The FOXES kicked off Leicester’s global attraction

Posted by pt91 at May 17, 2016 11:10 AM |
PhD Student Inès Hassen discusses how the Leicester model could make the city a champion of globalisation

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Over the past four years, I have been conducting research on Leicester’s economic and urban change in the age of globalisation, and it is evident that overcoming the impact of the 1973 economic recession, whilst rebuilding a post-industrial identity, has been a challenge for the city. Leicester’s image has also been adversely affected by harsh comments from various media sources over the past decades, with the late Sir Terry Wogan once infamously referring to Leicester as the ‘lost city’. Yet, its well-established entrepreneurial mentality and determinism to create a cohesive multi-cultural community has led to a favourable environment for recent ‘miraculous’ events. The Premier League success of Leicester City Football Club has ‘put Leicester on the global map’ and has also boosted the city’s branding strategy.

A surprising city

In the mid-20th century, Leicester was internationally known as the city that ‘clothes the world’ thanks to its prosperous and buoyant hosiery and knitwear industries. By the 1970s, Leicester’s manufacturing centre started to collapse due to a low-cost international market competition. Consequently, the city’s image suffered and this chimed with a general industrial decline in the Midlands. Since then, creating a distinctive identity has been a genuine challenge for the local authorities who strived to cultivate Leicester’s unique selling point in order to both raise the city’s profile on the world stage and to appeal as a flagship tourist destination.

A promotional campaign that branded Leicester via the slogan ‘a city full of surprises’ to boost civic pride as well as to sell the city’s image internationally to investors and tourists was created in 1993 by the marketing agency Leicester Promotions Ltd. The campaign demonstrated a local incentive to make the populace acutely aware of the city’s hidden potential. Leicester had relatively been considered a secondary destination, overshadowed by Nottingham’s cultural attractions and lacking any significant historical reference point. This changed with the discovery of Richard III in 2013, enabling Leicester to attain global recognition. The Foxes are ‘the icing on the cake’, and their odds-defying success has led to incredible scenes of pride, optimism and joy in the city. Leicester, a city located in the middle of England, has acquired a central presence on the global map. Leicester, a reserved and medium-sized post-industrial city, is truly a city of surprises.

A cosmopolitan and unified city

Leicester is considered to be Britain’s most diverse city, re-shaped by migration flows from the Caribbean in the 1940s-50s and from the Indian-sub continent in the 1960s. The city also welcomed in the 1970s many persecuted Asian families displaced from East Africa. Distinct migration groups have contributed to Leicester’s business development thanks to their trade expertise – and this has attracted praise from the Leicestershire Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The city is proud of its cultural diversity and Leicester has drawn its strength from its migration history.

The promotion of numerous ethnic festivals, such as Diwali and the Caribbean Carnival, reflects the city’s positive approach towards multiculturalism and the public expression of diversity. Ethnic minorities are the driving force behind the city’s social cohesion and urban development. The City Council plays an active role in encouraging citizens to participate in different cultural heritages.

Football, the world’s most popular sport, augments this multicultural pride by bringing the community of Leicester together through incredible public displays of celebration. Schools, shops, and all types of public buildings exhibit the hash-tag sign ‘#backingtheblues’. The Foxes, a team composed of players from different nationalities, also reflect the cultural diversity of the city and give credit to Leicester’s vision of a plural and federated society.

Beyond the champion image

The champion image is obviously being exploited by various local actors, such as the two universities, and Premier League victory has given a further global impulse to Leicester’s image: it is a ‘sporting capital’ with cultural capital. Within this globalised world, where branding strategies are being replicated in across different cities, Leicester now possesses a unique promotional springboard that is the envy of the world. The international press is talking about Leicester as Premier League ‘campioni’ with references too to its multicultural and historical identity. The city’s champion image is a creative vehicle for promoting Leicester’s philosophy of multicultural tolerance to the rest of the world. Leicester, surprisingly, may have become a global model for multicultural cooperation. And what is certain is that the city can position itself confidently as a champion of globalisation: a medium-sized city that has the world at its feet.

Inès Hassen, PhD Student at the Centre for Urban History, University of Leicester

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