You might never catch me talking positively about my hometown again, but after a weekend at the incredible Handmade Festival Leicester I’m feeling soft. As most of you know, I spent 21 years of my life living reluctantly in Leicester. I hated it. To me, it was a culture black hole, and the only respite I had from the city was in other cities. The only time I felt at home was going to shows in nearby Nottingham or Birmingham or drinking under a bridge. I moved away in 2014 as I saw absolutely no future working in media or entertainment in Leicester; hence, Brighton. In conversations with new friends and colleagues down South I found my hometown frequently being used as a punchline; people who had never been North of Watford telling me that I didn’t look like I was from…ew…Leicester.
But that is all changing, and it’s by and large changed in the last week thanks to the football. Before my departure Leicester spent millions on a new shopping centre, an O2 Academy, a theatre, a cinema. Its persistent and often fruitless attempts at becoming more cultured (or more like Birmingham) mostly seemed to fail, until the discovery of Richard the Third’s bones in a carpark sparked some major international interest. People all over the world were talking about Leicester, my Leicester, as if it mattered. Benedict Cumberbatch came to have a chat about Richard. Kasabian played a giant show. It was all very exciting.
But I digress. I was lucky enough to be invited to cover Handmade Festival this last weekend, a boutique Indie festival run by Leicester locals. In the few years it’s been running it’s grown to an event of such a massive scale that it spills across three local venues. This year’s line-up included We Are Scientists, 65daysofstatic, Deaf Havana, Los Campesinos, Brighton’s own The Xcerts, and a whole bunch of other fantastic names. We Are Scientists’ set was my favourite of the weekend and they were on top form as always – bright, energetic, and hilarious. I first saw We Are Scientists in 2007 in a Leicester University student bar (I was way too young) and their return did not disappoint. Bassist Chris Cain’s reference to my town’s recent football achievements might have made me roll my eyes, but for a second, I felt something close to proud.
The Handmade Festival is a mammoth achievement by a ton of talented and passionate volunteers and organisers on a somehow simultaneously huge and small scale. The bands on board seemed genuinely excited to be a part of it, and the atmosphere over the entire weekend was that of a homegrown show, not a festival of even its own scale.
Handmade is indicative of a growing culture in Leicester that I did not see growing up. When I go home now I see adverts for pop culture pub quizzes, Indie festivals, Wheatus shows at The Cookie, new hipster bars. A lot of the time these events and businesses are being put together by talented bartenders and creatives that I knew when I was there, but who had the heart and passion for Leicester to stay and make it a better place. The organisers of Handmade should be proud of the work they are doing to make Leicester the best it can be.
I have never before had people react positively when I say I’m from Leicester, and it’s a pretty alright turnaround. Thank you for an incredible weekend Handmade Festival, and well done on the football everyone!