Leicester is more: There's a new buzz in the air of this super-diverse and star-strewn East Midlands city

But what's the secret of its success?

In need of a baker capable of knocking everyone else's pastry flat? How about a couple of top-flight football and rugby teams which know only victory? An all-conquering seamstress? Or the planet's leading demon of baize? Then head for Leicester.

After an illustrious past as the nation's leading producer of socks, shoes and empire-building heavy engineering, the jewel of the East Midlands has emerged afresh as a manufacturing colossus. Only this time the core products are thoroughly modern offerings – titans of reality television and sport.

If proof were needed that Leicester and its environs have hit a purple patch of creative and sporting dominance, the world need have looked no closer than the two former ship-building halls in Copenhagen where Molly Smitten-Downes represented Britain in the Eurovision Song Contest last night. Ms Smitten-Downes hails from the village of Anstey, on Leicester's northern edge.

In beating off all-comers for the right to battle it out with a transvestite Austrian, moustachioed Frenchman and a Maltese folk band, the 26-year-old joined a list of Leicestershire champions which includes: the reigning victors of The Great British Bake Off and The Great British Sewing Bee; the latest winner of X-Factor; the winners of the English Football Championship and the semi-finalists of the Rugby Premier League; and the newly crowned world snooker champion, known by his nickname of The Jester from Leicester.

Sir Peter Soulsby, Leicester's directly elected mayor, said there was a new optimism about the city. "So much about winning is about self-confidence and self-belief, and we're a city that in the past has not had that. We have so much to be proud of – the unique diversity of the people that make up Leicester today, our 2,000 years at the centre of English history, the tremendous built environment we've got and the lovely shire county that we're set in. All of these are things we deserve to be proud of and self-confident about – and self-confidence leads to success."

But there is a question to answer: is this concentration of success an accident of geography, or has the East Midlands unwittingly discovered the recipe of thrusting excellence?

With only 50.6 per cent of its population describing themselves as white British in the last census, Leicester is one of the most diverse cities in the country. Its Diwali celebrations, attended by 35,000 people, are reputedly the largest outside India, while it is also home to Britain's second-largest Caribbean carnival.

Frances Quinn, the winner of last year's Great British Bake Off, who lives in Market Harborough, 16 miles south of Leicester, said: "I think a lot of people are wondering what they're putting in the water. There is a lot of creativity in the area and it's a diverse area with a lot of things you can draw on for inspiration."

Stephen Wood, professor of management at Leicester University, who was also born in the city, said: "In the 1950s it was reckoned to be the second richest city in Europe after Ghent, and I think people have always seen opportunity here. It's a yo-yo city but there's a definite buzz about the place right now."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Coordinator

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Coordinator is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager - Midlands

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - 3-4 Month Fixed Contract - £30-£35k pro rata

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a 3-4 month pro rata fi...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £26,000+

£16000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Telesales Executive is requir...

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map