Our project focuses on exploring the heritage of the Cultural Quarter area of Leicester city. This is an area of both historical and architectural significance; it is a designated Conservation Area (known as the St George’s Conservation Area), and it has over ten Grade II listed buildings within it.
The Cultural Quarter has a fascinating history of change; of decline and regeneration. It was once an important centre for local industry, and was dominated by factories and warehouses, particularly for the boot and shoe industries. As that industry declined in the 1960/70s, the usage of industrial buildings changed, with the old warehouses and factories being adapted into snooker halls, nightclubs and later, rave venues. In the 2000s through a major regeneration initiative, the area was transformed into the ‘Cultural Quarter’. It is now home to creative business, including the LCB Depot creative industries hub (based in the old bus depot), and the newly built glass structure of the Curve theatre.
We often don’t stop to look up, or to look at the buildings around us. An aim of the project therefore, is to give us an opportunity to stop, to look at the impressive architecture of the Cultural Quarter, and to consider the heritage of an area familiar to us. Through the project we will discover how the area has changed, and learn about the various ways that the past is documented, recorded and saved for the future.
We will research and record the heritage of the area through visits to the Cultural Quarter itself, and to relevant local archives. The Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester & Rutland holds many relevant archives, including: large scale Ordnance Survey maps, insurance maps and street plans of the area; building plans and architects drawings; trade directories; photographs, etc. The Special Collections at the University of Leicester holds the Affective Digital Histories archive that has recently been collected, which includes photographs, oral history interviews and newspaper cuttings. We will also consult relevant material within the Leicester Mercury Archive and the Skinner Archive that is housed at the University. Finally, we will visit East Midlands Oral History Archive. This has collected oral history recordings from people who worked, lived, and ‘played’ in the area.
The project will also give us the opportunity contribute to the recording of the history of the area, as we will be working with an audio technician to give our own reminisces of the area, documenting the changes we have seen and experienced. This oral history will then contribute to the archive of stories that were recorded through the Affective Digital Histories project, and that are housed in the University of Leicester’s Special Collections archive. We will also be working with two community artists, a poet and Phoenix Arts, to interpret the heritage we have discovered in creative ways.
We will share our research through this blog, and through an exhibition at the West End Gallery, Leicester, in October 2015. The creative writing that has been inspired by the heritage we discovered, will be shared through an on-line publication. A short advocacy film will also be created to showcase and celebrate the project.
The project has been enabled through a Sharing Heritage grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. It has also been funded by the Everybody’s Reading Festival, expresseum poetics, BrightSparks Arts in Mental Health, and Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust. The project is managed by expresseum poetics.