1. ITV Report

UK City of Culture 2017: Author Bali Rai believes Leicester already is a city of culture

A model of the face of King Richard III who was discovered in a Leicester car park Photo: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

Following on from Liverpool's highly successful stint as the European Capital of Culture in 2008, the Government created the award which will see Leicester competing against Dundee, Hull and Swansea Bay.

In an article for ITV News Central, Leicester born author Bali Rai gives his opinion on why Leicester already is the City of Culture.

Diwali celebrations last year at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Leicester Credit: BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Leicester

Let’s get things straight. My home city, Leicester, is already a city of culture.

Two thousand years of heritage, starting with the Romans, mean we can’t be anything else.

From centuries of ethnic diversity to one of the world’s best comedy festivals, pork pies, crisps and curries to die for, and everything in between, the city is a beacon for culture in all its forms.

The Melton Mowbray pork pie is a Leicester staple Credit: Matt Morton/PA Archive/

We have the amazing Curve theatre – a space so technically brilliant that it can stage shows that others simply cannot manage.

Then there’s the Phoenix, the National Space Centre, one of the largest Diwali celebrations outside of India, the Caribbean Carnival, the Pride Mardi Gras, huge music festivals, museums, galleries – we’ve even got Richard the III!

The Queen takes a tour around the National Space Centre in Leicester in 2002 Credit: John Stillwell/PA Archive

Fifty per cent of the population is under 30 years of age, and each year thousands of students arrive at our two world-renowned universities.

One of them even invented DNA fingerprinting.

We have national treasures in Sue Townsend, the Attenborough’s, Gary Lineker, and Joe Orton.

Gary Lineker's a Leicester lad Credit: Doug Peters/EMPICS Entertainment

Anne Fine and Julian Barnes, amongst others, show a rich literary tradition that is strengthened each year with our Everybody’s Reading festival.

Our new creative industries have dedicated space and support to take us forward. Our music scene is vibrant and growing.

When Kasabian rock a stadium, they do it as proud Leicester lads.

Chris Edwards, Ian Matthews, Tom Meighan, Sergio Pizzorno, Tim Carter and Ben Kealey of Kasabian Credit: Yui Mok/PA Wire

Our ethnic diversity makes us a truly multicultural city too, with a global reach.

From South Asia to the Caribbean, Europe to Africa, and beyond, people know us through friends and family who have settled here.

We’re not perfect, but Leicester proves that people like me, whose parents arrived from elsewhere, can grow up to become British too.

We welcome and celebrate every form of diversity, whilst never losing our sense of Britishness. We show the rest of the UK how to get it right.

That alone is worth the accolade.

The Belgrave Road lights switch on is world famous Credit: ITV News Central

Winning will show the rest of the UK what we in Leicester have said for years. If you’re talking culture, then look no further.

All three of our competitor cities are wonderful, and I’ve been lucky enough to visit them all. But make no mistake - in Leicester we ARE culture.

Nowhere deserves this accolade more than us. Oh, and did I mention Richard the III…?

Bali Rai's views do not necessarily reflect those of ITV News.