Eurovision 2014: Can Leicester's Molly Smitten-Downes win the final for the UK?

Leicester is suddenly at the top of every league going

 

Share

Not only Britain, but specifically Leicester could be on course to win the Eurovision Song Contest this weekend.

Molly Smitten-Downes, we hope, will succeed where another Leicester legend, the evergreen Engelbert Humperdinck missed out.

Well, why not Molly? Leicester is suddenly at the top of every league going, it would appear. The reception in the Town Hall at the weekend for the Championship champs Leicester City FC is only the latest in a series of breathtaking national accomplishments.

Mark Selby – the ‘Jester from Leicester’ – waltzed off with the world snooker title on Monday. In the world of TV talent shows, last year's X-Factor champion Sam Bailey hails from the city, as does the Great British Bake Off champion and the Great British Sewing Bee victors.

The Leicester Tigers pretty much always win everything in rugger. Leicester lads Kasabian are also slated to headline Glastonbury this summer.

Now, for those of us from Leicester none of this comes as much of a surprise. Well, it does actually because we are used to a certain amount of condescension from the rest of the world; so much indeed that sometimes we almost lose faith in ourselves.

But we do not lapse into self-pity. Like Leicester City FC, we can, and do, regain our self-confidence, we remind ourselves of our fantastic achievements past and present, and go on to remind the world that this is one city happy to punch weigh above its weight.

Everyone knows how Leicester was enriched by the arrival of the Asian communities thrown out of Kenya, Uganda and Malawi from 1968 to 1976, and they represented quite a change for people in the city. Their drive and entrepreneurialism have created jobs and prosperity, and they are only the latest in a long wave of migrants; from the West Indies of course, Ireland and eastern Europe, as well as from all over the rest of Britain, drawn here when the textile and engineering industries boasted many more jobs than they do today. Mum, a nurse, still has friends from St Lucia, Grenada, the Philippines and Mauritius.

 

In what I can recall of my official primary school picture (Green Lane Road, now long gone), I am sat among black children, Sikhs and eastern Europeans in equal measure.

When I was growing up, our neighbours on both sides were Geordie migrants, one a coal miner and the other a fitter at Walkers.

Since before Roman times the place has been a settlement for anyone who found themselves with hopes and ambitions, or maybe nothing much better to do, roughly in the middle of the country. 

We like to think we are a tolerant city, free of much of the racial tensions and violence that have scarred so many others  - the riots of 2011 hardly happened there, for example. Zimbabweans, Bangladeshis, Somalis, Chinese students and another wave of Poles are just the latest arrivals.

To me, this unassuming city in the east Midlands is really my New York, the Big Walkers Cheesy Wotsit maybe, rather than the Big Apple – but just as much a vibrant melting pot where making a living is more important than generating hate.

By the way we also have a miniature statue of Liberty, rescued from the old Liberty Bodice works, one of the many manufacturers where the city lead the world a century ago. We still have the shell of the largest shoe factory on the planet when built ca 1890, the neo-Jacobean Co-Op Wheatsheaf Works. Just like NYC it would take you a week to appreciate Leicester’s magnificent architectural inheritance, one sadly undervalued by successive city councils. 

Alan Bennett always said that the best anyone could usually come up with about his home town of Leeds was that it was easy to get to rural Yorkshire countryside from, a fairly back-handed compliment. Well, Leicester too boasts its hinterland of gorgeously rolling countryside and cutesy villages. But its environs are not the best thing about it. This is a happy city, though it has always had its problems and its poverty and its social divisions; an enterprising city; a great sporting city; a city that likes to get on with things without “mekkin a fuss”. As they say where I come from, Leicester is frit o’ nowt, and we never, ever, go mardy.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Daily catch-up: union bosses mobilise to try to prevent a Labour government

John Rentoul
Yvette Cooper campaigning in London at the launch of Labour’s women’s manifesto  

I want the Labour Party to lead a revolution in family support

Yvette Cooper
Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine