With Leicester having such a diverse community it comes as no surprise that there are lots of festivals for the city to celebrate each year. Here are just a few you can attend.
Leicester’s Caribbean Carnival is one, huge, street party. Tens of thousands line the carnival route through the city to watch young and old decked out in wonderful costumes parading alongside floats carrying insanely loud sound systems. Everyone then heads to Victoria Park for amazing Caribbean food – the lines of barrel barbecues smoking jerk chicken is a sight in itself - drinks and festivities, lasting well into the evening.
The Caribbean Carnival is held each year on the first Saturday in August to commemorate the emancipation of slaves in the West Indies, which happened on August 1, 1834.
Tip: Head away from the main stage and look for Aba Shanti-I who has been playing his sound system at the Leicester Carnival for 30 years. He’s a bit of a city institution.
Leicester's two Eid festivals attract more than 20,000 people each year. The festivals are called Eid-ul-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan, and Eid-Al-Adha, which marks the end of the Islamic pilgrimage of Hajj.
This year's festivals were in June and August although the dates change annually as they are dependent on the lunar calendar. Expect prayers, funfairs, food and fundraising - and a warm welcome. As the organisers say Eid Festival is ‘a feast offered, freely, to all communities of Leicester irrespective of their gender, age, faith, colour, race, and social background’.
Diwali has appeared on another list already this week but, with it being the biggest celebrations of the Festival of Light outside of India, it can’t be ignored in a festivals’ listicle! Heading to Belgrave and the Golden Mile with 40,000 others to mark Diwali Day is something every student should experience at least once during their time at DMU. The Diwali Lights switch on is October 13 this year while Diwali Day is October 27.
Leicester’s biggest independent music festival. This is the place to go to celebrate the best new and exciting bands locally, nationally and internationally - all in one day.
This year’s event was staged across multiple venues such as The Cookie, Firebug and the 02 (see our previous list of where to catch live events in Leicester) and names to grace the festival since its beginnings in 2013 include Idles, Slaves, Metronomy, Frightened Rabbit, Ibibio Sound Machine, Drenge, Bo Ningen and We Are Scientists.
Leicester Comedy Festival
Did you know Leicester Comedy Festival was born at DMU, when founder Geoff Rowe came up with the idea as part his final year practical project as an Arts Management student.
Now it is billed as the largest comedy festival in Europe. The 2019 version saw 870 events take place across 72 venues, making it the biggest and best yet.
The festival line-ups over the years have been a who’s who of TV funny women and men including Katherine Ryan, Stewart Lee, Jimmy Carr, Johnny Vegas, Jo Brand, Rich Hall, Sue Perkins, Lee Mack, Jason Manford, Sarah Pascoe and James Acaster.
The 2020 festival runs from February 5 – 23.
Pride is the city’s annual LGBT festival, celebrating equality and diversity in the community. The event starts with a parade through the city before around 10,000 congregate in Victoria Park for live bands and DJs, food and drink.
This year’s festival is on Saturday 31 August.
Run by final year students on the Arts and Festivals Management BA (Hons) degree course over its 19 years – they do everything from book the acts to running the box office - Cultural Exchanges has become an important date in the arts calendar attracting around 3,000 people to see interactive discussions, performances and talks that showcase an eclectic programme of guests.
Previous guests have included Ken Loach, Benjamin Zephania, David Shrigley, Alastair Campbell, Nitin Sawhney, Meera Syal, Paris Lees and Trevor Nelson.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year – and doesn’t Leicester know it! The council workforce starts dressing the town in October, putting in 16,000 lights, building the tableaux in Town Hall Square, and placing a 14m spruce, complete with tinsel and baubles, next to the Clocktower. A Christmas ice rink also appears in Jubilee Square alongside a giant ferris wheel. Around 20,000 people usually make the trip into town to see the official lights switch on at the end of November when Leicester’s countdown to Christmas officially begins.
Food is such an integral part of the many cultures in Leicester that it’s inevitable there are lots of food festivals in the city. New Market Square is the venue of choice for the Leicester Food and Drink Festival and the first of what will be a monthly vegan food fest as well as a World Village Market and October Fest. The LCB Depot in the city’s Cultural Quarter hosts the monthly Last Friday, a street food, art and music fest.
Bring the Paint
This award-winning international festival is the UK’s street art event of the year.
World renowned artists from America, Australia, Tahiti, Mexico, Germany, France, Greece and the UK transform Leicester city centre with world-class mural paintings. There are some outstanding artists who produce some truly outstanding work. Supported by Arts Council England, BID Leicester and DMU, Bring The Paint is definitely putting Leicester on the map. Happens in May each year.