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

Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Shopfitter

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a successful an...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Sales Account Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Sales Account Manager...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Bob Geldof  

Ebola is a political AND a medical disease

Paul Vallely
 

I've tried reason, but my cat is pig-ignorant

Dom Joly
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin