Are CURVE, The Depot, Highcross, Phoenix Square, Braunstone Leisure Centre and a new gallery vanity projects?

5th September, 2011

I have heard all of the above described from time to time as vanity projects. Usually by the same people who are critical of any improvement they don’t like or perhaps are envious as they weren’t involved in creating them.

So what is a vanity project? The shorter Oxford tells us it is something that is “futile or worthless: that which is of no value or profit: or something done just with the desire for admiration”

Dealing with the last bit first its hard to see given the controversy surrounding most of these how they contribute to the desire for admiration. Demolishing St Margaret’s baths to make Highcross possible, was hardly popular and admired at the time! Although now heralded as a great success with over 55 million shoppers since it opened.  Building CURVE was fraught with difficulty and unpopularity.  Braunstone Leisure Centre and Phoenix square we are told are in the wrong place and the latter seems far from popular with devotees of the old Phoenix.

Why go through all the controversy and difficulties? Quite clearly there is more to the motivation of those behind these projects than mere vanity in this sense.

So are they worthless and without value or profit? I am sure some will argue they are. But there is compelling evidence that says they are valuable and important for the future of our city.

Braunstone Leisure Centre has been hugely successful and was backed by local people. With a £1million contribution from the New Deal money, voted by local people. It also provided first class facilities for the Special Olympics.

CURVE has become the iconic building in Leicester, and the flagship of the cultural Quarter. Audience figures continue to rise as they do at Phoenix Square since both changed their management. So successful is the Depot that it has led to the development of further creative workspaces, on Rutland St. The cultural Quarter has been hailed as a success by the Leicester Mercury.

Businesses and flats are growing in the area as people move into the once derelict buildings. So much so that even our City Mayor is an investor in one of the new bars. A singular vote of confidence in the Cultural Quarter.

Leicester now boasts ‘landmark architecture and culture’ and CURVE has become the symbol of successful regeneration so much so Leicester Labour Party uses CURVE on the home page of its website.

Perhaps, most significantly the investors in Highcross cited CURVE as one of their reasons for coming to Leicester. CURVE is not only successful on its own terms but also as the major catalyst for inward investment and the creation of 2000 jobs.

Of course negative comments are not new. In the late 19th Century the then leaders of the council were roundly attacked for building a new Town Hall, which ran over budget. But these naysayers are long forgotten and we would not be without our Town Hall or DeMontfort Hall.

There are many reasons why I and my colleagues backed these projects, but perhaps the biggest is because they are about securing the future. Each of them in turn shows that Leicester has a future and each contributes to making that future real.

And let’s be clear they were not done at the expense of other services. For at the same time we led the bid for and secured £350 million to rebuild every secondary school in the city. We invested over a 10 year period more than £100 million in improvements to council housing. We supported both universities in their developments improving the city centre and access to the Magazine one of Leicester’s most important historic buildings.

So this is why we should have a new contemporary art gallery. It will be a great asset to what Leicester offers as a city, but more than that It’s about our future.




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  1. Trevor Locke

    7th September, 2011

    Mayor due to open People Gallery on 15th September:

  2. Trevor Locke

    7th September, 2011

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