Open Streets: Georgian Leicester Sunday 28th July, 1pm-4pm, New Market Square and surrounding areas

Open Streets’ is a new programme of family friendly events on the last Sunday afternoon of the month. For this month’s event the focus is the Georgian era of history.


The event will see some of the roads in the city’s historic Old Town area closed to traffic so that they can be opened up for people to enjoy. Come along for:

• six separate arts + craft sessions for children – including an architectural model making session;

• baby sensory zone;

• three free talks – Virginia Wright on ‘What the Georgians did for us’; Prof Rosemary Sweet on the ‘Georgian Era Gin Craze’; and Sarah Murden & Joanne Major on ‘Crime and Punishment in the 18th Century’;

• guided walk on Georgian history, guided walk on the history of the Greyfriars area and a guided cycle ride;

• two groups of historic re-enactors attending and;

• rickshaw rides around the city centre;

• live art being created on site;

• Leicestershire County Cricket Club will be providing a ‘street cricket’ session on Grey Friars;

• food and drink stalls, bike park, repairs and more.

All activities are FREE 

For further information, visit:

Images of last event:



Is there such a thing as Design Literacy?

Rob Harland from Loughborough Univesity has been banging on about this question with Leicester Urban Observeratory colleagues for almost five years since Neil, Loretta, Justin, Nic, Gavin, Simon and I started our journey with him on cross sector collaboration back then.

Something in the Farrell review about PLACE had sparked him off.

I thought not. I thought that the key to good design was more learnt through collaboration, experience and application of taught principles- with day to day translation of technical terminology rather than need for codification into a common language leading to possible enentitlement of Qualification in Design Literacy.

I am pleased to say after two thought provoking days at the summer school (hosted by Loughborough University, Mabers Architects and Leicester City Council) Rob pulled together this week, I have changed my view. Rob will post a full write up here on the site shortly but I loved the energetic conversations across academic, council and practitioner perspectives which seemed to coalesce into something. If not Design Literacy, then what?

From unrealised concepts of wave pools in Milton Keynes through to the invocations on the need to centre on people and health, the importance of graphic design in navigating and establishing a sense of place (in real places) and the role of art in our development of place- it was a heady mix.

I particularly enjoyed some bridging of architectural and planning perspectives which confirmed my long held views that both professions are aiming for similar outcomes. To me the event was a delight.

There is no Qualification in Design Literacy in the offing but more conversations like the ones held this week will surely improve a shared appreciation of what these words might mean in practice.

Thanks to all those who attended and contributed- we need to do more of this.

Grant Butterworth

Head of Planning

Leicester City Council

June 2019.

City Series: Architecture of a Healthy City

On Wednesday 6th December over 150 attendees joined the last City Series lecture of the year and heard Associate Professor Neil Stacey from DMU, Dr Ivan Browne from the City Council’s Public Health Department and Ciy Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby speak on architecture health and the City’s emerging Local Plan. Energetic debate followed which ranged from allotments, wellness and suicide through to mayoral governance and the need to grow the City in a Healthy and sustainable way.

Annual Low Carbon Lecture

Community Energy: Putting people at the heart of the energy transition

Wednesday 13th February 2019

17:30 – 19:00

City Hall, Charles Street, Leicester770_440_1_1497363652_2PEC.jpg

For the latest Annual Low Carbon Lecture, Emma Bridge will give a talk on the development of Community Energy. Emma is the Chief Executive of Community Energy England (CEE), the organisation that represents and supports those committed to the community energy sector. CEE was established by the sector to provide a voice for community energy and to help create the conditions within which it can flourish. Emma has over fifteen years’ experience in sustainable development, working for public, private and community sectors. In addition to this, Emma has practical knowledge gained from the management and development of community energy schemes across South Yorkshire.

The event will be Chaired by Cllr Adam Clarke (FRSA), Deputy City Mayor of Leicester and Lead Member for Sustainability. A Q+A will follow the talk.

 Book for free at:


Welcome to 2019: First Observatory event of the year….

Vibrant Leicester: Buzz and the New Urban Economy – Thursday 10th January 2019

To start the New Year there will be an event on the findings of an exciting local research project into the dynamics of ‘buzz’ in helping shape the new urban economy in a city like Leicester. It has been argued that ‘buzz’ is said to emerge from the concentration of socially and culturally significant sites, such as music venues, restaurants and bars, cultural quarters, and marketplaces.

20180325_152430Such ‘buzzy’ sites are key urban amenities that are believed to attract ‘talent’, make cities ‘liveable’, and are thus imagined to be vital to the economic competitiveness of cities. Exploring recent investment in the urban environment of the city centre, a series of short talks will look to unpack the concept and explore what it practically means for the future development of a place like Leicester.

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The event will feature contributions from the team leading the research project out of the University of Leicester: Dr Stefano De Sabbata, Prof Gavin Brown and Dr Ben Coles. Prof Loretta Lees will chair the event. A Q+A session will follow.

The event will start at 5:30pm and take place at the LCB Depot on Rutland Street. The bar will be open for purchasing drinks.

Places can be booked at:

This event is in partnership with: LCB Depot and CAMEo (Research Institute for Cultural and Media Economies).


Save the date

  • Wednesday 9th January 2019: ‘Transition to electric car mobility’ (Prof Kambiz Ebrahimi – Loughborough University). 5:00pm / West Park Teaching Hub, Loughborough. Free:—inaugural-lecture.html

  • Friday 25th January 2019: ‘Violence, Authority, Cultures and Communities in Sussex and Kent c.1690-1760’ (Dr Lyndsay Poore – University of Leicester). 12:30pm / Leicester Adult Education College, 54 Belvoir Street. Free:

  • Wednesday 13th February 2019: Annual Low Carbon Lecture. 5:30pm / City Hall (Attenborough Hall). Free.


Remembering John Dean: 1st November 2018

On the 1st November 2018 around 200 people attended the latest City Series Lecture, given by Sir Peter Soulsby, City Mayor of Leicester and former RTPI President Martin Bradshaw, to remember and commemorate the life and work of John Dean.

All six at the Memorial lecture

Right to left: Peter Wilkinson, (FRTPI), John Acres (MRTPI), current President of the Royal Town Planning Institute, Alwyne Dean, City Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby (Hon MRTPI), Martin Bradshaw, former Past President of RTPI, and Grant Butterworth, Head of Planning Leicester City Council

John was City Planning Officer for Leicester for over 22 years and was a past President of the Royal Town Planning Institute- his personal contributions to the City and the profession were immense.

The Lectures followed a moving Memorial Service held at Leicester Cathedral for family, friends and former colleagues earlier in the day, following John’s passing in August this year.

Reflections on 70 Years of Planning: Martin Bradshaw

Martin B

John was due to give a major talk to give his take on 70 Years of Planning since the introduction of the 1947 Town and Country Planning Act- Martin Bradshaw (ex- Civic Trust Director and former RTPI President) kindly agreed to step in and reflect on the life of John and his own recollections and observations on a career in planning which gave a powerful and unique reflection of two substantive contributions to planning.

Martin was a close friend and former colleague of John’s- his stories of work experiences and fascinating anecdotes- from Leicester to Cheshire, and Harold Wilson MP to John Selwyn Gummer MP- were very much appreciated and enjoyed by the audience.

Planning today is very different from the times of John and Martin, but it was clear that the energy, intellect and application of Martin and John could so easily address and overcome many of the challenges and tests we face, and there is much to be learnt from them.

Reflections on John Dean’s Contribution to Leicester: Sir Peter Soulsby, City Mayor

Sir Peter then gave a heartfelt tribute to the very significant contribution John made to the development of Leicester since the 1970’s, recognising that no-one individual had done more to shape the City throughout the period John worked.

From recognising the importance of neighbourhood renewal, and challenging indiscriminate clearance- through to protecting and enhancing the natural and historic assets of the city, John led his teams to the great benefit of the whole City.  The legacies of fighting Centre 21 and transforming the City ‘s retail core through regeneration which went with the grain of the place, such as St Martin’s and The Shires, was a crucial foundation for the vibrancy and success of the city today. This successes is being further enhanced by the City Mayor’s Connecting Leicester, tourism, transport and regeneration programmes.

Natural assets delivered in the 70’s, such as Watermead Country Park and Aylestone Meadows compliment the ongoing transformation of the Waterside Regeneration area today.

John’s innovation and leadership in planning for the cultural diversity of the city was also widely recognised and praised by many former colleagues who had returned to the City for the service and talks.

Please see Sir Peter’s presentation here: John Dean final and for a documented collection of memories and reflections of John’s career, please click here:  JD

Honorary Member

A further highlight was the attendance of John Acres, current President of the Royal Town Planning Institute, who took the opportunity to present Sir Peter Soulsby with Honorary Membership of the Institute in recognition of his contribution to planning in Leicester.

Sir Peter and John Acres

John was delighted to hear of the proposed award:

“An excellent idea re. Sir Peter. He would be a perfect recipient for an award like that. And it would show real flair on the part of the Institute!”

…and we think John would have enjoyed the day.

Eco Town
Photo courtesy Leicester Mercury


Sincere thanks go to Alwyne Dean and family; 

to Sir Peter Soulsby, Martin Bradshaw and John Acres for their contributions;

and to Peter Wilkinson, Justin Webber and Annie Provan for the organisation of the event.

In addition, thanks to all those who attended and shared reminiscences and memories which made the day feel so special, and a worthy tribute to John. 

The Grand Tour – Thursday 6th September

grand tour

To launch the new Leicester Georgian Interest Group, Roey Sweet will give a public lecture on the Grand Tour to Italy. A leading international expert on the subject, Roey will explore how eighteenth-century travellers experienced and represented the urban environments they encountered as they made the Grand Tour. It will examine the changing responses of the British to the cities of Florence, Rome, Naples and Venice, during a period of unprecedented urbanisation at home.

Roey Sweet is professor of urban history at the Centre for Urban History at the University of Leicester. She is also Director of Partnerships and Engagement at the Arts and Humanities Research Council. Her research focuses upon urban culture, the history of travel and the reception of the past in the eighteenth century. These interests all combine in her book on British travellers in Italy, Cities and the Grand Tour: The British in Italy, c. 1690-1820.


The launch event will take place at 5:30pm on Thursday 6th September at the Great Meeting House on East Bond Street. Refreshments will follow the talk.