Saturday, 27 March 2010

(Un)eventful Leicester

How many times have you missed an interesting event in Leicester because you hadn't heard about it, only to read about it in the paper or hear a friend raving about it afterwards?

Twice in the last few weeks I have heard tales of permanent Leicestershire residents who had never even heard of the Leicester Comedy Festival.

Yet all over the city there are myriad events happening from big festivals right down to small club and society meetings. The current provision of city event information gives the impression of a dead city with nothing to do which is wholly incorrect.

Why can't we get better, in-advance access to "what's on" information in Leicester?

I am putting this question to the City Centre Management Board because it is something we're not getting right at the moment. This blog post is based on some of the points I will be making...

I think the immediate cause of this problem is that the current provision of “What’s On” event information in Leicester is an uncoordinated patchwork of different sites each carrying their own separate, sometimes overlapping information.

Here are some examples:-

None of these sites are comprehensive enough to be truly useful to a visitor and the results are at best, people don’t know what is going on and at worst, perceive that little is happening.

Additionally, most of the ‘official’ sites above cater primarily for larger events and neglect the many smaller events run by clubs, societies, bars, restaurants, etc, which are just as important to the entertainment mix as the bigger events.

We need a strategy where we all pool our event information and all help promote each other’s events.

I am putting forward a proposal to use an Internet-based solution. This would comprise a single database but accept event submission from multiple sources (especially RSS feeds) and allow access to the resulting data via multiple channels (especially RSS, social media & email). By simple tagging, such a system could allow visitors or webmasters to get custom event data based on whatever they are interested and have it in a format of their choosing.

Technologically speaking, none of this is particularly difficult.

What it would require is a team effort on the part of event hosts (and particularly the larger stakeholders such as the city council, universities, etc) to agree to collaborate for the greater good of the city. It would also require a certain amount of moderation to weed out offensive or poorly written event content.

Are we smart enough to work together on something like this? If we are then I think we'd fully earn the right to call ourselves 'One Leicester'.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Civic self-harm and how to combat it

Having been in the business of talking up (or constructively criticising) the city of Leicester for some years, I am trying understand the mindset of the people who quite openly dismiss it as an incorrigible shithole.

Reading comments in forums such as the Leicester Mercury website one could be forgiven for thinking that there are legions of people who are forced to live here against their will!

One's immediate reaction is to ask the question: why do you actually stay here? Another question would be: Would you describe your living room as a shithole? No? So why describe your city like that?

In actual fact I suspect that there are many people who are happy with their city and that most of the moaning is cathartic gossip rather than genuine lack of civic pride. This doesn't however deal with the glaring collective public relations self-harm which this inflicts.

What is evident is that we need to hear a lot more noise from the people who have good things to say about the city. We need a 'critical mass' (critical as in the crucial sense rather than censorious) of people to say "I like it here", "I have faith in the city's future", etc). These people need to be more than single voices, they need the confidence of being part of a movement or vibe where they know they are not alone in their views.

Although every cause needs some sort of leadership, these voices need the street cred of independence from official agencies such as the City Council.

I believe that if you got enough of the positive, independent citizen's voices in a room together you would almost certainly have the makings of grass roots movement which could drown out the moaners and make a huge difference to the way both residents and outsiders see the city. This is not to say that there aren't some big problems with aspects of life in Leicester which need to be sorted, just that we won't get anywhere by wallowing in them.

To that end, I recently launched a project called Leicester On The Map which is an attempt at a platform for the positive voices. At the time of writing, the embryonic beginnings of this are visible at and I would like to invite anyone with a positive voice to join this group. You can also follow the #LeicesterOnTheMap hashtag on Twitter.