manifestation of the values, preoccupations and tastes of the people in whose time it was made. Hence, we have to described the life and times of a period to fully understand its music. Music of the people will always reflect the times in which it was made.

Jak Skelly (left) and Tim Wilson (right) and the chorus of 'Rent' Photo: Pamela Raith photography
Jak Skelly (left) and Tim Wilson (right) and the chorus of ‘Rent’
Photo: Pamela Raith photography

Music for the Facebook Generation – 2005 to 2014

I am going to call the period from 2014 back to 2005, The Facebook Generation. Music in this period was (and of course, still is) influenced and mediated through the growing power of the Internet and, on the Internet, the social media platform of Facebook was (and is) pre-eminent.

Logo of Twitter
Logo of Twitter

Prior to the rise of Facebook, it was MySpace that provided musicians with their on-line existence. In 2014, nearly every band, singer, musician and rapper had a page on Facebook. From such pages, links took fans to other providers, such as Soundcloud, YouTube and Bandcamp, to name but a few of the many places in which the world of music could be found. Lists of Leicester bands, published before the ubiquity of Facebook, linked each group to its page on MySpace.

As soon as a new band was formed, a page for it was created on Facebook. MySpace was launched in 2003. Up to 2008 it was the most visited social media site in the world, until it was overtaken by Facebook.

Alongside the rise of these social media sites, we saw the growing dominance of the Google search engine. Previously, Internet users used devices such as Yahoo and Alta Vista to find things. YouTube was founded in 2005 and taken over by Google in 2006. Twitter began in 2006 and quickly became a popular item in the social media universe, with a large proportion of music acts opening accounts on it. All this is as true for Leicester and Leicestershire as it was for the rest of the United Kingdom and the world.

People on Facebook

It was not just the bands and singers that began to colonise the world of Facebook and social media. People concerned with and involve in musical could also be found there.

Trevor Locke joined Facebook in 2006 with a personal account in his own name. He added a photo album to his account called ‘Leicester rock stars’ in 2007. Andrew Stone of the Displacements and later Little Night Terrors joined Facebook in 2007. James Shaw and Jason Westall of The Utopians joined Facebook in 2007. The Utopians set up a group on Facebook in 2007 and had a single release at The Shed, on 9th October, using social media to publicise it. In July 2007, The Utopians played a ‘guerilla gig’ at a warehouse in Leicester, the secret location was messaged to friends at the last moment. The band set up a band page in January 2009. They also had a page on MySpace. Luke D’Mellow of The Utopians joined Facebook in June 2007. An events page for the Utopians, in 2007, included a show at The Shed on 20th December 2007 and indicated 17 guests going, including musician Raj Mohanlal, the members of the band and some of their close friends. Connor Evans (of Weekend Schemers) joined Facebook in August 2008. DJ Lisa Lashes joined Facebook in May 2009. These are examples of early adopters of what Facebook had to offer.

Lisa Lashes in 2014
Lisa Lashes in 2014

Between 2006 and 2014, the whole music in scene of Leicester found its way into the virtual reality of the brave new digital age. Bands recorded their music and made it available on the Internet. Singers filmed themselves for YouTube. Many music artists provided tracks on Soundcloud. For local music the Internet allowed something previously denied by the music industry – self publishing and self promotion.

Music and bands on the ‘web

In 2004, the domain name was registered. The Sheffield band Arctic Monkeys, which formed in 2002, was signed in 2005 but before that they had established a sizeable fan-base on MySpace. Reverbnation was launched in 2006, as a site for the independent music industry. Soundcloud was started in Germany in 2007. Between 2007 and 2009 it began to challenge MySpace as the main site for distributing music tracks. Bandcamp was founded in 2007.

By 2014, access to the Internet had become almost universal in the UK. The advent of mass ownership of mobile phones (connected to the Internet) began to replace the use of computers and laptops as the main devices that people used to see social media sites. Whereas access had been through computers connected to broadband, now people we spending their time on social media via their smart phones and a variety of hand-held devices. This increased the utilisation of social media.

The impact that this technology had on popular music was fundamental and far-reaching. It would be wrong to say that the Internet brought an end to the CD and the vinyl record but the significance of these media declined; music had become mediated through streaming and downloads through devices and websites such as iTunes, Spotify, Amazon and Bandcamp were being increasingly used to provide those tracks.

The Internet had a profound effect on music of all kinds. Music venues and festivals depended on social media to attract fans and to make ticket sales – at minimal cost. Most social media is free to use and this made it possible to put on a concert and sell tickets for it as almost no cost. Gone were the days of having print tickets and pay for expensive advertising in paper-based media.

Previously paper-based music magazines and newspapers began to close down in favour of on-line versions. In Leicester, The Monograph was published on paper for a relatively brief period of time. Even though the paper was supplemented with a website, its days were numbered. It could not be sustained as a physical product in a world where advertising revenues were increasingly gravitating towards online.

Record label A&R scouts began to work more on the Internet than at music venues. Whereas music scouts once depended on attendance at venues to see and to discover bans and singers, they now had only to sit in their offices and log on to Facebook and Twitter to find what they were looking for.

Website hosting became comparatively inexpensive up to 2014. Domains names could be registered for a few pounds and the emergence of content management services like WordPress, allowed websites to be constructed without recourse to the expensive fees charged by web designers. Having a band website became an increasing possibility for even the smallest of unsigned new groups. Although social media provided the mainstream of Internet presence, bands and singers continued to maintain websites as part of creating a professional image.

Miss Penny performing at Leicester Pride in 2014
Miss Penny performing at Leicester Pride in 2014

Getting your band on

The music of Leicester’s bands, singers and rappers (as presented on Facebook,Twitter and other parts of the Internet) began to take off from 2006 onwards. A few music acts started their own websites. In Leicester, there were some early adopters of customised domain names and websites.

In a list of Leicester rocks bands, published by Arts in Leicester, in 2009, links were given to each band’s website and the majority of these were on MySpace, most of them having dedicated addresses, like

The domain name was registered in 2002, one of the earliest domain names to be used by a band that originated in Leicester. Someone registered in 2004 for Leicester band The Screening. These were early adopters of the do-it-yourself breed of Internet users. By 2014, almost all of the musicians in Leicester’s rock bands had grown up with the Internet. Utilising it for their music was not difficult. Many of the city’s recording studios did well from this easy access to DIY outlets. Businesses grew up to service this market – such as companies specialising in the printing and replication of CDs. A Leicester company called Horus Music provided technical services for the publication of music.

The circumstances leading up to these developments are discussed in Chapter 2 of this series of articles.

The rise of the small venues

In the period between the early 90s and today, Leicester’s music scene became increasingly dominated by music venues, including The Charlotte and The Shed. The Shed started in 1994 and is still a significant venue for rock music, especially as a launchpad for new bands and singers. In 2000, Darren Nockles became a promoter at the Musician, a venue in Wharf Street East, previously called The Bakers Arms (there was also a pub called The Barkers Arms in Blaby and that too played a significant role in the history of Leicestershire music but for very different reasons.) The old Musician closed it’s doors for the last time on 31st December 2004 but re-opened in 2005. The Musician reopened on 1 February 2005, actually smaller than before because of the repositioning of the toilets, and live music continued unabated until May.

Venues closing down and reopening was not uncommon. The Charlotte closed several times only to re-open again under a new management. In 1989, Andy Wright took over the Princess Charlotte pub, having worked there since 1985 when it was a traditional public house. It’s name changed to The Charlotte and it began to be a permanent live music venue until it closed in 2010. 

Andy Wright, who once ran The Charlotte, mentions some of the bands that played there in 2006:

’22/01 Random Hand 25/01 Deaf Havana 27/01 Bad Manners 28/01 The Courteeners 29/01 Blood Red Shoes 30/01 King Creosote 03/02 Elliot Minor 10/02 The Subhumans 13/02 Robots In Disguise (From Mighty Boosh) 24/02 Rolo Tomassi 25/02 Turin Brakes 28/02 Ginger 29/02 One Night Only 06/03 Sonic Boom Six 17/03 The Rifles 19/03 Little Man Tate 29/03 Young Heart Attack 30/03 Malcome Middleton (Arab Strap) 03/04 Slaves To Gravity (again) 19/04 The Automatic 21/04 Ted Leo and the Pharmacists / Red Light Company 28/04 Dogs 30/04 Lightspeed Champion 01/05 Cud 04/05 Twisted Wheel 09/05 Spunge 12/05 Jesse Malin 14/05 Wednesday 13 30/03 The Subways 10/06 Glasvegas 22/06 Holly Golightly 25/6 Mystery Jets 26/06 UK Subs 08/07 The Business 10/07 Failsafe My Awesome Compilation 11/07 The Screening 08/08 The Dickies 21/08 The Death Set 03/09 Golden Silvers 10/09 Spear Of Destiny 01/10 Jonny Foriegner / Danananananakroyd 05/10 Iglu and Hartly 07 10 Team Waterpol 08/10 Cheeky Cheeky and The Nose Bleeds 09/10 Little Man Tate 15/10 Does It Offend You Yeah 16/10 Bromheads Jacket 19/10 Strung Out 25/10 The Long Tall Texans 26/10 Jersey Budd 29/10 One Night Only 30/10 The Pippettes 03/11 The Hunters Club 06/11 The Airbourne Toxic Event 10/11 Example 11/11 Fight Like Apes 13/11 Half Man Half Biscuit 16/11 Skinnyman 17/11 Grammatics 24/11 The View 26/11 Twin Atlantic 05/12 The Wedding Present 0712 The Holloways 10/12 Dreadzone 11/12 Streetlight Manifesto 14/12 Bury Tomorrow 18/12 Bad Manners 20/12 999/ The Lurkers 21/12 Diesel Park West. That was the quietest year of The Charlotte hence it’s closure in Jan 2009.’

The Soundhouse opened in 2010, in Southampton Street, behind the old offices of the Leicester Mercury, Prior to that the premises operated as The Queen Victoria pub and it was here that bands played from time to time. The Soundhouse has, since it started, operated as a specialised live music venue with a stage, sound desk, dedicated PA system and professional stage lighting.

The Soundhouse as it looked in 2011
The Soundhouse as it looked in 2011

The Donkey, in Welford Road, became a live music venue in 2005. This large pub provides a weekly programme of live music and many notable acts have performed there.

A cafe in the High Street – The Crumbling Cookie, rose to become one of the foremost venues for live music when it opened its room in the basement, called The Cookie Jar.

Alongside these small venues, the music life of the area benefited from the shows and concerts provided by the De Montfort Hall. A large proportion of the city’s music lovers attended shows there by national, if not world class, bands and artists.

Prior to its demolition in 2001, the Granby Halls served as a venue for music concerts, alongside its use as a sports centre. Opening in 1915, it was built as a training hall for the army in World War I. Having stood dormant for three years, the City Council pulled it down as it became an increasing cost burden. During the time when it was used as a large arena for rock concerts, it hosted shows by The Rolling Stones and Louis Armstrong among others.

It was not until 2010 that Leicester was to acquire a large-scale venue for music, with the opening of the O2 Academy in the grounds of the University of Leicester. One of the acts to perform on the opening night was Professor Green.

Prior to the opening of the O2, the University of Leicester students’ union held major rock concerts in the Queens Hall. The oak-panelled room now forms part of the O2 complex, being the medium-sized of three rooms, sometimes referred to as ‘O2.2’. The main hall of the O2 has a capacity of 1,450 and the smallest room – now called The Scholar, holds around 150.

Curve theatre opened and since then has provided a regular programme of musicals, dance shows and concerts. In the bar area, there are regular performances by singers and small acoustic groups.

Not far from Curve is Phoenix, the arts centre and cinema that has a large cafe area where live music concerts have been held from time to time. The names of both these venues have dropped ‘the’ from their titles. Phoenix hosted a series of shows, held on Saturday lunchtimes, mounted by Manic Music Productions. These shows were a showcase of talent for young music artists.

One of the larger venues in the city centre was The Firebug. It originally operated as The Firefly but changed its name to avoid confusion with another establishment. Gigs are held in a large room on the first floor, although music has also been put on in the ground floor bar area, on certain occasions. Upstairs the room has a stage with fixed lighting and there is a PA and sound desk operated by experienced sound engineers.

A venue called The Auditorium operated in the markets area of the city centre. Its premises originally served as an Odeon cinema and later a bingo hall and in its time it was one of the largest capacity centres in the city centre. The Auditorium music venue opened in September 2010. One of the best-known acts to perform there was the rap artist Example ( Elliott Gleave.)

The Exchange Bar opened, 20 January 2011, in Rutland Street. In its basement room live music events are held on a regular basis.

The Exchange Bar
The Exchange Bar

The Australian-theme bar Walkabout once hosted live music events. Standing in Granby Street, close to The Turkey Cafe, the bar closed in May 2015. The bar was part of a chain of venues operated by a company called Intertain. During the periods when live music was held in the bar, about one gig a week was usually held and often local bands were booked to play there.

In a large room above Walkabout bar, the venue Sub91 operated between its opening night in August 2010, when the show was headlined by The Damned through to its closure in December 2011.

The Music Cafe, in Park end Street (off Braunstone Gate) has been putting on live music gigs for many years. In 2005, Leicester organisation Get Your Band On put on a rock night there with Ictus, The A.I.Ds, No One Knows and Glitch. At that time the venue changed it name to The Music Cafe from its previous title The Jam Jar.

Many pubs in the city centre held live music events throughout the period 2005 to 2015. These included Time Bar (adjacent to the railway station), The Barley Mow in Granby Street, The Turkey Cafe (which held weekly open-mic nights), The Queen of Bradgate (in the High Street), Cafe Bruxelles (also in the High Street), O’Neills the Irish-themed pub in Loseby Lane, the building that housed Superfly and various other venues (on the corner of Wellington Street) and even Leicester’s longest established gay bar The Dover Castle has been known to put on live music events. One time gay nightclub Streetlife, now serves as a venue for music shows (though not for the gay community.)

Calamity Jane at Curve 2015
Calamity Jane at Curve 2015

Record shops

During the period when records were the usual media through which recorded music was heard, Leicester had a variety of record shops. Ainsleys record store closed in 2004. Wayne Allen was the manager of the store between 1983 and 2001. It was situated opposite the Clock Tower. He is credited with bringing some of the biggest names in music to the Leicester store, including Englebert Humperdinck, Radiohead, Del Amitri, St Etienne, Stereophonics, Shed Seven and Bananarama. He died in 2012.

Several other record shops in the centre of Leicester are remembered, including Back Track Records and Boogaloo, and in current times HMV, 2 Funky and Rockaboom records. People remember Revolver Records, Cank Street Records, Virgin records, BPM, Archers, Reef, Chakademas, Pliers, MVC, Village Square, A G Kemble, Archers, A T Brown, Brees, Dalton & Son, The Record Cellar, World Records in London Road, and Carousel.

The rise of the festivals

Mention has already been made of the importance of the Abbey Park festival, to the music of Leicester. Since the end of its era, several other annual festivals have grown to being important event in the musical calender of the city and county. The Abbey Park Festival, events between 2003 to 2005 formed a significant milestone in the development of the city’s festival-level live music.

The first Glastonbudget festival was held in 2005. Bands that played at the very first event included To Hell And Back, Meatloaf tribute band, Ded Hot Chilie Peppers, One Step behind (Madness tribute), Oasish and The Jamm. In 2006, the Glastonbudget Festival started to put on local original bands such as The Authentics, Ugli, Jack of Hearts, The Stiff Naked Fools, Ego Armalade, Proud To Have Met You, Platinum JAR and Ictus. by 2007, many more local original bands (called ‘new acts’ in the programme) played at Glastonbudget, including bands such as Ictus, Patchwork Grace, Skam#, The Mile, Subdude, Jack of Hearts, Black River Project, Utopians, Squid Ate Lucy, Codes, C*Bob, Purple and the Rains, Playing at Glastonbudget was for many of the new and original bands was a premium achievement.

The first Summer Sundae festival was held in 2001. The event is also called The Summer Sundae Weekender although when it started it lasted for only one day. It grew to become an important national event for indie and alternative music band sand artists. The festival was held in the De Montfort Hall and its surrounding grounds and lasted from Friday to Sunday. The last event was held in 2012 when the festival was brought to an end. Apart from acts of national standing, many local bands played on its various stages and along list of Leicester acts can be drawn from its programmes. All of the acts that performed throughout the life of the festival have been documented on Wikipedia. In July 2008, for example, Leicester band The Heroes won a competition to be the opening band on the main stage at Summer Sundae. A report at the time said: ‘Thousands of you voted and the results are in… The winners are… Leicester band The Heroes are to open The Weekender in Leicester.’ The Heroes guitarist Alex Van Roose went on to form Midnight Wire and lead vocalist Alex Totman went on to form Selby Court band.

A singer performing at Pride main stage in 2014
A singer performing at Pride main stage in 2014

The same building and its surrounding grounds are now the location of Simon Says… a music festival that employs a variety of stages as well as the main stage of the DMH. The first event was held in 2013.

The Hand Made Festival established itself as a major music event in Leicester’s yearly round of events. This festival also started in 2013, filling the gap, it is said, left by the disappearance of Summer Sundae.

Several general annual festivals also provide live music. At the Leicester Belgrave Mela, music was always present. When the event began to be held in Humberstone Gate, a large main stage included a day-long programme of music, singing and dance. The programme offered a mixture of classical Indian acts alongside the contemporary stars of Bollywood and the broadcast media. Mela events always had some kind of live music.

Leicester Gay Pride always provided a live music stage, since they began to be held at Victoria Park. National music acts performed as well as local artists. The festival site also included a dance tent in which DJs played recorded music.

Each year the Caribbean Carnival provided a large amount of music throughout the day. The parade had many floats on which were mounted sound systems to supply the dancers behind with the music for their routines. On Victoria Park, there was a main stage featuring singers and bands.

Dancers on the Caribbean Carnival parade
Dancers on the Caribbean Carnival parade

The City Festival began to provide music stages during its week-long programme of activities. In 2014, the stage in Humberstone Gate provided local artists with slots, the bands and singers being nominated by the local live music venues.

Alongside the festivals, a variety of other events have been held in Leicester, either annually or on a one-off basis. In June 2002 there was an event called Music Live that involved more than one thousands performers across six stages. A Golden Jubilee stage was held in Humberstone Gate and a Youth Music stage was situated next to the Clock Tower. World music was represented at a stage in the Town Hall square and classical music was provided at The New Walk Museum. Local bands that played included Ist, The Splitters, Stiff Naked Fools and many others.

In July 2014 the Leicester Music festival was held at the Tigers rugby ground. This ambitious event put on a number of big-name acts including Professor Green, Billy Ocean, Katy B and Tinie Tempah. Several local bands and singers also got to perform on the outskirts of the event but the only band to get a main stage slot was Violet Cities. They played because they had won a music competition called Play@LMF which had been organised to selected one band to play at the festival.

Several smaller festivals had established themselves by 2014 as part of the annual output of live music in the city. These included the Western Park festival, the Riverside festival, the Oxjam event, a music stage at the Foxton Locks festival and Cosby Big Love.

Just across the border, Download attracted a large attendance from Leicestershire’s music fans. One of the big national festivals, a few local bands got to play there on the smaller stages.

Strawberry Fields Festival took place each year in the Coalville area of the county. Founded in 2010, the festival has always provided openings for local bands and artists alongside big national acts and names.

In addition to festivals, some large-scale one-off music events have also been held in the city. Kasabian’s home-coming gig, held on Victoria Park, attracted a massive audience in 2013. The BBC held three events on Victoria Park, each attracting a crowd of around 100,000 people.  One Big Sunday was in Leicester in 2001, promoted by BBC Radio 1, with Coldplay, Kylie Minogue, Nelly Furtado, Dido, Victoria Beckham, Faithless, Craig David and Jamiroquai on the stage. A similar event also took place in 2002 and again in 2003. The stages provided platforms for the kind of big-name acts broadcast by Raio1 but there was no attempt to engage the services of any local bands or artists. The Abbey Park Bonfire nights featured live music and attracted some of the biggest crowds seen in the city; in 2009 Leicester band Autohype played to a crowd of over 20,000 at Abbey Park and a similar size of audience saw Jonezy and Curtis Clacey performing in a line-up headlined by The Vamps in 2013.

The totality of the supply of music – from the musicians of Leicester to their fans – was enormous between 2005 and 2014. In addition, many big name acts played in the city; touring bands came here to perform, music from acts of national importance was delivered at a range of venues and festivals and the small venues supplied a weekly offering of gigs. All of this represented an economy.

The music economy

Leicester developed a live music economy as venues, bands and festivals began to grow in size and number. As the number of live music venues grew, adding to pubs and clubs as places where live music could be performed, bands and artists began to put on their own gigs. It became possible for bands and singers to hire a small venue and promote their own shows (although this has always been the case historically for all types of music in the city and county.) From 2005 and up to 2014, many promoters took on the business of providing live music gigs, just as they had done in previous decades. Some of these became established names in the city; such as Wakeup Promotions, run by Paul Collins and Dreaming in Colour Productions, run by Elisabeth Barker-Carley. Many other names were found in this sector of the local music industry, some well respected for their work, others less so. It was a totally unregulated market, restricted only by the general laws of the land and the requirements laid down by the local authority for public events. The rise (and fall) of the larger venues (O2 Academy, Sub91, The Auditorium and so on) provided new opportunities for promoters to put on shows. Big name acts were booked at play at these events, together with a wide variety of local bands and singers.

Alongside live music we have already pointed to the growing economy of allied services, such as rehearsal rooms, recording studios and shops selling instruments and spare parts for them. In London Road, Sheehans music shop was a notable outlet for instruments, strings and other music-related merchandise. In Lee Street, Music Junkie became a well-known retail outlet. In the western side of the city, Narborough Road’s Intasound was the favoured shop for many musicians. Stores selling records and CDs were many, including national chains such as HMV and a variety of small, independent shops dotted around the city.

Recording studios too became a key part of the music economy. Yellow Bean Studios in the Narborough Road area established a widespread reputation and Deadline studios in Aylestone Road. In the city centre, HQ (opposite Primark) provided a small recording room, much favoured by solo artists. Quad Studios, in Friday Street, provided a range of services and was one of the long-established destinations for bands wanting to record their music with the aid of professional sound engineers.

With many hundreds of bands and singers in the area, the music economy flourished. Demand remained strong throughout this period, fuelled by the ambitions of a large market of amateur bands and singers, rappers and musicians who funded their musical aspirations from their own pockets, in the majority of cases.

Botown 2015
Botown 2015

Broadcast media also saw many ratio stations playing local music. Between 2005 and 2014, BBC Radio Leicester provided air-time for many local music acts. Changes in policy meant that local music diminished in significance from 2014 onwards. Independent stations such as Takeover and Demon FM played an important part in giving exposure to local music acts. Some very localised stations also provided air play for local acts, such as Hermitage FM in the north west of the county. Radio 2-Funky was available on-line and this radio station was probably the best for hip-hop, Funk and African and Caribbean sounds. With the rise of broadband on the Internet, Podcasts began to make an appearance as an alternative to live broadcasting. John Sinclair (previously a radio presenter for the BBC) began a series of regular podcasts featuring local bands and artists.

Music publishing had a chequered history during this period. The only paper-based magazine devoted to local music that ran for an appreciable length of time was The Monograph. On the Internet Arts in Leicestershire provided a magazine-style website from 2005 onwards until it was replaced in 2013 by Music in Leicester, having split off its music content from the remaining outlet devoted to the arts and history. In 2014 a project called ‘Leics TV ‘ was started. Leicestershire TV stated on its web site: ‘The aim is to make Leicestershire the most video connected county in Britain.’ Its founder, Rob Potter, said “The way we consume TV is changing. Technology will allow us to watch what we want, when and wherever we choose. Other than the big budget and mass audience films and programmes, most TV will be online content that we can easily search for on platforms like that meet our needs and interests”. A general arts and creatives magazine From Dusk to Dawn also featured music and musicians during its lifetime as a paper-based outlet.

Many music-related websites were founded from 2005 up to the present day. Many people remember that Pineapster was, in its day, the foremost website and forum for local music, a position that it held until the rise of Facebook.

Leicester’s music economy comprised venues, festivals, music stores, a wide range of services for bands and singers, media broadcasting, publishing and specialised services catering for the needs of musical acts. One thing that the local area lacked was professional music management. Very few individuals became music or band managers. It is true that many people acted as the managers for bands and singers, but this was almost always in a part-time capacity. Many bands were managed by the parents of musicians in them. The creation of music management agencies in the area was almost unheard of.

It is difficult to give a reliable and credible picture of Leicester’s music economy between 2005 and 2014. Few surveys were ever undertaken to provide quantitative data. In July 2012 a report was published by Leicestershire Music Education Hub. One of its stated aims was: ‘The Hub will also act as an advocate for music education, encouraging participation in music and providing innovations in delivery locally to improve music making for and by children and young people.’ Leicester-Shire Music Education Hub was a partnership of over 30 organisations as well as all schools, both Local Authorities and the Leicester-Shire Schools Music Service. National and regional partners included The Philharmonia Orchestra, The Darbar Arts Culture and Heritage Trust, Sinfonia ViVA and Soft Touch Arts Ltd. Other partners range from charitable trusts, community arts organisations, small businesses, national providers of music equipment and technology, colleges and choral groups, the report stated. Holding a wide brief, where music was concerned, the report was mainly concerned with education. Ambitious though it was, its impact is unclear and little data was provided about music in the local community. The inclusion of Soft Touch arts linked it to the community; this organisation had an important role to play throughout this period and included music alongside a wide range of other youth-related activities.

The music economy was amplified by the existence of a number of night clubs. The role of Streetlife has already been referred to above. Many people will remember places such as Mosh and The Fan Club as being destinations where recorded music was played by DJs and very rarely these venues also put on live bands. Mosh opened in 2003 and was, at one time, a very popular choice for the city’s students.

THE CARMAN by Bourne, , Choreography and Direction - Mathew Bourne, Music- Bizet, Designs - Lez Brotherston, Churchill Theatre, Bromley, London, UK, 2015, Credit - Johan Persson
THE CARMAN by Bourne, , Choreography and Direction – Mathew Bourne, Music- Bizet, Designs – Lez Brotherston, Churchill Theatre, Bromley, London, UK, 2015, Credit – Johan Persson

In addition to the regular gigs offered at the eight to ten permanent live music venues in this period, a variety of events were held that attracted large audiences to hear bands and singers. In particular, the Original Bands Showcase (known as the ‘OBS’) ran from 2004 through to the present day and resulted in one band becoming the overall winner in each year. The OBS was organised by VJT Promotions; a similar series called obsUnplugged was also organised, each year, to feature singers, acoustics groups and solo artists. Early on its time, OBS heats were held at The Shed music venue; more recently, all its events have taken place at The Musician. Other competitions and battle-of-the-bands type series were also held. Mention was made earlier of Play@LMF, in which bands competed for a place at the Leicester Music Festival in 2014. Several such events were held at The Shed and at the little cafe used as a music venue from time to time – The Pavilion on Victoria Park. A series called Empire Band of the Land was held; it was an independently promoted series of shows that took place at a variety of venues. These competitions had a varied effect on the music economy and their role within it has been controversial. It could be argued that such series of shows increased audience attendance at the venues in which they were held and that this was of benefit to the local music economy. In many cases, participating bands were required to sell as many tickets as they could for their performances as part of the deal. A series called Wanna Be A Rockstar was held at The Shed, promoted by David Norris. Also at The Shed, the Glastonbudget Music Festival held its annual auditions and, at these shows, organisers selected the bands and artists they wanted for their festivals. One of the requirements of these auditions was that a band or act should demonstrate its popularity by selling at least twenty tickets for their performance. It can be argued that such events increased ticket sales at venues, but this could have had a detrimental effect on other gigs held on the same nights. A considerable amount of debate has taken place about the pros and cons of such live music events with people being for or against them, in principle.

I have written before on the subject of Leicester’s music economy; see for example my article The economics of local live music, published in 2010 on my blog.

also in that year I wrote an article: What makes a good live music scene?, in which many of the issues concerning the local music industry were discussed on my blog.

So far I have focused on what might be called ‘western rock music’ and have not talked about the music of the many other cultures that contribute their own music to the life of the city. In particular, the Indian community is very music-friendly and large numbers of events took place that featured Indian bands and singers. Bollywood in particular played an important role in the music life of that community. Leicester’s African and Caribbean community played a major part in the existence and development of the city’s music both locally and at national level. in November 2013, the film 40 Years Of Black music in Leicester was celebrated with its premier at Phoenix arts. A review of this was published by Arts in Leicester

Jonezy at The Abbey Park Fireworks, supporting The Vamps
Jonezy at The Abbey Park Fireworks, supporting The Vamps

A number of Leicester born artists, or those that came to live in the city, contributed to recognition of our local music, during this period. Sam Bailey (who lived and worked in Leicestershire) won the popular television series The X-Factor in 2013. In the programmes that were broadcast in the run-up to the final show, she was seen talking about her job as an officer at Gartree Prison. Although Sam was born and grew up in London, she moved to Leicester and was resident here at the time she won the show.

Singer Sam Bailey will be appearing at Leicester Pride 2015
Singer Sam Bailey will be appearing at Leicester Pride 2015

Many other famous names in music are associated with Leicester and Leicestershire. Engelbert Humperdinck has frequently been quoted as a resident of the county. Kasabian is a world famous band, whose members – in particular Tom Meighan and Serge Pizzorno – attended Countesthorpe College. The Displacements, at one point signed to Rough Trade Records, came from Blaby. Many local bands went on to have careers of national importance; including, for example, Family, Gaye Bykers on Acid, Showaddywaddy, Diesel Park West, Gypsy, Cornershop, The Dallas Boys, Prolapse and many others. Laurel Aitken, the singer, lived in Leicester. John Illsley, the bass player from Dire Straights, was born in Leicester. Lisa Lashes, the internationally renown DJ lives in Leicester. Jon Lord was born in the city and was a noted musician and composer, best known for forming the band Deep Purple. Mark Morrison achieved notoriety as a singer. The list goes on and many distinguished musicians, singers and bands were listed on the web page published by Visit Leicester in their list of famous people

Lisa Lashes on stage in 2014
Lisa Lashes on stage in 2014

A singer who lives in Leicester, Carol Leeming, has become nationally renown for her music as as well as for her contribution to literature and the arts.

The achievements of these artists, connected with Leicester, has contributed to the national significance of the city and county and this has had a positive  impact on the local music economy.

The Bands

During this period, Leicester (and its surrounding county) had many bands; so much so, that I once said that Leicester had more bands per head of population than any comparably-sized city. Between the years 2005 and 2014, I published lists of bands from Leicester.

The current bands list is on the Music in Leicester magazine website.

Radio Active at the Shed Young Bands night 29th May 2014
Radio Active at the Shed Young Bands night
29th May 2014

As part of the Archive Project, I plan to publish lists of bands from previous years. For more about this see Music in Leicester.

Lists of Leicester bands are hard to come by on the Internet; the lists published by Arts in Leicester magazine and later Music in Leicester are a rare resources for those who are interested in contemporary bands from the city and county.

Some of the articles in this series will refer to specific bands. Providing a comprehensive analysis of bands would be an exhausting exercise. One resource (for those interested in Leicester bands) for the period 2013 to 2015 would be Music in Leicester website.

In Leicester bands play all genres of music; including, for example, indie, pop, metal, ska, post-hardcore, hard rock, reggae, punk, pop-punk, jazz, blues, electronica, psychedelic… there is hardly a style of music that is not presented in what local bands play.

Alongside rock, music acts also play hip-hop, rap, acoustic and other musical genres. Leicester is also home to many singers and solo artists whose music ranks alongside those of bands. For both live and pre-recorded music, Leicester has an outstanding and prolific offering.

Musicians playing at the opening of the Food Hall in 2014
Musicians playing at the opening of the Food Hall in 2014

More to come

This article has cantered through the content and has omitted a great detail of detail. My aim in publishing this article (and those that will follow) is to stimulate interest in the subject of Leicester’s musical history. This interest will, I hope, lead to more information being submitted that can, eventually, be added to my proposed book on this subject.

If readers wish to contribute anything, I suggest that the best way of doing this is to log on to Facebook and post to my personal page 

I have also made a group on Facebook called Leicester Music History, where information is posted about the progress of my work and other contributions are welcomed.


References referred to in the articles are given on a separate page


In my next article in this series, I will be looking at the period 1990 to 2005.

[This article was published on 7th August 2015. It was subsequently updated on 21st August to add some new material and to to make some corrections]

See also:

Music and technology (an article that forms part of this series)

What’s On In Leicester

News about the City Festival and Cosmopolitan Carnival

New Cantata

Tuesday 30th June 2015

The King in The Car Park

Leicester Cathedral

A cantata by Benjamin Vaughan and Philip Goss – The King In The Car Park –  was performed today by the massed choirs of schools from the city and the county.

The choirs were accompanied by an instrumental ensemble including a piano, double bass, clarinet, flute, the organ and a variety of medieval instruments from the time of the Plantagenets.

The hour-long cantata was in nine movements and employed a variety of musical styles such as jazz, musical theatre and folk. It told the story of the life and death of Richard III to his death at the Battle of Bosworth and his ‘home coming’ when his remains were reinterred in the Cathedral.

Despite the score posing many technical challenges, the children of the choirs delivered a magnificent performance.

The hottest day of the year, thus far, did not deter a large number of people from filing the cathedral. he work was performed again the follow day in Loughborough.

See also:

News just in

Leicester Writes festival



2nd December 2014

The Sound of Music comes to Curve.

Read our review of The Sound Of Music at Curve – it is up now.

Here are some pictures from the show:

The Sound of Music Pamela Raith Photography
The Sound of Music
Pamela Raith Photography
Laura Pitt Pulford and Michael French. Pamela Raith Photography
Laura Pitt Pulford and Michael French.
Pamela Raith Photography
Emma Harrold and Jack Wilcox. The Sound of Music. Pamela Raith Photography.
Emma Harrold and Jack Wilcox.
The Sound of Music. Pamela Raith Photography.
The Sound of Music at Curve. Pamela Raith Photography.
The Sound of Music at Curve.
Pamela Raith Photography.

See also:

What’s On In Leicester, for details of this and other arts events


Opera in Leicester

Opera from the Ukraine comes to Leicester

Opera must triumph over war – says Ellen Kent

Award-winning opera producer Ellen Kent is determined to see opera triumph over war as she brings Eastern Europe talent to the UK stage with a stunning performance of La Traviata.

La Traviata at the De Montfort Hall October 2014
La Traviata at the De Montfort Hall
October 2014

During preparations for this autumn’s tour with the Ukrainian National Opera in Kharkiv,  Ellen was caught just six miles from a very bloody civil war. Warned by the British Foreign Office not to travel due to fatalities, bombings and kidnappings, Ellen still managed to transport the complete sets, props and costumes out of the area.

Focussing on overcoming the difficulties of the conflict, Ellen has brought together a new company including Ukrainians, Moldovans and Russians, working together in harmony, to bring to the stage a heart-wrenchingly emotional production of Puccini’s popular Madama Butterfly.

Ellen said: “I know it sounds like a cliche but really – the show must go on!  I was in Odessa in rehearsals for Butterfly in 2005 when the Orange Revolution broke out and I just thought, here we go again.”

With magnificent sets by renowned Ukrainian designer Nadia Shvets and handpicked soloists from the national operas of Odessa, Spain and Rostov, the show visits the De Montfort Hall in Leicester on October 16.

La Traviata is a tragic true story of searing passion and memorable music telling of the life and love of the passionate but consumptive Violetta and her doomed romance with the aristocratic Alfredo.

Verdi’s outstanding interpretation of one of the most popular love stories of the 19th Century, La Dame aux Camelias, includes highlights such as the Brindisi, the best-known drinking song in opera, the duet Un Di Felice and the haunting aria Addio Del Passato.

Alongside a 70-strong company, international sopranos Elena Dee and Alyona Kistenyova will sing the role of the tragic Violetta, while Ruslan Zinevych, who has sung with Pavarotti, is Alfredo.

There are also local dancers, children and adults who join the cast on stage.

Ellen said: “As ever my productions are huge and will be a feast for the eyes as well as the ears. After all we’ve been through bringing them to the stage, it’s definitely been worth it. Three members of our orchestra have joined the Chisinau Philharmonic for this tour because the Opera House in Donetsk, near the fighting, has closed. People often don’t realise when they’re watching it on television the effect it has on ordinary people who still have to support their families. This is our way of fighting back, showing that whatever is happening over there, we will continues to showcase Eastern European talent and put on a tremendous show.”

More information about this show is on the DeMontfort Hall website.

See also:

Our review of Rent – the musical


29th September 2014

Rocktober time again

It’s not October – it’s Rocktober!

Time in the year again to celebrate rock music in Leicester.  In previous years, Arts in has championed bigging up our local rock scene from 1/10 to 31/10.

Rocktober is all about the people who make live rock music happen – celebrating them and getting them to celebrate themselves.

Here are some press quotes from previous year:

But did you know that Leicester currently has hundreds of local bands and acts hoping to fill those venues? Well, local Arts magazine, Arts in Leicestershire (AiL) plan to shout about this at a national level all month-long. They’re calling it ‘Rocktober’ and every day during October, AiL will promote one of Leicester’s up and coming rock bands. 30 bands have been selected out of 200+ that play their own original rock music and each one will be promoted through the AiL magazine and its national outlets. – 69 degrees magazine, 2010

and from the Leicester Mercury in 2010:

But did you know that Leicester currently has hundreds of local bands and acts hoping to fill those venues? Well, local Arts magazine, Arts in Leicestershire (AiL) plan to shout about this at a national level all month-long. They’re calling it ‘Rocktober’ and every day during October, AiL will promote one of Leicester’s up and coming rock bands. 30 bands have been selected out of 200+ that play their own original rock music and each one will be promoted through the AiL magazine and its national outlets.

Arts in Leicester and Music in Leicester will be promoting Rocktober for Leicester again this year.

See also:

Rocktober in previous years (in Music in Leicester)




Saturday 30th August 2014

Leicester has Pride

Gay Pride Leicester 2014

It’s mid-day outside Curve in Orton Square. The drumming of a marching band is echoing around the buildings, whistles are being blown and the air is filled the happy noises of people. The parade of the 2014 Leicester Gay Pride sets off towards Humberstone Gate. At the front of the procession there is a long rainbow flag, being held by twenty or so bearers. In the parade there are balloons, banners, more multi-coloured flags are being waved. Some banners proclaim the groups gathered beneath them; some people are holding placards but it’s not so much a protest, more of a carnival. A band of excited and happy people celebrating their being together.

What is so rewarding, if not joyous, about this event is that is happening and that it is happening here in Leicester. It is an event which celebrates the freedom that this country gives to people to gather together and to celebrate their lives. In a world where so many countries are ruled by tyrants and dictators, gay people are banned from showing their pride, attacked, murdered, imprisoned and denied their rights. But this is Leicester and Gay Pride has been a mark of this city for several years. It is a city that takes pride in its diversity, is happy that its peoples have freedom, that they can live in peace and parade once a year through its streets to show the world that they exist, they are proud of their community and can share that pride with the thousands of people who line the streets to applaud and join with them in their celebration.

The parade snakes its way through the warm sunshine of an August afternoon, arriving in Victoria Park for the main event of the day. Around the park there are stalls, tents offering food, drink and merchandise, a fun fair, rides for the children, and the main stage that offers music and entertainment from mid-day though to 8 pm.

The atmosphere is friendly, peaceful, happy and in party mood. It is a gathering of people of all ages. This is a family-friendly celebration. Parents are there with their kiddies, young people are their with their mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters. As a crowd there might well be a higher concentration of young people but its like any other crowd of local citizens. There are people from all ethnic backgrounds, the same mix of people and faces that we have seen so often in the public events of this summer.

Dotted around the park are gazebos and stalls offering information about all kinds of things: sports, health, careers, trade unions, t-shirts for sale, jewellery, flags, garlands… pretty much what you would expect to find any open-air event. On stage performers, entertainers, singers, and dancers offers a non-stop programme of free music and dancing.

The theme of this year’s event: One love, one community. LGBT Freedom.

The Pride Flag in 2013
The Pride Flag in 2013

At this year’s gay pride, stars and celebrities. Kieron Richardson, the actor bes known for playing the part of Ste Hay in the TV soap Holyoaks.

Kieron Richardson
Kieron Richardson

The 28 year old star supported the campaign to kick homophobia out of sport. Today he was on stage comparing the acts and posing for selfies with members of the audience. The gay TV celebrity is said to have been inspired to come out by X-factor winner Joe McElderry.

In 2012 we met Kieron’s Hollyoaks co-star PJ Brennan; not able to be here today because he is in New York although he had planned to be here.

PJ Brennan in 2012
PJ Brennan in 2012

In the dance tent, there was a non-stop programme of sounds. The packed tent was filled with mainly young people who where dancing – or what passes for dancing in the twenty-first century. Now, these teenagers know of disco only from television programmes.

Lisa Lashes with film crew
Lisa Lashes with film crew

Headlining the main stage was international DJ Lisa Lashes. One of Leicester’s most internationally renown music artists, Lisa told me that she will be Canada next week, spinning some disks in Edmonton, Calgary  and Vancouver.

Lisa Lashes on stage
Lisa Lashes on stage

It was good to see the star musician at pride this year, here with promoter Jazz,

Lisa Lashes and Jazz
Lisa Lashes and Paul Mitchell

Singers were on the programme, some of them local artists and some who had come down from Manchester, like the three members of Wolf Vocal Band, whose performance of a number of classic songs went down well with the audience.

Wolf Vocal Group back stage
Wolf Vocal Group back stage
Tokyo Taboo
Tokyo Taboo

Tokyo Taboo, a duo of singers from Manchester were there with a set of songs that had the crowd singing and clapping along with the music.

Wolf Vocal Group on stage
Wolf Vocal Group on stage

Three pole dancers displayed their agility. Singer Ryan Joseph was back for another year. DJ Robbie Lewis was on the stage in the run up to Lisa Lashes.

Robbie Lewis on the decks
Robbie Lewis on the decks

Singers were also part of the crowd, including the great jazz singer Carol Leeming and Leicester’s own song-writer John Anthony (he performed at Pride in 2006), plus a few faces that you would recognise from those TV talent shows. Poets, writers, musicians and artists mingled with the throng on Victoria Park.

Miss Penny

No pride event would be complete without its drag queens and their vivacious humour lifted the laughter as they performed on stage: Ms Marty, Miss Penny, May Mac, Tammi Twinkle and the intriguing artist known as Drag With No Name.

Mrs P

Pride is not all sweetness and light; take away the balloons, the flags and the party frocks and you find that the LGBT community is still struggling with its demons. A newspaper handed to me by one of the activists told of the homophobic bullying that is still rife in our schools. Other articles told about homelessness in the young LGBT community being higher than for the community generally. Leicester’s Lesbian, Gay, Bi & Trans centre In Wellington Street tackles a range of issues day in day out, providing advice, social support, counselling, a library and a cafe.

As with most cities, Leicester has its complement of pubs, clubs and bars: The Rainbow and Dove, The Dover Castle, Helsinki, Sloanes, Bossa and a smattering of businesses such as hair dressing salons and coffee houses that are gay-friendly. The pink pound plays its part in Leicester’s economy just as it does in London, Birmingham, Manchester, Brighton and across the UK. Hotels and restaurants were keen to offer their services to those coming into the city for the day or the weekend.

Lisa Lashes at Sloanes
Lisa Lashes at Sloanes

Pride is a community event and so here today on the park the same NHS, Police Force, Fire Brigade, Fostering & Adoption, that were there for Caribbean Carnival or The Belgrave Mela. Who makes all this happen? A team of volunteers works throughout the year to put on this one day event and make it the outstanding success that it was.

See also:

Leicesster Pride 2015

Leicester Gay Pride Website

Our page about What’s On in Leicester


Art and Music

Art and music in the time of Richard III

As part of our contribution to celebrating the history, culture and heritage of Leicester, this page looks at the art and music of the 15th century, and especially that which was prominent at the time of King Richard III.


Leicester has a rich and varied cultural history. This is due largely to the successive waves of people who settled here over the two thousand years of the area’s time as a place of residence, industry and commerce.

The art and culture of the area changed as people came to live here from mainland Europe – the Romans, the Saxons, the Normans, right up the contemporary migrations of those from the Asian and African continents.

Leicester today is a melting pot of cultural traditions and a rich diversity of people currently contribute to the amazing variety of our city’s music, dance, visual arts and theatre.

Our magazine does it best to find and document the arts and culture of the city today but of no less fascination is our heritage and history.

When we started this section, we had only to walk through the city and look up to see several centuries of the built environment.

The life that went on in those buildings is much more difficult to curate but there are clues that can fuel our imagination as to what entertained our ancestors – the music, painting and drama that would be have been going on in these buildings for several centuries.

This article begins that journey, probing back into medieval times to ask about what people were listening to then and what part art played in their lives.

We want to understand what our ancestors ate, listened to and looked at and what clothes they wore, what books they read.

A great deal of that cultural heritage has evaporated into the past but enough clues have survived to give us some kind of sense of what their cultural was likely to have been like.

18th August 2013

Project launched to trace musical history

Today saw the launch of this magazine’s project to trace the History of Music in Leicester.

28th July 2013

Music from the time of Richard III

A concert was given at Leicester Guildhall today. The musicians performed songs from the time of Richard III. On stage were singers, lute players and percussionists. It was this that gave us the idea of filling in some of the cultural background to the life and times of Richard the third.

The group performed songs in English and French. Two types of lute were being played; these were modern versions of the type of instruments that would have been common at that time. One musician played a recorder and others played a variety of small hand drums.

Musicians performing in Leicester Guidhall
Musicians performing in Leicester Guidhall

The musicians working with The Orpheus Project (see web site link below) plan to release an album of music – The Last Plantagenet – from the era of King Richard III. Today’s programme included songs from the planned album.

From left to right Maryann is on recorder, Andy Jenkinson is playing Lute, then Tabatha Pegg singing lead, Michael on Lute and Alex on drums.

Musicians from the Orpheus Project performing in Leicester's Guildhall
Musicians from the Orpheus Project performing in Leicester’s Guildhall

From left to right Maryann is on recorder, Andy Jenkinson is playing Lute, then Tabatha Pegg singing lead, Michael on Lute and Alex on drums.

On 8th December, a concert was held at Leicester Guildhall, including story telling, music and carols. The musicians working with The Orpheus Project plan to release an album of music – The Last Plantagenet – from the era of King Richard III. Today’s programme included songs from the planned album.

On 8th December, a concert – A King Richard III – will be held at Leicester Guildhall, including story telling, music and carols

See also:

Richard III – the background