What is the future of writing in Leicestershire?

Over the last few weeks and months I have been hearing this question from respected writers and it still bemuses me. For a city that produced Orton, Townsend, and a host of successful modern writers in all genres, the answer is vibrant and healthy.
Perhaps it’s the wrong question? Maybe it should have been: ‘How do we promote and shout about just how damn good we are?’
That transports often inward-looking, artistic, creative and ‘bubble-living’ writers into a new area; out of their comfort zone and into a foreign, scary and alien environment – the commercial world.
I’m no academic, but I have bottomless respect for those who have attained their MAs and passed through the clearly encouraging yet disciplined world of creative writing courses. What I am aware of is that we should not be looking inwardly and talking to each other, we should be looking at fellow artists, publishers, literary agents and, most importantly, readers to direct the way forward.
A big first step forward would be to see what other cities and counties actually do that works. In terms of creativity, Leicester ranks as highly as anywhere in this region – an assertion based on personal belief not scientific measurement – but in terms of vocalising that ranking we are a poor bottom of the league.
Derbyshire has got it right with the Artsbeat magazine. This small, thickly packed, exciting publication is a commercial enterprise, but it is also freely available at every arts venue in the county. That does not mean just conventional venues, such as libraries and theatres, but public and commercial venues including Tourist Offices, bookshops, clubs, hotels and even those much-loved village shops in the remote Peak District.
Then there is The Free magazine, an irregular publication stocked in pubs throughout Derby. I thought at first it was another ‘finger-in-the-ear’, buttock-clenching, half-pint-drinking, extrapolation of real ales (of which I am fan, but not reading about them). Wrong. It is a controversial, hard-hitting publication covering history and heritage, music and literature, and, yes, pubs.
This is what Leicester needs: someone with the wherewithal, tenacity and guts to go out and ask companies to advertise their wares and services in a magazine that will cover, not just literature, but every art form in the city and county. A monthly magazine that will list, as a calendar, all the different and exhilarating events happening – and hopefully prevent unseemly clashes.
Some people won’t like the idea of introducing commercialism into the arts, but the money has to come from somewhere and it is a known fact that grants and funding from governments of all sizes are drying up.
I refuse to believe that a city and county with such a rich literary and artistic heritage and present cannot support such a publication. Nobody is going to become a millionaire by starting this, but I am convinced it will bring in enough cash to finance a person or a small team, help a printer and publisher in these straitened times, and be sustainable.
Do it. Now.

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