50 Years On

While Leicester’s traditional hosiery industry shrank in the 1970’s, East African Asians in Belgrave were converting abandoned factories and setting-up new businesses, especially in textiles, and opening shops. From 1986, the Leicester Asian Business Association facilitated local business networking, brought Indian banks to the city and helped promote international trade. From small beginnings, some of these businesses expanded nationally and globally.

Food, festivals, film, music and dance all reflect the contributions of of Ugandan Asians to Leicester’s cultural scene. From the installation of the first lights in 1983, the City’s celebration of Diwali – the Hindu festival of light – had a national reputation by the 1990s and is now the largest such celebration outside of India, with some 6,500 lights along Belgrave Road and corresponding programme of events, music and dance.

In 1974, the Natraj Cinema opened on Belgrave Road, bringing Bollywood to the East Midlands for the very first time. In 1976, BBC Radio Leicester also responded to the city’s growing Asian population by launching a daily community show called ‘six fifteen’. In 1999 this goes national as the BBC Asia Network.

Also in 1976, one of Britain’s first vegetarian Indian restaurants was opened on Belgrave Road. Named Bobby’s, after a popular Bollywood film, the restaurant evoked memories associated with Uganda. Food in restaurants also offers a public space where communities can mix.

Religious sites – mandirs, mosques and gurdwaras – are an important part of community life for all Asians. So, as the communities in the city have grown, so have the number and size of their respective temples and places of worship. In the process, they have also helped t transform the landscape of the city.

Over the last half a century, Ugandan Asians have rebuilt their lives and communities and many now see Leicester as their home. Their grandchildren have grown-up as part of British Society and culture and regard themselves strongly as ‘British-Asian’. They want to live in an ethnically mixed way, in an integrated society and, alongside everyone else who lives in the city, they are helping to make Leicester a model for living in a culturally rich and diverse society.