Steven Lawrence Research Centre

Leicester is a diverse city with a long history of civic engagements, much of it with international dimensions such as the worldwide climate protests inspired by Greta Thunberg or the Clock Tower vigils with Penny Walker and others for peace in Syria.

The Steven Lawrence Centre was established in memory of the black British teenager Steven Lawrence who was murdered in a racially motivated attack in 1993 in London. Two of the perpetrators were convicted of murder in 2012. The case affected cultural changes of attitudes on racism and the police, and to the law and police practice itself. The police and the Crown Prosecution Service were heavily criticised at the time for their having been influenced by issues of race. A public inquiry in 1998 established that the force was institutionally racist. The case achieved prominence due to corrupt police conduct during the original case handling. Furthermore, the former Home Secretary, Theresa May, ordered an independent inquiry into undercover policing and corruption. The report was described as “devastating” when published in 2014. The BBC screened a film on the case called ‘The Boys Who Killed Stephen Lawrence’. It also presented a timeline of events.

The Stephen Lawrence Research Centre aims to drive forward conversations that will shape and influence how we think about race and social justice. It intends to honour the enduring legacy of Stephen Lawrence’s life and his family’s ongoing pursuit of justice by asking new questions, debating critical issues, raising awareness, and advocating to bring about positive change. The centre conducts research in areas such as Histories and cultures of Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities in the UK, the concept and practice of institutional racism, denials of justice and the social psychology of racial violence. The centre also houses an exhibition and an archive.

The Stephen Lawrence Research Centre – Photo G. Haas

Jubilee Square

Jubilee Square is close to De Montfort University and borders the studios of BBC Radio Leicester. In the winter months the square is generally used for a large Ferris wheel and an open air ice rink. However, Jubilee Square has significance beyond being a site for entertainment. On 20 September 2019 the square was the endpoint of the Leicester Worldwide Strike for Climate Action, inspired by Greta Thunberg.

Climate Protest at Jubilee Square – Photo G. Haas

Clock Tower

On 20 September we saw a massive climate strike in Leicester, inspired by Greta Thunberg and the Worldwide Strike for Climate Action. I was told that this was not the first protest of this kind, but it was certainly the largest. The protesters where mainly young people, Generation Z, but there were also a great number of adults present. I was told that previous events did not include adults because they are largely responsible for the climate breakdown. Protesters gathered at the Clock Tower from where they marched to Jubilee Square. At Jubilee Square there was music and some impressive speeches by young people. It felt like future activists were born.

Climate Protestors at the Clock Tower – Photo G. Haas

Leicester Cathedral

Leicester Cathedral has become famous due to the remains of King Richard III who was reburied in the cathedral in 2015. In 2018 the Cathedral was host Arabella Dorman’s unique artwork Suspended, as well as a series of events, to highlight the experience of refugees. The internationally-acclaimed artwork was on show in 2018 during Refugee Week. Composed of hundreds of items of clothing discarded by refugees upon their arrival on the island of Lesbos, a ‘stilled explosion’ will be created over the Cathedral nave, inviting the viewer to contemplate the violent fragmentation experienced by the inhabitants of the garments. With Suspended it is hoped that people will understand the experience of refugees. An interactive wall of clothing and shoes salvaged from Lesbos and Calais was exhibited along with an invitation to touch and handle the clothes, and to imagine the lives of the individual men, women and children who have worn them as they risked everything to escape the violence of their homeland.

Interactive Wall of Clothing – Photo Leicester Cathedral

“I recently stood amidst the ruins of Aleppo having travelled to Syria to bear witness. A buried shoe, a lady’s handbag, a child’s toy in the rubble are the only traces of the men, women and children who once lived there, refugees now stuck between a past to which they can never return, and a future to which they cannot move forward.” – Artist, Arabella Dorman

Leicester Cathedral – Photo G. Haas