The past 14 months of coronavirus restrictions have affected everyone, with the lockdown in Leicester being particularly protracted. While this has not been easy for anyone it has brought unexpected opportunities.
Our talented and resilient team has adapted and has developed imaginative solutions to the situation. We developed and distributed activity packs via the food hub based at the city’s De Montfort Hall, the charity Action Homeless and migrant support organisations to ensure that families who may not have digital access could enjoy cultural activities at home.
Our front-of-house colleagues have been temporarily redeployed for several months now to support Leicester City Council’s City Reach Covid-19 testing programme. They did a fantastic job working in all weathers throughout the winter, despite feeling understandably disconnected from their usual museum place of work.
It has been a period of uncertainty for the team and everyone’s experience during lockdown has been different. One challenge has been how to connect as a large team with some colleagues being redeployed and at a time when face-to-face interaction has had to be kept to a minimum.
We’ve used digital technology to address this and recently held an online Happy Museum gathering for 57 colleagues. It was fantastic to be able to work together as a large team again and to discuss how we will each play an active role in our work to support the environment and wellbeing.
We have ambitious plans as we evolve and adapt to the post-pandemic world. There are many projects in development which underpin our work as an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation.
Work is underway on the first stage of a capital project to transform Jewry Wall, the site of Leicester’s biggest Roman ruins into a world-class visitor centre. The visitor experience will combine immersive digital technology with items from the city’s collection to bring to life Roman Leicester and the ancient bathhouse ruins.
Tourism is a vital part of Leicester’s economy and we are undertaking this work now so that we can help to ensure that visitors return to the city when they are able to do so.
The city’s museums are playing an important role in tackling racial inequality and disadvantage. We are reviewing how black history and culture is remembered and celebrated, as well as identifying and putting into action ways to strengthen this through co-creation, exhibitions reflecting the city’s diverse history and the decolonisation of our collections.
We are also building upon our work to extend a warm welcome to new arrivals to Leicester, including asylum seekers and refugees, after attaining Museum of Sanctuary status last year.
We are developing a Leicester Stories gallery at Leicester Museum and Art Gallery. This is being co-created with Leicester people and will celebrate their lives, the challenges and achievements which they have in common.
At long last, Leicester City won the FA Cup on 15 May 2021. We plan to celebrate this triumph through an event when it is safe to do so.
We had a fantastic response from visitors when we were able to reopen last summer and we launched a new brand and website at the same time. We are looking forward to opening our doors once again to provide experiences which enhance happiness and wellbeing for audiences.
Jo Jones is the head of arts, museums, festivals and events at Leicester City Council