When choosing a writer to review Leicester’s Ghost Walk, Dead Leicester, there was always going to be an obvious choice. We sent our resident Astrologer and Mystic Tiernan Welch along to see if this can live up to high expectations.
Owing to my remarkable thirst for adventure, gullibility and pre-existing involvement with the snake oil which lubricates astrology, I was thrilled to be asked to review a Ghost walk for Great Central. I’ve been on several in the past and experienced excellent examples in Edinburgh and York so I’ll admit to wanticipating something of decidedly less fine quality.
We meet at the Magazine (that’s the large medieval structure near the DMU campus which looks like a portal to hell) and are greeted with mulled wine. I find that that’s usually a good indication that I’m going to have fun. Around 40 people are huddled around – impressive for a cold December evening by anyone’s reckoning. Pleasantries exchanged with the other awkward attendees I notice a lone monk stood by the magazine. We’re advised not to talk to him, and I immediately regret the ‘selfie’ I took with him some minutes earlier.
The tour begins, led by two very upbeat men in clothing of an unspecified bygone era, and they lead us off in song towards the Hawthorne building where the first of many barbaric acts that will intersperse the tour is re-enacted. According to theme, our guides effortlessly switch between songs, jokes and iambic pentameter. Their pedigree is apparent and they hold the eager crowd’s attention expertly as we navigate through the streets of old Leicester and the ring road which bisects it. Explanations of the unignorable modern era remain some of the best jokes of the tour.
I’m mindful not to spoil any of the surprises or stories, but the tour incorporates some of Leicester’s historic gems – including the castle, St. Mary de Castro Church, The Cathedral and Guildhall. I genuinely learned a lot and as a resident of Leicester owe a debt of gratitude to the pioneering activists of the 1920’s who saved a number of these forgotten buildings from complete dilapidation. To this end, the tour is as much a history tour as it is a ghost walk, but that’s not to say it’s without peril, and I keep an eye over my shoulder on the way home.
What the tour inadvertantly demonstrates is just how wonderful a city Leicester has become. As I walk round the tastefully up-lit buildings down narrow resurfaced pathways I do so with pride. Fellow patrons speak positively in a mix of international languages and accents while pedestrians look on gleefully without interrupting – despite the boisterous nature of our guides. Despite it’s clear and increasingly apparent virtues, Leicester still has a difficulty with its identity and struggles to promote itself as it should. Acts such as this are a refreshing antidote to this apathy. In my view, Dead Leicester is a triumph, in every sense. Well researched, full of surprises and intrigue and uncompromisingly original. This will be a must see at the comedy festival next year.
Dead Leicester Returns to the city during Leicester Comedy Festival