Friday, 19 February 2016

Leicester & the Historic City legend

So, there are these signs, that are popping up all over the place, that say:

Welcome to
Historic City

Is there anywhere (an online photo album, for example) where images of all the signs can be seen?

Was there a public consultation on the wording and images featured on the signs? If so, where can one find details of the consultation?

Also, does anyone know how many of these signs have been put up so far and whether there are plans to put up more? If more such signs are being planned for other access points into the city, is there any chance this too could be subject to consultation so that the people of Leicester can have a say on where the signs appear and what the signs say?

Given that all cities everywhere in the world can claim to be 'historic' cities, the signs as they are currently worded and as they currently look, rankle the senses because they aren’t saying anything much about where Leicester is coming from, where it is currently or where it is going.

I suspect the signs came about because City Hall is aware that Leicester doesn't tell its story well.

I hope this also means there's a willingness to listen and a willingness to explore other ways through which that storytelling can best be done and that, in this and other ways, the city will eventually find a way to enthuse visitors and citizens alike about all the things that Leicester is and all the things it could be.

City Hall could, for example, commission a series of multimedia works exploring where the city is coming from, where the city is currently at and where it might go. The works could include video, still and moving images, animation and music.

In addition to that, the city could sponsor a poetry and short fiction anthology inviting Leicester citizens, residents and/or anyone who has a connection of any sort with the city, to respond to the 'Welcome to/Leicester/Historic City' legend.

The legend could also be the title of the anthology.

The city would need to give the anthology's editors a free hand and leave it to them to select the poems and short fiction that work best as standalone pieces and as part of the anthology.

The call for submissions would also need to avoid being too prescriptive and give poets and writers room to interpret the legend as they will.

The other option would be for the city to hire a public relations or ad company and have that company do all the storytelling. But doing things this way could sideline communities and the story that ends up getting told won't necessarily be one that anyone who has any meaningful connection with the city can relate to.

Similarly, if the call for submissions is too prescriptive, the stories that might end up getting told might not necessarily be the best ones that people can tell.

If it is to sponsor the anthology and other multimedia works about the city, City Hall would need to trust the talent we have in Leicester and it would also need to trust the process.

An earlier version of this blog post was published as, "The making of a city's legend", a letter in the print version of Leicester Mercury on 13 February 2016.

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