Campaign is under way to coax people back into city
SAFE RETURN PLANNED AS LOCKDOWN RESTRICTIONS EASE FURTHER FROM MONDAY
THE next steps of unlocking Leicester after 14 months of Covid-19 restrictions have been set out - with the message, “we’ve missed you”.
A campaign is under way to try to encourage people to return to the city’s shops, bars, restaurants and other entertainment venues as the next stage of the government’s roadmap is implemented on Monday.
Indoor hospitality is set to reopen and most businesses will be permitted to start trading again.
However, the seven-day coronavirus infection rate in the city is 37.3 cases per 100,000 people, nearly double the national average, so officials are keen to make the easing of measures as safe as possible.
The city council was awarded £318,000 in May last year, under the European Regional Development Fund’s (ERDF) Reopening High Streets Safely fund, as well as a further £318,000 more recently from the government’s Welcome Back Fund, designed to help businesses in cities badly hit by the Covid-19 measures.
Among the initial measures supported by the Reopening High Streets funding are new lamppost banners carrying safety messages, business support information, advice and guidelines for businesses on reopening safely.
New floor vinyl to encourage social distancing is being provided as well as bin stickers displaying Covid safety messages for shoppers, businesses and other visitors as part of the wider plan to reopen Leicester.
The funding allows councils across England to put in place additional measures to establish a safe trading environment for both businesses and customers.
A £120,000, six-week campaign is also highlighting what the city has to offer, while reassuring and encouraging people to return safely to its shops, bars, cinemas, restaurants and other businesses.
The We’ve Missed You initiative runs until the end of June, tied in with the phased reopening of high street businesses across the city.
It includes a video showcasing the ways people can start once again to make the most of what the city has to offer in terms of much-needed socialising, shopping and top-notch entertainment.
The video is accompanied by a poignant new poem, entitled By The Clock Tower, evoking memories of meeting friends at the city centre landmark and the excitement of being able to do so once again.
City Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby said: “Leicester has so much to offer, but sadly we’ve all been unable to enjoy much of it over the last 14 months.
“This campaign is the first step of putting that right.
“We are working with local businesses across the city to ensure they can reopen safety, and in a way that reassures customers and encourages them to take those first steps back to rediscovering Leicester’s huge range of hospitality, entertainment and retail.
“The poem By The Clock Tower, and the accompanying video, are a timely reminder about what life was like in the city before the pandemic struck, and reflects the hopes of very many people that we can begin to enjoy that once again, in a safe, sustainable way.”
The campaign also involves various local artists, Leicester-based design agency Arch Creative, and PR firm FU Media. The specially-commissioned poem, By The Clock Tower, was written by Arch Creative co-founder Joe Nixon and read by local actor and voiceover artist Bradley Foster.
Follow-on events will involve residents through poetry workshops, social media campaigns and activities to help build confidence in the city and its businesses throughout its neighbourhood retail areas.
The World Peace Cafe, in Guildhall Lane, has benefited from a city council grant to offer outdoor seating for customers.
Centre manager of the World Peace Cafe, Lorraine Quinn, said: “Our customers are very happy to be back, even though it’s just outside, of course.
“We’ve had a lot of new customers because of our new furniture, and a lot of new people who didn’t realise we were here.
“I’ve missed the interaction with lots of different people from around the
Funding allows councils to put in place additional measures to create a safe trading environment
city, and the energy and the life in the city.”
Ranjodh Singh, director of electrical wholesaler and retailer PU Tech, based on Belgrave’s Golden Mile, added: “I have missed talking to people the most – we were not able to greet them the way we used to.
“We are so close to our customers we like to welcome them with open arms, which we are not able to do still because of the social distancing. That we have missed a lot, being in touch with our customers.”
Family business Intasound Music is based in
Leicester’s Narborough Road.
“Through lockdown we remained open, but it was just myself or my brother coming in.
“We split it between ourselves and it was very, very boring and lonesome, so it was nice having interaction with actual humans.
“We’ve had a big community of people who have been very happy to get back involved with us. We’re looking forward to the business getting back to where we were, and obviously progressing and growing the business.”
The Welcome Back funding is available until March 2022, meaning further work can also take place to help get Leicester’s economy back on its feet, including recruiting to a new role helping support and advise businesses across the city, engaging with shoppers and drawing up a programme of events supporting the city’s safe reopening.