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A cultural guide to... Leicester


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Leicester, with a population of 342,000, is arguably one of the most diverse and multicultural cities in the UK. It’s been all over the news in recent years with the discovery on Richard III’s remains under a car park, and one of the biggest underdog stories in the history of sport - Leicester FC winning the Premier League in 2016! 

As well as an incredibly interesting history and sporting culture, Leicester has a lot to offer in terms of arts. Not only is theatre, film, and music celebrated, but there are several religious and multicultural events which bring the whole city together every year. It would be impossible to list all of Leicester's incredible events and exciting venues, but here are a few of the best. 




The Y is a much smaller venue than the Curve, however as DMU student Kelly-Mae Matt, who works part-time at the theatre, said: "The Y Theatre hosts a lot more variety and has a much friendlier feel to it. The building is old, so it has its history."

She cites it as a place that creates community, something which Leicester prides itself on. The theatre has hosted several acts such as Jonathon Pie, Reginald D. Hunter, and Josie Long.

It’s also renowned for its show ‘14/48’, The World’s Quickest Theatre Festival. During the festival, 14 plays are written, rehearsed, designed, scored, and performed within 48 hours with seven different plays being performed each night.

Leicester also hosts a Comedy Festival each year with many of the performances being held at The Y.


The Attenbrough Arts Centre could have been listed under any one of these categories, as it is a cultural hub of Leicester. It has a gallery, hosts live music, spoken word and dance performances , and has theatre and comedy shows. You name it, they’ve got it. Events this summer include:

Sunday 9th July, 1-4pm: Contact Improvisation Jam, which involves dancing and contact improvisational skills development.

Sunday 9th July: 5-6pm She’s 12. This event features Nadine Knew, who explores what it’s like to be a 12-year-old in today’s society.

Both events are pay what you feel, in order to open up these opportunities to everyone.




The Phoenix is an independent cinema also situated in the cultural quarter near the Curve. It plays a variety of low budget, independent films, and tickets are much cheaper than the Showcase Cinema at £5 a ticket for students.

The cinema also has a café with several veggie and vegan options, which also offers student discount. In addition to a regular film schedule, the cinema hosts events such as a yearly film festival organised by students, the most recent being Sentient Film Festival which ran for a week in March featuring classic films such as Metropolis and 2001: A Space Odyssey. Ben Wheatley also hosted a preview screening of his film Free Fire with a live Q&A.



Each year, DMU hosts the Cultural Exchanges Festival, organised by Arts and Festival Management Students, including events opening to not only students but the wider community.

Events have hosted the likes of Carol Ann Duffy, Benjamin Zephaniah, Kanya King, Nina Stibbe, Paris Lees, Rod Duncan, and David Baddiel, to name but a few. A particularly noteworthy talk from 2016 was from Alistair Fruish, who discussed his work as a writer-in-residence at a local prison and the benefits of rehabilitating prisoners through learning to write. The festival attracts people from all over the East Midlands and the majority of tickets are free or under £5 per ticket.


States of Independence is a yearly book festival in the Clephan Building on DMU Campus, showcasing published work from independent book publishers. It’s a great place for any young and budding writer to hang out and network. Not only can books from local writers be purchased but there are also readings from well-known writers.




Each year Leicester hosts many religious festivals which welcome everyone, regardless of religion. These include Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Light, and the celebration in Leicester is one of the biggest outside of India. Around 40,000 people attend the switching on of the lights every year, with even more participating in celebrations along Belgrave Road and the Golden Mile. The celebrations include exchanging of sweets, fireworks, and traditional dancing.


As Leicester hosts a large Hindu population, Holi is always celebrated. At De Montfort University, the Indian Society hosts a celebration of the Spring season in Bede Park for the all students, which involves throwing coloured powder symbolising of good triumphing over evil. Students then donate the proceeds from selling the coloured powder to the DMU Square Mile India Fund, helping children in Ahmedabad.



One of the most popular underground music and comedy venues in Leicester is The Cookie. Situated on High Street in the city centre, the venue has hosted bands such as Jaws and Blaenavon and is a venue used throughout Leicester Comedy Festival. Despite the venue being small, its known as a great place to discover new music in the Midlands.

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