Sunday, 29 March 2015

Richard III and Leicester

Inside the DMU Heritage Centre

A week in the life of Leicester!

Last week I made an unusual detour and visited the new Heritage Centre at De Montfort University in Leicester, and this week, I have again ventured out to Leicester, in a week that has been one of the most exciting in all its history.
The souvenir programme

My week did, however, start in Loughborough when on Saturday evening I went along to the Charnwood Orchestra Banks of the Green Willow concert at the Church of All Saints with Holy Trinity (aka Loughborough Parish Church). This concert, which was in memory of the fallen of WW1, and to mark the re-positioning of the Great War memorials in the Parish Church, was composed almost entirely of English music, ranging from Butterworth, through Howells, to Vaughan Williams, and including songs by the French composer, Duparc.

The real story of the week, however, began on Sunday, which saw me watching as much of the live procession through the county of the body of Richard III, as I could find on television, my pc and BBC Radio Leicester. Even through a television screen, this was a hugely emotional event, but was really just the start of what turned out to be a very exciting week.

Queues snaking along Loseby Lane
On Monday lunchtime I went into Leicester city centre, thinking I might just pop into the cathedral and have a quick look at the coffin of Richard III. Nothing prepared me for the queues that had already built up, and I went away resigned to not having time to go into the cathedral.

On Tuesday evening I was lucky enough to go along to a lecture at De Montfort University, given by Professor Kevin Schurer, of Leicester University, Pro-Vice Chancellor (Research and Enterprise) and DMU’s Dr Douglas Cawthorne and Steffan Davies, one of his PhD students. The first lecture discussed and explained the difference between mitochondrial and Y chromosone DNA, and how this was used to confirm the descendants of Richard III. The second lecture described how DMU’s Digital Building Heritage Team built up a picture of what the original Grey Friars, and created a fly-through, which is now in the Richard iii Visitor Centre.

Here’s the full version of Dr Turi King and Professor Schurer’s original paper.

View from the queue!

By Wednesday morning I had become desperate to queue up and visit the coffin of Richard III in Leicester Cathedral, so at 8am I joined the queue. It was worth the 45-minute wait: The atmosphere inside was charged, and the embroidered cloth covering the coffin was stunning. The British Legion volunteers were excellent, standing tall and erect, silently guarding the coffin.

The coffin in the cathedral
On Thursday I again made the trip to Leicester, this time to watch the reinterment service on the big screen set up in Jubilee Square. Standing on the wall of Wyggeston House, I had a great view of the screen, over the tops of the crowd, and of the procession of army bands along High Street and the of cathedral-goers along Applegate and Peacock Lane. It was a bit of a dull day weatherwise, and the wind was excruciatingly cold, but again, the atmosphere was electric. I’ve never seen Leicester so full of people, the cafés so busy, and the streets alive with festivities, that weren’t just centred on Jubilee Square.
Band marching along High Street

Watching the big screen in Jubilee Square


The procession
Thursday was so much fun, that I spent the whole day in Leicester: I had a lovely lunch in James’ café / bistro, and then spent an hour or so wandering around the shops – not something I normally have time to do! I was lucky enough to talk to a number of volunteers, all of whom had interesting stories to tell, and met some wonderful people, including a lady on the park and ride bus back with whom I discovered I had mutual friends!

On Friday evening, after a long day at work, my hubby and I went into town to see some of the “glow”! There were clay pots filled with deep candles around the whole of the cathedral square, in Jubilee Square, and along Peacock Lane. The smoke and the smell from these was astonishing!! We were too tired to stay for the firework display, but if the rest of the week’s events were anything to go by, I’m sure these would have been spectacular!  

The big question now, of course, is what next? For Leicester? For Richard III? For lynneaboutloughborough?


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