Councillor Sarah Russell had been due to speak at this event but wasn’t present on the evening and her absence wasn’t explained. She did, however, make a video. Since I’m not very good at listening to videos and prefer reading, my typescript of the video appears below:
“I’d say I think it’s [cultural activity in Leicester] exciting, it’s growing. I think we’ve got a really broad cultural scene in the city. It ranges from the large venues for theatre and music productions to print, to the range of art festivals, spoken word, reading and writing. And I think the mix between large venues and small local groups is exciting for everyone. That’s been recognised by the Arts Council and the investment they’ve put into the city. That we are really a growing cultural environment.
“I think the literary scene is really important. I think Leicester’s quite long been established with having some really amazing authors coming out of Leicester. But how we develop the literary scene within the city, how we celebrate it and how we make sure that scene has an audience within the city, I think is developing and I think is something we should all be really excited about. So the council’s been doing all sorts of different things. More recently it’s been working directly with literary groups to offer space, to offer the sort of communications network the council has to attract new people in. But we’ve got relationships that have go back for a long time. So we’ve got authors who come back into the city who come back to talk to young people like Bali Rai who talks about his experience of growing up in the city and wanting to write full-time. I think those bringing back and sharing of those experiences are really powerful. All the different elements sit alongside each other so we’re supporting people to write within the city, making sure there’s the space and promotion of that and also making sure that they get an audience and we bring young people into that.
“I think for raising the profile of it, we have to capitalise on the established authors we’ve already got, we use things like the Whatever it Takes Festival which brought in authors, those from within the city but also from outside. I think we have to really have to celebrate the breath of our literary scene. So we’ve got those who are writing amazing fiction, spoken word and making quite a significant national name for themselves we’ve also got those local history groups who are writing up our city’s shared history and how we can capture that and make sure that’s understood nationally and internationally. I think working with national publishing houses to make sure they see Leicester as the hotbed of creativity I think it is are all ways we can continue to raise the profile.
“It’s absolutely crucial to continue to do this because we want people to both be able to aspire to write and to recognise why it’s such and important way of sharing our own experiences but also of raising the profile of the city, of making sure that people know that this is somewhere where that things are happening, that exciting things happen and come back to. There’s all sorts of different ways that the literary scene supports that.
“The best way to find out is to sign up to the libraries’ service email. All of our libraries have got lots of information in. But every month the library puts out something called the Book News and it tells you about local groups that are happening, it tells you about literary opportunities, opportunities to go along to different types of workshops. It’s a place to find out more. It’s a great place to start. You get to know other like-minded writers and readers and get to share some of your stories and experiences with them.”
What’s interesting is the lack of detail. The only author mentioned is Bali Rai (he deserves the mention; that’s not in dispute) and she doesn’t list which groups the council think they work with. I’ll put my excitement on hold.