King Charles III

King Charles III – review

Curve, main theatre

King Charles III runs from 26th January to 30th January

Following a sold-out run at the Almeida Theatre and a critically acclaimed West End season, Mike Bartlett’s multi award-winning new play King Charles III comes to Leicester.

King Charles III is at Curve theatre Leicester
King Charles III is at Curve theatre Leicester

Our Rating: ****

Tuesday 26th January 2016

If you think the plot of tonight’s play is far-fetched, please read the history of England’s medieval kings and remember that Charles I’s defiance of Parliament led to the English Civil War and Oliver Cromwell’s interregnum which saw the abolition of the monarchy. Not forgetting that James II was deposed by Parliament. One thing that history tells us about our monarchy is that anything can happen, already has done and probably will do. What playwright Mike Bartlett has done is to look at the present line of succession to the throne, study the characters he finds there and extrapolate what might happen when the inevitable day comes to pass when we see a new face under the crown of England. King Charles III is nothing if not provocative. The plot which unwound in Act 1 is credible. This play captivated me from beginning to end. As the plot unravelled, through several surprising twists and turns, I became more and more absorbed in it and the result of the audience was too, I think.

The production was solemn and dignified, almost to the point of frustration. It was a plot that bit hard on the bones of the British ‘constitution’ (not that our country actually has one) and gnawed away at the uneasy relationship between democracy and monarchical rule. Our state is a peculiar edifice. This was a very serious play but then so too were Shakespeare’s history plays – the Henrys, King John, the Richards – it certainly was not a comedy but could have been a tragedy, depending on your point of view. It is perhaps (as someone said) a ‘history for tomorrow.’ Bartlett’s drama is rooted in the popular media of the contemporary world, just as the great bard’s was rooted in the fashions and preoccupations of Tudor times. What we think we know about Charles, Camilla, William, Kate and Harry (through the lens of the media) was used to foresee how their roles might play out on the great stage of the state.

When I review a play, I normally give a resume of its plot. I have decided not to in this case; because I think that people should go and see it with an open mind and also be prepared for the many surprises, if not shocks, that it will provide if the details of the plot are not known. The play is about many things; it is about the main characters (the dramatis personae) both as individuals and as a family group, it is about how history is made, it is about the creaking fabric of the state, the endless battles between political leaders, the troubled relationship between the royals and the media, the machinations of politics and the law… I could go on.

One thing should be said about this play – Bartlett has done something few other contemporary dramatists would dare to do (or be foolish enough to do) – he has written the entire play in blank verse. The kind of thing we would be familiar with from seeing Shakespeare. It sounds like Shakespearian acting, almost, but not quite. Bartlett explained how this epic drama caused him to feel terrified at the idea of writing in verse (‘one thing I knew very little about, he admitted in an article). In fact, I liked this style; after all I have been going to Shakespeare plays for over 50 years) and a plot of this degree of epic-ness seemed to deserve something more than plain English dialogue. There are many points throughout the play where you can detect the influence of the great Bard’s history plays and the blank verse gave it a grandeur and solemnity that modern English would not have done justice to, it heightened the drama and enhanced the feel of the more monumental scenes. But even though it was written in blank verse using contemporary English, there are points where Bartlett drops in a literary anachronism or two (making the spoken dialogue far from realistic in today’s speech) simply to make the line scan an iambic pentameter, I suspect. As others have already pointed out, Bartlett lacks the gift for figurations and metaphor of the great Bard and lacks his ability to write brilliant twists of imagery. It would certainly not have worked had Bartlett tried to ape Tudor script completely; the content is far too twenty-first century for that. I cannot quote chapter and verse for these odd lapses of vocabulary (unless someone wants to send me a copy of the script) but I noticed them straight away. Happily not even these peculiar choice of words were a distraction from the plot or the acting.

If this aspect of the play interests you I recommend the article on The Guardian where Bartlett gives some examples of how he worked with the verse (Guardian 20/9/14)

Robert Powell as Charles Photo: Richard Hubert Smith
Robert Powell as Charles
Photo: Richard Hubert Smith

Tonight’s production at Curve had many good points, not least Robert Powell’s acting and very dignified rendition of Charles. Tom Scutt’s scenery was impressive and convincing (although there was only one set and it never changed with the location suggested in the play.) Weighed against the many good points was Richard Glaves’s portrayal of the ‘ginger joke’ Prince Harry. Either Glaves’s characterisation or the script did not do it for me. What would have worked, I would suggest, is a blend of Shakespearian clown and elements of Hal (the young Henry V). The Harry of this play just didn’t feel right, from what we know of Prince Henry of Wales, the fifth in line to the throne. What we got were the antics of an unconvincing fool (to be fair to Glaves, I doubt he could have done much with the part anyway, given how it was written.) The other aspect of the play that I balked at was the appearance of the ghost of Diana Princess of Wales, more than once. We could have done without that and the scenes with the spectral visitations added little to the substance of the plot.

Bartlett’s play has been described as ‘brilliant’ and I agree with that; it is not a history, tragedy or comedy; it is a thriller. It digs deep into the modern world of power, politics and the state and rubs salt into the wounds created by the media. Its denouement sees the royals capitulating to the power of the press and they sign away regal authority in order to preserve the stats quo. The history of the English monarchy has been one of a gradual erosion of power, from the time when the King had absolute power, starting with Magna Carta and relentless slicing away of powers by Parliament until we end of by asking ‘what is left?’ A ceremonial position with even less authority than you would find in most European presidencies. In this respect the play is a dark and disturbing vision of out future with a constitutional crisis which threatens to plunge England into another civil war. It sees the Monarchy as bearing the seeds of its own destruction, imagining an apocalyptically dark chain of events that feeds on all we have seen over the past 800 years.

Spoiler alert
At the end of the play we see King William V seated in splendour with the orb and sceptre in his hands and the assembled congregation of Westminster Abbey proclaiming “God Save The King.”
Directed by Rupert Goold with Whitney Mosery
A play by Mike Bartlett
Set design by Tom Scutt
Lighting by Jon Clark
Musical director Belinda Sykes

See also:

News about the arts

A short history of food

Our roundup of theatre and drama in 2015


News 2016

Archive page

News about the arts, culture and heritage

in 2016

21st March 2016

Shakespeare in the news

Leicester’s medieval Guildhall featured in the news today on the BBC’s East Midlands Today programme.

The piece described the Guildhall as one of  the few surviving Jacobean ‘Theatres’.

Leicester's medieval Guild Hall
Leicester’s medieval Guild Hall

The news item was prompted by work undertaken by the team working on The Shakespeare On Tour project who found that the various companies that performed the Bard’s plays visited many parts of the country, including Leicester.

A discovery in some ancient archives suggests that Shakespeare himself might have been present when the company visited Leicester’s Guildhall.

An entry in the city chamberlain’s accounts shows a payment of 40 shillings to a visiting theatre troupe.

If the troupe did in fact come to the Guidlhall in 1606 there is a chance, at least, that Shakespeare might have been with them.

The company, called The King’s Men, came to the city on several occasions after the death of The Bard.

Shakespeare on Tour on the BBC website.

1st February 2016

Leicester raises the rainbow flag for LGBT

LEICESTER is marking the start of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender History Month by flying rainbow-coloured flags from the Town Hall and City Hall.

Assistant city mayor for community involvement and equalities, Cllr Manjula Sood, was joined by guests including Mark Beasley, chair of the Leicester Lesbian, Gay Bisexual and Transgender Centre, to raise the flags at the Town Hall on Monday (1 February).

Councillor Sood said: “We recognise the important contribution that our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities make to life in the city and beyond. We’re committed to supporting these communities.

“LGBT history month is about promoting equality and diversity for the benefit of everyone, and Leicester has a long history of championing diversity.

“Raising the rainbow flag is a way for us to show our support, in the hope that we can all work together to create a fairer society.”

Councillor Pam Posnett, Leicestershire County Council cabinet member with responsibility for equalities, said: “The county and city are united in their respect for all communities. I’m delighted that we will once again be raising the rainbow flag, as it demonstrates our unity of purpose in supporting LGBT communities.”

Mark Beasley said: “The Pride flag allows us to show our respect and pride to those who have been instrumental in bringing equality to the forefront of everyone’s agenda. It demonstrates how as a society, the UK has taken big steps towards full inclusion of LGBT people.

“It also portrays our commitment as we strive to make Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland a place where everyone can feel proud and safe to be themselves.”

Representatives from Leicestershire Police, Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service, Leicester City Clinical Commissioning Group, Leicestershire County Council, local charity Trade and Leicester’s LGBT Centre joined the flag-raising ceremony at the Town Hall.

29th January 2016

Attenborough opens gallery

The naturalist and long-running television personality Sir David Attenborough returned to the place of his Leicester childhood today (Friday 29 January) to open a new fully-inclusive gallery championed by his brother Lord Attenborough.

Sir David officially opened the new £1.5million gallery extension at Attenborough Arts Centre, the University of Leicester’s inclusive, multi-use arts venue on Lancaster Road.

Source: University of Leicester

19th January 2016

Black Women and Dance

Jessica Walker of Serendipity-UK told us ; Black Women In Dance: Stepping Out of the Barriers conference is happening May 10th 2016 at Leicester City Hall. The founder of the legendary American performance ensemble Urban Bush Women, Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, will be keynote speaker and discuss the achievements of black women in the dance industry.

This is a fantastic opportunity for dancers and enthusiasts to network with industry professionals. Booking has opened for a much needed one-day conference, celebrating the impact Black Women have had on the international dance ecology from the early trailblazers to the contemporary ground breakers. Taking place on Tuesday 10 May 2016, as part of Lets Dance International Frontiers 2016, Black Women in Dance: Stepping Out of the Barriers, will reflect upon the challenges that have faced Black Women in the world of dance, but also celebrate the tenacity, strength and creativity of these women.

The conference, will explore the aesthetics that have shaped Black dance internationally. Examining the struggle for a sustainable Black voice in the UK dance scene, giving appreciation to companies such as Phoenix Dance and Ballet Black, and dance agencies such as ADAD and State of Emergency, who have long strived to ensure that the cultural landscape of British Dance reflects the Black British presence. To examining dance practice in America; from the classical repertories of Alvin Ailey and Dance Theatre of Harlem, through to Urban Bush Women.

The key-note speaker is award-winning founder and visionary partner of Urban Bush Women; Jawole Willa Jo Zollar. The company will also be in Leicester for LDIF16, presenting a UK debut at Curve, nearly 30 years after their last performance in Leicester.

Speakers include Adesola Akinleye, DancingStrong; Deborah Baddoo, State of Emergency; Hilary S. Carty, Co-Creatives Consulting; Catherine Dénécy; Pam Johnson, Arts Council England; Mercy Nabirye, ADAD; Maureen Salmon, Freshwaters Consultancy; Louise Sutton, Arts Council England; Jessica Walker, De Montfort University; Sharon Watson, Phoenix Dance Theatre. The event will be hosted by Pawlet Brookes, Serendipity. The conference will focus on the creativity of Black Women in dance and also examine the role of infrastructure to support artists, and agencies as proponents of Black dance.

Pawlet Brookes, artistic director, Serendipity said “A central aim of LDIF and our annual conference is to give a voice to untold and under-told stories in dance; the personal histories that have shaped the dance ecology but may go unheard or under acknowledged. Black Women in Dance will place those stories centre stage. I also hope the conference will lead to discussion and debate from across the sector to pave the way for future generations”.

Jessica Walker, young emerging artist, said “Even now, Black women are undergoing a continuous contention with their representations in the media and are in need of empowerment across all platforms. This concern is not only prevalent in the UK but exists on both sides of the Atlantic. The conference Black Women in Dance: Stepping Out of the Barriers will see a community come together to discuss and celebrate Black women in the dance sector.”

Imperatively, the conference will give a voice to women in dance, to tell their own stories, share their own perspectives, highlight key issues and work towards making a bright future for Black Women in Dance.

Serendipity is a diversity-led organisation with the specific aim of working in partnership with mainstream organisations to showcase high quality, culturally diverse work that reflects the demographic profile of the UK.

More from the website.

Food in Leicester

A short history of food

in Leicester

by Trevor Locke

In this series of article, published in 2016, we look at food and how its production, cooking and consumption has defined Leicester from the earliest times to the present day.

Food is important. Understanding how people cook and eat is important for historians. In order to appreciate the history and heritage of a community you must look at how they grow, prepare and consume their food.

The beginnings of farming in Leicester

I would argue that Leicester became the city that it is now because of food. Leicester was not put where it is randomly; Leicester is where it is because of two important factors: first it is positioned with good road links to outlying areas and  secondly, it lies on the banks of a river which would have been a source of food and which is surrounded by fertile land. The bronze age settlement that was founded where the city of Leicester now stands was not then called Leicester; that name was introduced much later, in Roman times, but for convenience I refer to Leicester as the place considered in this article.

You could say the same  about most cities anywhere in the world but it is a concept that is often neglected in the writings of those who have looked at the birth and origins of Leicester.

Rivers have been, of course, prime resources for early people: they provided water, a means of transport and a source of fish. The River Soar existed in pre-historic times, when people first settled around here. When people first made settlements and ceased to be nomadic hunter-gatherers they frequently chose  places on the banks of  rivers and built homes there. They fished, gathered wood and domesticated animals. Access to water for farming and transport was a vital element in choosing where to place settlements.

Rivers often provide fertility to the land; framers chose locations close to rivers where they could find the best soils and a supply of fresh water for their crops. In times before roads were built, rivers provided the best available means of transporting goods for trade both the other local settlements and to the sea where ships could take produce to other countries.

The introduction of farming was the biggest change to the lifestyle of common people and represented a fundamental change in the way of life of early people. In order to grow crops and keep animals, people had to change from being nomadic hunter-gathers to living in settlements. In took about two thousand years for farming to spread right across the British Isles. Instead of hunting wild animals, such as cattle and goats, people kept them in enclosures and domesticated them. Wild boar, living in the forests, were also domesticated and bred to become pigs that could be kept in enclosures, fed and slaughtered for their meat.

It was during the bronze age that people built domestic houses and began to live in settlements. This was a widespread trend on the continent of Europe and in the British Isles.

Farming in the Iron age.

The Iron age lasted from about 750 BC to the period of the Romans, starting in 43 AD. During this period food production was organised into many small farmsteads. Life in what we now call England revolved around farming and agriculture. These small communities were able to produce enough for their own subsistence and some for trade and exchange in good years.

Crops such as barley, rye, oats and emmer wheat (a variety that was common in the ancient world) would have been grown. Sheep and cattle were kept as well as pigs that had been domesticated from wild boar. Cattle were used to pull ploughs and provided manure and hide. Horses were also kept and used to pull wagons and carts and domesticated dogs were used to help herd animals. Cows would also provide milk at the time of calving. Cattle were not eaten until they had served their life as working farm animals.

Iron age houses often hard garden plots in which vegetables were grown. These dwelling houses were largely round in shape and has conical roofs made of thatch. Inside the round house a fire would have burnt continuously provided heat for cooking and warmth for the occupants. Sometimes food was cooked in a cauldron suspended over the fire. Pots were made from clay or sometimes traded if people visited from communities where pot making was a specialist craft.

Bread was made from wheat and barley and baked in an oven. Barley would have been made into a kind of porridge. It could also be fermented to make beer. In addition to vegetables grown in the round house garden, people would have gathered wild berries, nuts and roots. In communities near to the sea or fresh water lakes or rivers, fish would be caught to add to the diet. Occasionally wild birds might have been caught for food. People at this time would have obtained honey from the nests of bees and they also used the wax for a variety of purposes. Beeswax was used in bronze casting. The archaeological evidence suggests that the Iron Age countryside was well stocked with animals, the rivers provided a plentiful supply of fish and, if the weather was good, the farmsteads and gardens produced more than enough for the local community. This abundance of food allowed people to build houses and other structures, such as barrows and hill forts. Being well fed allowed the development of rituals and ceremonies. Having a sufficient and reliable source of food allowed people to engage in religious activities and hone their hunting or building skills. Some individuals became specialists in the working of wood or metal and could do this only if there was enough surplus food to sustain them. Evidence that people of this time were making clothes, engaging in leisure pursuits, constructing structures such as henges and barrows and becoming specialist craftsmen, indicates that food production was able to support these activities.

Excavations have shown that people made looms on which to weave cloth. Thread was made from wool, which was used to make garments as well as animal hides and pelts. According to the Romans, Britons were fairly well dressed. They were able to dye their woven garments, giving them bright colours. They also had brooches, pins and other accessories and these would have been buried with them when they died. People would have also spent much of the day grinding grains with quern stones. Animals had to be fed, herded or protected if they were away from the settlements. Some evidence of gaming pieces has been found during archaeological digs.

Food and drink in the middle ages.

If we want to know the life of a group of people, there is no better way to do this than by looking at what they eat and drink. Food tells us about the identity and status of people. You are what you eat. What you eat tells us something about who you are and your place in the culture of an area. The consumption of food was governed by religious beliefs and the year was divided into days on which feasts occurred and religious rituals were observed.

Medieval dishes courtsey of KingRichardIII website

After buildings to provide shelter, food is the next most important thing to everybody. What people ate, the way in which food was produced, distributed, cooked and eaten, and the drinks that went with it, tells us a great deal about the community and the individuals that were part of it.

Food production provided the largest sector employment for the medieval town of Leicester. Corn would have been ground by the Lords’ millers. The town had several lords who were appointed to protect it and to administer justice. They also controlled key activities, such as the milling of corn by wind and water mills. The earl of Leicester maintained communal ovens and bakehouses from which he derived an income. Tenants were obliged to use them. These were in use up to 1399. Those who wanted to bake bread needed a licence to do so. In 1488 Henry VII ordered the mayor and bailiffs to have removed the ‘divers and many ovens’ which were ‘drawing away our own tenants that ought to bake at our common oven’. There is mention of a bread market in the fifteenth century.

Butchers shops were also found in medieval Leicester. There were 13 butchers shops in 1376. They also sold meat in the Saturday Market, which had developed in the fifteenth century. In 1279 butchers were ordered not to sell meat before noon and not to sell it after three days. Certain kinds of meat could be sold when cooked but not as raw meat. Bakers sold hens in bread and hens in paste (presumably this means pies.)

As the production and distribution of food changed in Medieval times, Leicester would have seen the emergence of markets. In fact, markets would have been a feature of life in the time of the Romans. Archaeologists have discovered the remains of a macellum or market hall which now lies beneath today’s Travel Lodge. Initially produce was sold from stalls in the street and these became permanent shops. Highcross Street was a major thoroughfare in medieval Leicester. Archaeological digs have uncovered narrow buildings, some of which may have been ale houses.

How food is grown, manufactured sold, prepared and consumed tells us a lot about the social organisation, economy and culture of any community of people. If we want to get inside the life of the middle ages then we have to find out what people ate and drank.
In early medieval times, Britain was a largely agricultural society. Most of the population worked on farms and toiled the land. After the black death and the plagues, many aspects of life changed a lot and the economic, political and social life of England was fundamentally altered. By the late middle ages, there were more people who worked for wages, less of the serfdom of previous times, a growth in markets and new ways of organising labour and the productions of goods and services. Britain was still a very stratified society – there were still wide divides between the rich and powerful and the poor and weak. Within this structure, The Church, in particular monasteries and abbeys, played a role that was as powerful as it had been for centuries, following the establishment of Christianity in this country.

Leicestershire was a largely agricultural economy in the middle ages. In the city, more and more people were engaging in specific crafts and skills and, as a result, needed to buy food and drink. The era of self-sufficiency had drawn to a close for a large section of the population, most notably those living in the growing urban areas.

In medieval times, markets existed in Leicester where food and drink would have been on sale. One was held on Saturdays, close to the ‘corn wall‘ according to a map of Leicester in the middle ages.

What people ate in the middle ages was very different to the diet we are familiar with today. There were no potatoes. They did not arrive in Europe until 1536. Fish was consumed in large quantities than meat. Items such as eels, herrings (which were pickled) and salmon (which was plentiful and not the luxury we know today) were often stored and transported in barrels, sometimes preserved with salt. Ordinary people would have eaten herrings, eels or, in some places, shell-fish such as Oysters. Beef was a luxury item available only to the wealthy, who might have consumed more venison. Cattle were used to pull ploughs and carts, rather than horses. People would have eaten chicken and eggs and in some areas ducks.

The main mode of transport for food products in Anglo-Saxon times was water – by sea or rivers. Leicester is situated inland and the river Soar was described as being a slow-moving waterway choked with reeds. It was however, a town situated on the Fosse Way. Food production was largely localised.


Beer and ale would have been consumed in large quantities, rather than water. The supply of fresh, clean water to the people of Leicester would not be available until Victorian times. Water from wells or streams was unsafe to drink and people did not then understand anything about germs and microbes; there was a need to wash clothes and people but when it came to drinking the population was dependent on brewed liquids for its refreshment. This was long before tea and coffee, of course.

Recreation of a Roman kitchen at the Jewry Wall Museum, Leicester

Beer was drunk in preference to water because the process of fermentation killed much of the bacteria and other infestations that would have been present in springs and streams. Beer required supplies of grain and hops and this was an important element of medieval agriculture.

In the middle ages, the normal, daily drink of the working classes was beer or ale, much of which would have been weaker than the beverages known today. Beer and ale were fermented from malted barley, or a mixture of barley and oats or rye. Hops began to be used in the late medieval period and had been known since the time of the Anglo-Saxons. During the sixteenth century, people began to have more leisure time, especially in the urban areas. Taverns offered an alternative venue for social life (alternative to the church that is.) Apart from ale drinking, taverns also were placed where games could be played. Inns provided accommodation for travellers. They were often purpose-built premises, providing accommodation for travellers. From the fourteenth century, inns and ale houses would have a pictorial sign hanging outside (since many could not read.) Before the Battle of Bosworth, it is said that King Richard stayed at the Blue Boar Inn in Leicester. Ale houses began as ordinary dwellings, particularly where the householder made ale or beer at home.

In the fifteenth century, ale houses began to appear in both rural and urban communities. There were taverns in Roman Leicester and they were also in use in Anglo-Saxon times.

High-status people could drink wine as well but this was largely imported from Europe and would have been too expensive for the average man in the street. Grapes were grown in southern England since Roman times. Most of the wine drunk in England would have been imported from Europe, since the Roman conquest and into the middles ages, just as it is today. Wine was transported in barrels or casks. Glass bottles did not appear until the seventeenth century.

Wine would have been drunk by the aristocracy, high-status people in monasteries and wealthy merchants. In some areas cider and mead would have been available. There were vineyards in England, some mentioned in the Doomsday book, but these were largely in the south of the country. Some might have had access to mead, a drink made by fermenting honey with water. This required a plentiful supply of honey at a price that was less than barley or hops. The keeping of bees was widespread but we should not think that England was a land flowing with milk and honey.

Today, Leicester is the destination for the world’s foods, drinks and cuisines. Continental markets are held in the city centre, offering products from many European countries and in the covered market there are stalls offering fruits, vegetables and spices from around the world. some of the herbs and spices found in today’s kitchen cupboards were introduced by the Romans from 43 AD onwards. Spices were imported from the middle east, particularly caraway, nutmeg, cardamom, ginger and pepper. It was during the crusades that knights and soldiers from England would have encountered spices whilst in the middle east. With the discovery of the new world, the Americas in particular, during Tudor times, even more herbs and spices started to appear in this country, although they were often things can be afforded only by the very rich. Take sugar for example. Sugar was available to wealthy kitchens. The Romans used sugar as a medicine. It was available in the 14th and 15th centuries, though it was very expensive. The Crusaders brought sugar home with them from the Holy Land. The first record of sugar in England was made in the late 13th century. The trade in sugar lay at the root of British slavery. Plantations opened up in the Caribbean islands by the traders and merchants of the colonial era. Slaves were put to work on these plantations and countless thousands were uprooted from their homelands in Africa to be taken to the new world and a large proportion of them died on the way Sugar and spices were key products in trade from Tudor times and into the colonisation of Indian during Victorian times. These spices were very expensive and would have been kept under lock and key in medieval houses. Spicy foods were popular in the royal courts and represented one way in which the nobility displayed their wealth and ostentation.

When chocolate first came to in Britain it was consumed in the form of a drink (from 16th century.) The first cocoa beans arrived here in 1585. Coffee was introduced into England by The East Indian Company, in the 16th century. By 1675 there were more than 3,000 coffee houses in England. ( Samuel Pepys frequented the Coffee Houses of London, mentioning them in his entry of 1661). The number of coffee houses in Leicester grew in Victorian times.

Tea began to drunk in the 17th century. In 1662 chests of tea were imported by the wife of Charles II. Queen Anne popularised the drinking of tea at breakfast. England was one of the last countries in Europe to adapt tea as a drink. Tea was imported by the East India Company. Herbal teas for example were very rarely found in Leicester homes, until supermarkets began to stock them as demand increased for new things to drink, healthier options and the general trend to a more varied lifestyle.

Wine became an increasingly popular drink amongst the middle classes of England. The Romans might have been the first to established vineyards in England, though most of the wine they drank was imported from Europe. Wine, Sherry and other continental beverages increasingly became popular from the middle ages onwards as more and more people could afford them.

Lager began to replace beer in our public houses and bars.
An increasing concern with health led to the establishment of a range of foods and drinks.

Fast food has always been around in Leicester – since the Roman began to build their towns and cities and a lot of people moved in with them. The Roman centre of Leicester had a range of fast-food outlets, catering for people who needed to eat out or who could not cook food in their own accommodation. Fast food continued to be a familiar part of street life in Leicester during the middle ages.
As Leicester’s population became increasingly diversified, in the post-war era, fast food outlets began to appear offering an alternative to the long-established fish and chips shops. We saw the rise of the pizza takeaway and restaurants offering Indian and Chinese take-outs.

Today’s home kitchens have seen the staple potato increasingly supplemented by or replaced by other carbohydrate ingredients such as rice and pasta. The potato was a staple in Leicester for many centuries. Only in recent times has it been replaced by rice or pasta.
The other great staple was bread. In the middle ages bread was eaten by all classes of people, although in those times the finer variety of white bread was reserved for the tables of the rich while the loaves eaten by the poor and the working classes were much rougher and closer to what we now know as wholemeal.

Next:  we will look at food in Leicester in the 21st century.

See also:

What did the Romans ever cook for us?

Food and farming in Roman Leicester


Our review of

Theatre in Leicester

for the year 2015

This page forms part of our archives

We look back over the articles published in Arts in Leicester magazine and add other items of interest



The Woman in Black.

A tense thriller at Curve starred Malclm James and Matt Connor.

John Shuttleworth.

Comedian John Shuttleworth was at The Little Theatre for his show A Wee Ken to Remember.


Adrian Mole – The Musical.



We were at Curve to see the European premiere of Shiv by Aditi Brennan Kapil.


Beautiful Thing.

A touching and evocative play about young love.


Amazing combintions of athletics, gymnastic and acrobatics brought together in a dance-like spectacular.


The Car Man.

Reginald D. Hunter.

Comedian Reginald D. Hunter was at the De Montfort Hall for his one man show.


29th – Shakespeare’s Richard III opened at Curve in a production directed by Nikolai Foster. For a review see British Theatre Guide. Our reaction:  we didn’t like it.



Urban Young Actors.

Young actors created suspense with an unusual drama in Leicester.


A Streetcar Named Desire.

Curve provided the stage for this iconic drama set in America’s deep south.

Aakash Odedra – Echoes and I Image.

20th – A Streetcar Named Desire opens at Curve. We gave it ***


Tetrad’s Us And Them number 4.

Tetrad’s company were back at the Attenborough centre for another in their series Us And Them.

Comedy 2016

Comedy coming up this year

This page forms part of our archives

News about acts and performances at Dave’s Leicester Comedy festival is coming in day by day; here is our pick of what to expect.

Dave’s Leicester Comedy Festival has begun.

from 3rd to 21st February 2016, Leicester plays host to the longest-running festivals of laughs.

Get all the details from the Comedy festival website.

Little Asian Women

Friday 19th February and/or Saturday 20th February

at the LCB Depot in Rutland Street.

JAMJAR (Jews and Muslims Joined against racism) Presents….
Work-in-progress of new show

SAJEELA KERSHI: SHARIA’S L.A.W. (Little Asian Women)

Who’s the unsung heroine in your life?

A show celebrating the little invisible unsung heroines in every family. Bigging up those little women – Sometimes you need to visit the past to understand why you are who you are today? Partician, Refugees, sibling rivalry, misogyny and what on earth happened to the women of colour in the film suffragette? Will the real heroines please stand up and be counted?

Sajeela Kershi has been performing stand-up since 2006, getting her big break as part of Brendon Burns’s 2007 Edinburgh Comedy Award (formerly Perrier) winning show, So I Suppose This Is Offensive Now? She made her Edinburgh Fringe solo debut in 2009 and was a Hackney Empire New Act Award finalist in 2011. Her TV credits include appearances on Comedy Central and on ITV2’s Comedy Cuts, she has appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Loose Ends. Radio 4 Saturday Live, 2015 saw Sajeela win the Asian Women of Achievement Award (Arts and Culture section) and received the Brighton Argus Award for Artistic Excellence for her multi-bill storytelling show Immigrant Diaries, a show that Sajeela created and curates and that has played to full houses across the UK. Sajeela’s broadcasting experience as a pundit has ranged across numerous BBC radio stations, Sky news, ITV London News and an ITN Election Special. The Huffington Post named Sajeela in their Top 50 Funny Women to follow on Twitter (@SajeelaKershi). You can also find her on Facebook:

20th February

Kafka or Magaluf

Part Rave, Part Nightmare, an immersive trip to a bureaucratic nightclub. Clipboard or waffle? Dance or cry? Kafka or Magaluf?

An immersive comedy show about finding out who to hate.

Malcolm Julian Swan presents Kafka or Magaluf
Saturday 20 February, 10.45pm
Age restriction: 18+
Tickets: FREE.

a unique free comedy-rave experience.  Reserve free tickets from the Dave Leicester Comedy festival website.

A hilarious line-up of stand-up, theatre and kid’s comedy.

The University of Leicester’s Attenborough Arts Centre will take part in Dave’s Leicester Comedy Festival this February; hosting 12 new shows by local favourites and new emerging comedians.

In this programme, packed full of fresh new talent, we have a variety of comedy to make you giggle, laugh out loud and even question what is cool. In the first week of Dave’s Leicester Comedy Festival we’ve already witnessed a crocodile and a mannequin’s head falling in love, comedy from mental health service users, clowning from theatre company Fowl Humour and fast-paced comedy from participants on the What’s the Story workshop, some taking to the stage for the very first time!

The second week of the comedy festival is jam-packed and so is our line-up. We are offering comedy festival goers the opportunity to see two great shows at a discounted rate by Leicester-based comedian and self-confessed comedy diva Jack Britton, which sees him singing his heart out in this high energy musical comedy and Nottingham-based Lewys Holt who has created a semi-autobiographical show about what it means to be cool, expect music, dance and dress up!

Double bill tickets are available at for £8 to see Jack Britton’s greatest hits (debut album) at 7pm and Lewys Holt presents Of, Or, At A Fairly Low Temperature at 8.30pm on Thursday 11 February.

Comedy isn’t just for grownups; we have shows to keep children aged 3+ years entertained too during half term. As part of Leicester Mini Fridge in association with Dave’s Leicester Comedy Festival we are hosting family shows, including Leicester Fridge presents Mini Fridge: comedy for kids. The even more Further Adventures of Shirley on Wednesday 17 February at 11am. This interactive show invites the audience to dance, sing and make crafts. The next children’s show has an exciting twist where visitors decide what happens next and watch as the magic unfolds in Lindsey and Ian’s Incredible Interactive Improv on Wednesday 17 February at 1pm. In Kids’ Court on Wednesday 17 February at 3pm, parents sit in the dock in the court where the kids are in charge! This is one not to be missed! Suitable for 7+ years.

Daniel Nicholas, Guest Programmer for Dave’s Leicester Comedy Festival, said ‘It’s been great to be involved in putting the programme together for Attenborough Arts Centre at this year’s festival, and there’s a real range of shows on for people to see, with comedians coming from all over the country, not just Leicester. We have The Book of Northern on the 20 February, exploring what it’s like to be Northern! The festival is a great time of year for Leicester and offers a wide range of comedy, something for everyone, and I think this year’s programme at Attenborough Arts Centre reflects that’

Tickets are available on our website: and at our Box office: 0116 252 2455.

I’m Migrant!

Ishi Khan-Jackson will be at The Guildhall on Tuesday 9th February. One of two shows she is doing, it starts at 8pm. The same show will also take place on Saturday 13th.

Ishi Khan-Jackson at The Guildhall on 9th February
Ishi Khan-Jackson at The Guildhall on 9th February

13th February


Local artist Poetman will be performing at The LCB Depot in Rutland Street.

Poetman is appearance at the LCB Depot on 13th February
Poetman is appearance at the LCB Depot on 13th February

More about Poetman on his Facebook page.

A Fete worse Than Death

13th February

Karen Sherrard is appearing in A Fete worse than death on 13th February
Karen Sherrard is appearing in A Fete worse than death on 13th February

Karen Sherrard: A Fête Worse Than Death
Welcome to the village fête in Llanfairchwaraesboncen, nestled in the South Wales Valleys. Join your host, 76 year old village busybody Iris Evans, in a fun-filled romp complete with competitions, slide shows and audience participation. Also featuring guest speaker, Esme de Flange, a lascivious TV gardener providing advice on sowing seed, trimming your shrubbery and producing a prize marrow. But will you be able to contain yourself for the grand finale? THE RAFFLE!

This one-woman show, written and performed by Karen Sherrard (winner of Last Mic Standing 2014), debuts at the festival this year.

“Refreshing, wry, warm, witty and winsome…you want to bottle Sherrard and take her home” Colin Sell, BBC Radio 4’s I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue.

Show Information
Date : February 13th
Time: 10.30pm (doors 10.10pm)
Show length: 1 hour
Venue : Kayal
Info tel: 0116 255 4667
Tickets : £6 / £5 concs

Wisdom of a fool


The Little Theatre is proud to include Wisdom of a Fool – Saturday 13th February 2016 7.30pm – in their programme of shows for Dave’s Leicester Comedy Festival in 2016. Jack Lane’s portrayal of the great man (and of course patron of the Festival since its inception), received standing ovations when it opened at the Capital Theatre Horsham in September 2015.

Tickets and information.

Saturday 13th and Sunday 14th February

Adrian Mole is back… only now he’s Woody Allen(ish)

Joe Hulbert as Woody Alan Photo: copyright Joe Hulbert
Joe Hulbert as Woody Alan
Photo: copyright Joe Hulbert

Woody Allen(ish)

Simon Schatzberger, who was chosen by Sue Townsend to play the
original Adrian Mole at Leicester Pheonix Arts Theatre and in the
West End, brings his Woody Allen show to Dave’s Leicester Comedy
Festival, uncannily performing his legendary 1960s stand-up comedy
(including ‘The Moose’). Following fantastically reviewed, sell-out
London and Edinburgh Festival performances, and before a series of
shows in New York and LA, this is a must see for fans of Woody and
classic American comedy.

Sat 13th & Sun 14th February 2016 at 615pm
Just The Tonic at Hansom Hall
54 Belvoir St Leicester LE1 6QL

Find out more:  Woody Allenish website | Just The Tonic

Doug Segal

Comedy mind reader extraordinaire Doug Segal will be performing his 5 star, critically acclaimed show, How To Read Minds & Influence People, at the Leicester Comedy Festival on 4th February at 7.50pm at Kayal.

Have you ever wanted to read someone’s mind or implant a
subliminal suggestion? Doug Segal (as seen on BBC1 and BBC3)
can teach you that and more in his hit show How To Read Minds And
Influence People, all while making you laugh in the process.

See Doug Segal’s website.

James Ross – Leopardoptera

After three sell-out Edinburgh Fringe runs with improv troupe Fat Kitten Improv, 2010-12, James has turned his hand to stand-up with 2013’s “Ross vs Violich: Pistols at 3.55pm” and 2014’s “Unicornucopia”. He runs cult favourite monthly night Quantum Leopard, just off London’s occasionally trendy Brick Lane: a pay-what-you-like, bring-your-own-booze affair that vaguely evokes the DIY spirit of the squat party. He likes pina coladas and walking in the rain and dislikes timewasters.

High-energy, left field stand-up for people who’ve read a book, without pictures, and enjoyed it. Charming moustachioed comedian WLTM audience with GSOH for fun, maybe more. It’s my first full hour. I quite like it, I hope you will too.

Brewdog Leicester, 8 Friar Lane, Leicester, LE1 5RA
On 7th Feb 2016, Doors 1930, Show start 2000

Visit the Dead Cat Comedy Club page on Facebook.

Zahra Barri

Talk Like an Eygptian is on 17th February
Talk Like an Eygptian is on 17th February

Stand Up Comic, Zahra is a bit like the country of Turkey, in that she’s a mix of Eastern and Western culture, and also she is a bird. A fun look into Eastern and Kanye Western Culture. ‘Terrific’ Venue Magazine

As heard on BBC Radio 4 Extra and BBC Radio 2

Tickets and information.

Daphna Baram

Something to Declare

Sat 6 Feb 4:45 at Just The Tonic, Hanson Hall

How to pass the Englishness test, build a New Jerusalem and become UKIP’s worst nightmare – An immigrant speaks out

After a successful full Edinburgh Fringe run, shows at the Museum of Comedy London, Leicester Square Theatre, and Women in Comedy Manchester and Dave Comedy Festival in Leicester (Feb 2016) – Daphna Baram brings her “immigrational comedy” to Dave’s Leicester Comedy Festival. “Masterful; Superbly refreshing” (Bunbury Magazine), Illuminating and poignant” (The List)
Daphna Baram, an Israeli human rights lawyer turned journalist (Ha’aretz, The Guardian, The Independent, New Statesman, AlJazeera, BBC), invaded the UK in 2002. 13 years in, she now finally has an indefinite leave to remain. Her journey took her from suicide-bombing infested Jerusalem of the early 2000s to the dreaming spires and endless social rules of Oxford fellowships, then on to London’s media world of air-kissing and double-talk.

She studiously memorised pub etiquette, East-enders knowledge, dead royals’ wives, posh ways of causing offence and Christmas do-s and don’ts – in order to pass the ultimate test of Englishness (and the dread of all immigrants): the pub quiz – otherwise known as the Life In The UK Test.

See her website.

Joz Norris

Joz Norris coming up on 20th February
Joz Norris coming up on 20th February

Award-winning idiot and one-man comedy cult Joz Norris
presents potentially the most audacious, ambitious and
unique show at Dave’s Leicester Comedy Festival 2016 –
one idiot doing one comedy show in two places at the
same time. Quite whether it’ll work is anybody’s guess.
There are two audiences in two adjacent venues. One
man, via a bit of multimedia trickery, a lot of running, and
a series of enthusiastic comedy stunts that can be
performed in an endless series of variations, will attempt
to keep both audiences entertained simultaneously.
Whether it ends up a precisely engineered triumph of
intricate technical complexity, or a chaotic mess that only
just about holds together, it’ll be one of the silliest,
stupidest and most unique bits of nonsense in Leicester
this year.

Heroes @ The Criterion & Heroes @ Bob’s BlundaBus
Saturday 20th February, 13:00
Free Entry

Best of Irish is on 5th and 6th February at Hayla, Granby Street
Best of Irish is on 5th and 6th February at Hayla, Granby Street

Hilarity Bites present
Three of Ireland’s finest acts come to Dave’s Leicester Comedy Festival for 2 special nights of top comedy.

Venue: Kayal, 153 Granby Street

Tom O’Mahony, an Irish stand-up and I will be performing for 2 nights (5-6th Feb) with a few other Irish comedian chums (it’s an odd word I know) at Kayla on 153 Granby Street. The shows will consist of Tom O’Mahony and Conor Drum on Friday 5th and Eleanor Tiernan joins us for the craic on Saturday 6th February.

Tickets and information.

Lost Voice Guy

Thursday 18th February
Award winning comedian, Lost Voice Guy, is inviting comedy fans to take part in a stupid amnesty at the Dave’s Leicester Comedy Festival this February, where he will host his new show ‘Disability For Dunces’. 
Have you ever wondered how disabled people have sex? Or if disabled people have considered an exorcism? And just why are disabled toilets big enough to run around in? Lost Voice Guy will answer all these questions and more. 
And, on the day that Dave’s Leicester Comedy Festival begins, he is launching the stupid amnesty to invite the general public to submit their questions about disability so he can finally put the record straight on a few matters in his show.
‘Disability For Dunces’, will be at The Kayal on Granby Street at 6.30pm on Thursday 18 February and will feature the bizarre questions that Lost Voice Guy gets asked on an all too regular basis.


8 Friar Lane
Telephone: 0116 262 3566

Leicester Guildhall

Guildhall Lane, Leicester, LE1 5FQ

153 Granby Street,

Dover Street,
Telephone: 0116 255 1302

Wellington Street,
Telephone: 0115 910 0009




What is a home?

What is a home?

by Trevor Locke

Moving home was an experience I endured recently; I say ‘endured’ because it was forced upon me. I did not choose it freely. The experience did however throw up the whole issue about having a home and what being made to leave it does to you.

My home was a flat in the centre of town, up to early January when I moved out from it to another flat, about a mile away. When I was told to leave my home I was shocked and unsettled; it was much more than just being notified that I would loose my dwelling place. It was an assault on my life, on me as a person.

What weighed on my mind was the loss of my home. This article was born from a desire to work through that experience and to sort out in my mind what we mean by a ‘home.’ It is all very well talking about housing or accommodation (as I did in my articles on house bricks¹ and the book on housing policy³ (which I have just finished.) The idea of a home is both emotional and philosophical and, I suspect, social, cultural and psychological. What we call our home has changed over time and it is something that differs from one culture and one country to another. That is the academic in me talking. Some people are homely, they are home-makers, others are not that bothered. I am the former. Since I was a teenager I have always wanted not to just tidy my room but to decorate it and set it out the way I like it. For most of my adult life (since I parted company with my parents) I have lived in a home of my own; there were periods when I was a lodger in someone else’s home and a very short period of time when I was a homeless teenager. There was also a period (in my adult life) when I was living in a building where I could not make a home and another period when I lived in the home of someone else. I say this because it reveals where I am coming from in this article.

This article was motivated from personal experience; I will come back to that later but for the moment I want to get into the substance of the issue. A home is a place, a space, where we live, where we spend our time and where we carry out basic functions of living – eating, washing, cleaning, sleeping… all the things we have to do to survive from day to day. A home is almost an emotional mooring and a place for social life with our family and our friends. A home should be a place that provides us with safety and security. It can also be a place where we work; more and more people are working at home, either those who are employed and or those who run small businesses. In times gone by, living and working in the same premises was more common that it is now or has been in recent decades. Many people live and work in the same space or place: farmers, for example. Some people are residential workers, such as hotel staff, those who work in institutions. A home can serve many purposes but the common denominator is that is provides the location for basic domestic amenities – a place to sleep, a place to cook, a place to wash and so on. If you go out to work, to do a job, having a home is pretty much essential. It is difficult (if not impossible) to hold down a job if you have nowhere to live or if your accommodation is inadequate or insufficient for your needs.

Most human beings live together in family groups; the home is the focus for family life. People who are not in families, single people, use the home as a place for socialising and for displaying their status, tastes and identity. The kind of home we have marks us out. Those who own their own homes have a special status in our society that confers on them benefits not widely enjoyed by those who rent. Access to banking or financial services sometimes varies according to what kind of status people have, such as householders, renters, etc. Access to utilities (electricity, gas, water) might also be according to housing status. Credit scoring companies look at how many addresses people have had over a period of time. They take moving and changing addresses to be an indicator of stability and financial reliability (or otherwise.)

Can we choose where to live? Well, we can if we have money (if we are wealthy enough to exercise such choice) and if we are adult (not forced to live with our parents) and if we are single and can make our own choices without having to negotiate with a partner. In many cases, for most people, the choice of where to live is related to where they work; many people commute to work (I did once or twice during my working life.) I happen to live in Leicester; I came here because I was offered a job that I wanted and moved to the city from Manchester (where I was living and studying at the time.) I did not choose to come to Leicester. I chose the job I wanted to do and, when I was fortunate enough to get it, I moved to the town where it was located.

The home can be a space for socialising with family and friends; it can also provide a space into which one can retreat from the world, when needing to. If you are lucky you can choose when to fill your home with people and when you can sit back and enjoy the peace and solitude of your own space. Moving might be a choice; some people move to another country when they retire – a condominium by the sea in Spain perhaps. Some people move to a new town seeking a new life. I certainly did when I left the place where I was born and moved to London in search of a new life². Some people feel trapped, unable to leave, unable to escape, denied the freedom to seek a new life elsewhere, because of poverty, because of family ties, because they are tied to a job.

Moving a home can be expensive; that is why many people are rooted to the spot. Those trapped in poverty could seek a better life elsewhere but lack of funds often makes that prohibitive. Having a home of your own is a privilege but not one enjoyed by everybody, especially those who have to share their home with others, their family members or the people they have to share with.

Homelessness can be, and for most people is, a debilitating experience. Having nowhere to live makes it almost impossible to find work and earn money to pay for a home. Homelessness can mean living on the streets (thinking mainly of the UK) or not having the right kind of housing. I know that from personal experience. Being homeless of frequently the cause of mental ill-health and those who experience long-term homelessness live shorter lives.

How do we make a home? Once we have accommodation, how do we make a home in it? Not everyone has a sense of homeliness. Some people lack that capability for home-making that leads others into organising the space around them into an environment that is self-fulfilling and which expresses their identity both to them and to their visitors. I am a home-maker; a homely person. I have made a house into a home (about three times I think.) If I move to a new place, I set about making it my personal space. I personalise my dwelling. I put up pictures, organise my books and CDs, set out the ornaments and mementos that mean something to me. I arrange the furniture the way I like it (I live alone) and set my house plants out to make the place look nice. This is how we organise our space to express who we are and what is meaningful to us. In the kitchen we can organise the crockery and the cupboards; those keen on cooking will display jars of herbs, place plants on the window sill. In the bathroom we can have a place for our favourite bits and pieces, bottles, toothbrush holders. In the lounge we might have a display cabinet or a shelf or sideboard where we can place pictures or souvenirs (every place has its thing and every thing has its place.) This sounds all very gentile, middle class and western. I am sure that things work differently in other cultures. I remember writing about Le Corbusier’s concept of the ‘machine for living’; trying to organise everything so that is works efficiently. Whatever I we think a home should be, we need a personal space that we can control. In some cases, mental ill-health results in people being unable to organise their accommodation into a home. A dwelling that lacks security and stability, where personalisation is impossible, could result in mental ill-health. Having a home is essential to well-being.

A home – as of right

The home is a fundamental part of our life, our identity, our place in the world. Where we live and how we live are things that mark us out as people. It should be the case that people have a right to housing; but I would go beyond that and say that everyone should have a right to a home. That right must protect people – not just those who are vulnerable but everyone. Having a home should not be a privilege or a matter of luck any more than it should depend on our wealth or lack of it. What sort of accommodation or housing we have will depend on our financial circumstances but I believe that everyone should have a home, as a right. Having a home is a (or should be) a basic human right. It is something that should be enshrined in law and protected by legislation; this is something more than just having access to housing. Current policy and legal practice deals in housing but because a home is not defined in law and has no quantifiable value, it is not protected. This is an issue I discussed in my book³ where I looked at the issue of renting and the lack of security of tenure.

The home and well-being

Having a home is central to one’s quality of life and well-being. A home should provide security, stability, those facilities that are basic to organised and civilised living, a place where one’s identity can be expressed and a space in which recreation and entertainment can be pursued. Even those who are nomads take their homes with them when they move. A home is a place where you can experience your greatest pleasures, whether ‘you’ is a group or a single individual. There is a sense in which a home is a place to dwell, a shelter from the elements but more significantly a place where roots are laid; in this sense a home is an emotional base, either a space for celebrating social existence or for escaping from it. Having a home and being at home creates well being and confirms identity. Those who have a home can thrive, where health and happiness can be nurtured. I was particularly moved by stories I saw on the TV news about very elderly people who were moved out of the care homes in which they were living (because the Council wanted to close down the establishment) and died shortly afterwards. It is for these reasons that a home should be a right not a privilege.

More articles on this subject and are planned. The personal experience I referred to earlier is something I will come back to in another instalment.
Trevor Locke


¹ Housing: history, policy and practice. A series of four articles under the rubric house bricks, published in Arts in Leicestershire magazine, 2015.
² My autobiography recalls my migration to London in the 1960s, in The Streets of London.
³ Housing: approaches to policy, 2016, forthcoming