Colin Crosby Heritage Tours

Living in Leicester

I live in Leicester now, and have been living here since 1991 – it’s the second longest I have ever lived anywhere in my life, the longest being 1942 – 1964 with my parents in Westcliff.

In late 1990, having been unemployed since being made redundant when Cannon Cinemas closed my cinema in Havant, near Portsmouth, I was offered a position with Hounslow Council. It was to manage a multi-purpose hall at Feltham, which was not attracting enough custom. The idea was that I would be able to turn the business around, as I had done with a number of cinemas.

I accepted the position, but time went by while I had to go to medicals and similar things.

In the meantime, I was offered a marketing position with Leicester City Council. The salary at Leicester was quite a bit less, but I reckoned that I would be better off with that, as the cost of living would be much less than in Greater London.

So, having taken advice from councillor friends on Havant Borough Council, I apologised to Hounslow, and joined Leicester in February 1991. But at first I had to live in digs, off Narborough Road, before the family could join me. I was just able to go home to Purbrook every other weekend.

It took until the Summer before we found a suitable place to live, and at that point Anne, my wife, and children Neil, Gillian, Kevin and Robin came up to join me.

Unfortunately, working for the City Council didn’t really work out. I had a lot of issues with my immediate superiors, and felt entirely unsupported, finally leaving in the Autumn.

I started being heavily involved in local organisations. I organised a lot for Leicester Civic Society, and was its Minutes Secretary. I revived the Leicestershire branch of Transport 2000, and was its Chairman. And I actively supported Friends of the Earth.

But what really changed things for me was in 1993 when John Kerruish, at that time a committee member of the Civic Society, brought a letter to a meeting. The letter asked if anybody would like to be trained as a Blue Badge Guide, and I thought that sounded very interesting.

It seemed to me that I had a lot of qualifications for acceptance on the course. I had a lifelong interest in local history (it had started with Essex local history, but the principle is obviously the same), many years of experience at managing cinemas and therefore being constantly in the public eye, had spoken in public many times, in such diverse ways as compering Carnival Queen contests and chairing political debates.

So I applied to go on the course. I had to attend an interview, in the same way as when applying for a job. Over a hundred people applied, and just over twenty of us were accepted.

I thoroughly enjoyed the course, and was delighted to find that, having taken the written and practical examinations, I had actually passed. There were about sixteen successful course members, and we all received our coveted Blue Badges from the Duke of Gloucester at Leicester Guildhall in May 1994.

And of course I now devise and lead Guided Walks, mostly in Leicestershire and Rutland, but also in London and the Southend area. I also run Coach Trips, to places all over the country such as Ely, Cirencester and Hereford, and give talks, mostly about aspects of local history.

Something else very significant happened to me in 1991 – I gave up smoking. People today know me as a non-smoker and non-drinker, but in fact I was a heavy smoker from the age of 17 to 48, and was at one time a fifty a day man. I just gave it up one day, and although it wasn’t easy, it was nowhere near as difficult as I had thought it would be.

I have been living in Leicester for what seems to me to be a very long time, and I think I have probably been accepted as more or less a local by now!