Colin Crosby Heritage Tours

Leicester Expo had something for everyone

We've just had the second annual Expo in Leicester City Centre.

The first Expo took place around the August Bank Holiday, from Thursday to Monday, in 2004, and included lots of music, rickshaw rides, visits to churches, temples and mosques, and general fun in the streets.

Personally, I thought it was great, and I felt that I wanted to be associated with it.

So I offered to lead a series of Free Guided Walks in the City Centre. The Expo organisers were delighted, of course, and we selected eight walks from my repertoire - two a day, on Thursday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday. The reason I couldn't do it on Friday was that I took a Coach Trip (with my Guided Walk) to Ludlow, that smashing little town in Shropshire.

The walks I led were all ones I had done lots of times before - Walking the Walls, Mediaeval Leicester, Black Annis and Friends, Richard III, Victorian Leicester, Street Names of Leicester, Historic Leicester and Lost Inns and Coffee Houses.

By doing this, I was able to underline the fact that, while Leicester is justifiably proud of its vibrant multicultural identity today, it can be equally proud of its long and distinguished history - it is after all one of the oldest towns in the country, almost rivalling Colchester, Winchester and Canterbury.

Walking through the streets in the interim periods, there was no doubt that people were enjoying the festival atmosphere, and the music on the big stage, and the various things (including the Test Match) on the big screen.

On the Thursday, the first day of Expo, there was something rather special - an attempt at breaking the world record for the number of people reading a written piece together. The existing record of 1,000 people had been set up in America, so of course we needed more than that. I'm very pleased to say that we did it - yes, I was one of the thousand-plus readers. We read for about five minutes from a story about pirates by the local author Chris D'Lacey.

The beach in Town Hall Square was very popular again - there were lots of parents with young children pretending to be by the sea, with deck chairs and buckets and spades. Mind you, I didn't see any bikinis or chaps with hankies on their heads.

On Monday night, the last night of Expo, Anne and I went to a concert at Leicester Cathedral by the folk-rock trio the Strawbs. I've liked the Strawbs' music since the 1970s. Most of the songs are written by the lead singer David Cousins. They opened their set, appropriately in a cathedral, by singing "Benedictus" (bless the daytime, bless the night?) and kept the audience happy with a variety of songs, some better known than others, including the sardonic "Grave New World" and their hit record "Lay Down". I thoroughly enjoyed the music and the setting, and I think everybody else did too.

The first half was by the singer-songwriter David Wyatt, who had come direct to Leicester from performing at The Stables at Milton Keynes, the venue run by John Dankworth and Cleo Laine.

So all in all, I felt that Expo was a really worthwhile festival again, and I do hope that there will be a third Expo in 2006.