Some Glimpses of Musical History in Leicester

All quotes are from Abigail Gilmore’s PhD “Popular music in the city: an examination of local music scenes, popular music practice and cultural policy in the city of Leicester” (University of Leicester, 1999). Abigail was a committee member of the now defunct Leicester-based organisation, Women In Music.

Fosse Community Centre

“In Leicester one of the first examples of material support for local popular music was through the Fosse Community Centre, a council run arts centre which featured a number of facilities including design technology, instrument hire, video production and a recording studio which offers subsidised rates for recording. The DIY culture of young local bands that had originated with punk and the post punk scene that prevailed in the city throughout the 1980s was well-served by such facilities…”

Caribbean Carnival

“The Caribbean Carnival in Leicester is the major event for the city’s African-Caribbean community. It is the second largest in the country after Notting Hill in London, and has now been taking place annually in the city” since it was launched in 1985 “having begun as an 150 years anniversary celebration of emancipation of the British West Indies.”  For a groundbreaking study of the ‘ending’ of the slave trade, see Eric Williams’ 1944 book Capitalism and Slavery.

The Magazine

Although demolished in 1999, The Magazine, was a pub that was formerly situated on Newarke Street, “on a valuable piece of land near De Montfort University and the Phoenix Arts complex.” “The mixture of clientele, socio-economically and in terms of age, gender and ethnicity, surprised me, but after some time I realised common ground existed in two areas: tendencies to variations of the political left and passion about popular music. The two licensees were socialists with combined experiences of youth work, playing in bands and running other Leicester venues.” “A typical week might see performances from two new college bands, an indie band from outside the city on its first tour, a night of Women in The Spotlight”, an acoustic night, a private disco and a dub sound system.”


 Women In Music

“In 1994 Women in Music (WIM) was set up to advance the position of women musicians and women’s music in Leicester – the organisation came out of a substantially lesbian community, who knew each other socially and through their involvement firstly in music and secondly in community work. There were two main thrusts behind the formation of the organisation: the need for resources for women musicians in Leicester and the need for social space for the city’s lesbian community. The lesbian community had had quite a strong social scene in the city’s gay pubs and clubs and the core members of the group had known one another for some time. Since the closing of the Leicester Women’s Centre in 1989 however, there was a perceived lack of venues catering for gay women, and specifically for women only; there was also a need for a space that might encourage more performance from women musicians.”

Women In Music cofounder, Jan Fraser, “felt that even though her all-female band had more success than mixed and male bands in Leicester at the time they were still treated as gimmicks, who had achieved success through sex appeal rather than talent.” As she explained:

 “When I was in The Shapiros, I mean, really glamorous women, OK, the band wasn’t that brilliant, but the first band ever to be signed from Leicester by Virgin, and we were signed by several independent record companies. And everyone said, ‘Oh you are only doing it because you’re women, you only got there because you’re girlies’. And you are thinking ‘no, heh, we got there because we write good songs and we play good music’, but you are continually having to prove yourself, and at the end of the day, you just think, ‘oh god forget it! (Jan Fraser, local musician and co-founder of WIM, in interview).”

Women In Music’s “major achievement was running Women in The Spotlight – a regular night which profiled women musicians to a mixed audience.”

“Women in The Spotlight supported and promoted local female musicians, featuring 200 different women artists in its two year history, many of whom were new to live performance, and bringing in bands from outside of Leicester. The night began in an upstairs room in the pub The Magazine, a venue that was felt particular conducive to the organisation’s aims since they matched the pub’s own espoused political and social convictions.”

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