Top 10 Richard III events in Leicester: the locals guide

What kind of Leicester blogger would I be if I didn’t write about the forthcoming excitement in our fair city? After many years of preparation, (High Court) trials, tribulations and endless debate, the mortal remains of King Richard III have been encoffined* and the whole city is gearing up for a week long extravaganza. It’s a strange one really, there is a real sense of celebration and excitement in the air, but this is tempered with a solemnity and feeling of occasion as befits the treatment of the remains of such a key figure in English history.

The Guildhall’s RIII temporary exhibition

 Having played my own (very) small part in the story and blogged about the discovery, the identification and the hoo-ha** surrounding the reburial, it feels strange that we are finally arriving at the reburial. This has been a process which has taken place over many years, before even the excavation in the summer of 2012. I was honoured to have a close encounter with the King’s remains, a memory which will stay with me forever. And rather than feeling like an end, it strikes me that March 2015 will mark a new chapter.

The press conference announcing the identification

And so, for all you Leicester folks who are feeling bewildered by the absolutely massive programme of events taking place, and you tourist types who may be making your first visit to Lesta to be part of this unique occasion, here a local perspective on the top 10 goings-on which will be going on in the coming days and weeks. But book soon – places are filling up fast!

10. Concert for a King – Music from the Time of Richard III
A free event on Tuesday 24th March at 8.30pm hosted by Holy Cross Priory Church. The Ricardian Music Guild will be presenting a programme of music from the time of Richard III. One of the most delightful things on the roster for the reinterment week and a real way to get a flavour of England in the late fifteenth century. Tickets are first come, first served, so get booking on Eventbrite!

9. Ceremonial ‘tapping the barrel’ ceremony   

On Monday 23rd March The Globe pub will be hosting a ceremonial ‘tapping the barrel’ event. A cask of ale will be tapped and served with medieval fare – a decidedly hearty way to toast the King’s repose if you ask me. The Globe is in the heart of the city centre, spitting distance away from Leicester Cathedral (but please don’t spit in public).

8. Victimised or Victorious?: 
Launde Abbey, War and the Reformation

The most expensive of my picks, but totally worth it if you haven’t visited Launde Abbey before. This talk will investigate Launde and the religious houses of Leicestershire in the hands of the monarchy and the population of Plantagenet and Tudor England. The cost is £30.00 for the talk and a three course dinner, and having visited there previously I can assure you that their food is a great standard! Not 100% Richard III themed, but certainly a unique experience and an interesting subject to boot. From 6.30pm on Wednesday 25th March. Contact Launde Abbey for more information.

7. The Royal Image
One that might be overlooked by the masses… A talk at the Bishop Street Methodist Church by local historians Richard Gill and Miriam Stevenson. Taking place at 6.15pm on Tuesday 24th March, so perfect to drop in to before the Concert for a King at Holy Cross Priory Church. Both thoroughly entertaining and hugely knowledgeable speakers, this examination of how kings were portrayed in late medieval England and contextualising of the surviving portraiture of Richard III is bound to be fascinating. The talk is free and no booking is required but the church will be taking a collection after the talk for donations towards the restoration of the Church pipe organ, so please give generously!

6. To the Point 
In the time I have worked on events and exhibitions around Richard III, the element of the discovery that seems to interest the most people is the pathology of the King’s battle wounds. Join Professor Sarah Hainsworth from the University of Leicester at 7pm on Wednesday 25th March at New Walk Museum and Art Gallery. She will be presenting a talk and Q&A session on the evidence of the battle wounds inflicted on the King and discussed the weapons that caused these fatal injuries. This event is free, but you need to book – call 0116 225 4900.

0116 225 490
0116 225 490

5. Richard III Open Day
The University of Leicester is hosting an absolutely epic programme of activities for families and adults alike. Trust me, there is a LOT going on during this day. It’s free to attend, but some events have limited capacity so make sure you sign up when you get there. Hands-on activities are running from 10am to 4pm and Expert Talks run from 10am to 5pm. Hear the story straight from the horses mouth.

4. The Service of Reinterment
I know, this is the main event, but if like me you don’t have a ticket then this isn’t the top of my list for you. However, that’s not to say that Thursday 26th March won’t be a momentous day. Go and watch the service live on screens outside the Cathedral. I am sure the atmosphere will be amazing.

3. Medieval Galleries at Leicester Guildhall
I know, you think I’m biased. I am. But you should still pop on by the Guildhall and see the new medieval galleries during Reinterment Week. Admission to this new permanent exhibition is free and you can walk the streets and experience the sights and smells of medieval Leicester. There are also finds on show from the 2012 Greyfriars excavation, including the infamous ‘arrowhead’ – a residual Roman nail that through pure chance found its way next to the mortal remains of a King. You can check out the teaser trailer for the new galleries here. It’s family friendly and has plenty to interest adults as well. Don’t miss a chance to visit the hall that was standing in the time of King Richard III. The galleries open on Friday 20th March, but make sure you check before you visit during reinterment week as the Guildhall does have occasional closures to the public due to special events.

2. Leicester Glows: Fire Garden and Cathedral Illuminations
This is actually my personal pick of the programme. Big Difference Company, Fireworxx and Bright Spark present an amazing visual spectacle to end the week. This free event will run on Friday 27 March between 6pm – 10pm in Jubilee Square, Cathedral Gardens and the King Richard III Visitor Centre. Over 8,000 flames will be lit along with with a trail of fire sculptures lighting the sky to mark the reinterment of King Richard III. The Cathedral will also be illuminated and there will be a pyrotechnic display. Do I know what it’s going to be like? Not really, but it sounds cool. I’ll be there!

1. The Cortege Procession

Sunday 22nd March – This is the absolute must-see for me if you want to really feel a part of Richard III’s reburial. 

The route is long and there is lots happening along the way. Look at the procession route, pick your spot, plan your day. 

Remember Leicester’s traffic is likely to be at a standstill (get real time updates here on the day) and plan accordingly. 

But if you want to see the spectacle and be actually in the presence of the mortal remains of a historic King of England, this is the event that you cannot afford to miss.

* Encoffined is a real word. I looked it up to check, but more importantly I heard ace archaeologist extraordinaire Dr Richard Buckley saying it on BBC Radio Leicester this morning. The process of enclosing in a coffin can be described as an encoffinment. Excellent stuff.
** Hoo-ha may not be a real word, or at least not spelled correctly.


Bestselling author and freelance drinks writer. Champion of pubs and breweries. Occasional printmaker.

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