One of the major assets of Leicester and Leicester Waterside is its people. Eco groups, young social media pioneers, friendly and dedicated local businessmen, creative university students and tutors, City Council innovative officers…here you can find all the creativity and inspiration needed for building an adaptable neighbourhood.


Ijaz Ahmad is a proactive businessman who, a while ago, had a vision to turn a rundown petrol station into a café, decorated in lipstick pink and serving the best coffee in town. East Midlands Vans, currently offers car washing services in the forecourt of the same site. Following an official opening this year, the business will also offer car sales and a repair garage. His son Daud also helps run the family business. Even though he has only been on the site a shortwhile, Ijaz has established himself in the local community, and offers his place to be used as a hub for people to meet.


Terry Fox is the business manager of Eyre & Elliston Ltd Electrical Distributors in New Henry Street. Knowing that the site is no longer to be demolished, the business is confident to stay and make improvements. He has been very proactive, taking the decision to improve the appearance of the property by undertaking interior renovation work, and outside repainting and putting new signs up. We eagerly await photos of the work. Watch this Space.



During July we met the Mayor of Leicester to tell him about the Waterside adaptable neighbourhood. Sir Peter Soulsby was elected MP for Leicester South in 2005, and then elected Mayor in 2011. He is proud of Leicester’s title of Environment City, and a keen user of the city’s canals so was excited about the project and the possibility of a nature reserve in the area. We were really exited when he attended our event at the Marmara Café and offered his full support.


Chris Shaw is Assistant Director at Groundwork Leicester and Leicestershire. Groundwork is a nation-wide charity which builds skills, job prospects, and better neighbourhoods through green projects. They are currently creating a pop-up garden outside Phoenix Square. Chris is excited about the prospect of greening Leicester Waterside, perhaps through a pop-up garden on the empty Northgate Str. site, and a Nature Reserve on the river. He is also involved with the Green Light Festival, an annual festival about sustainable living in Leicester.


Lindsey Nickless runs the Ship Inn, and maintains the only household on the site. Because of this she does not feel it’s safe for her children to play by the river. She believes that bringing homes back to the area would attract families to the waterfront. Lindsey is passionate about the history of the area surrounding Soar Lane. The pub originally served bargees who used to transfer coal along the canal, and lies exactly on the site of the last rat pit in Britain. Ship Inn hosts live music concerts, like the one we had on the 8th of August.


Andrew Reeves is a key member of Transition Leicesterand part of the team responsible for the Green Light Festival, Leicester’s annual eco festival that was hosted at De Montfort University last February. Andrew enjoys cycling and cycles along the canal on the National cycle route 6 - which runs through Leicester Waterside. He is really supportive of our vision, as he thinks its fits to the Transition Leicester principles, and is willing to help.



Simon Austin is a Professor of Structural Engineering at Loughborough University and a member of the Adaptable Futures research team. He was one of the key speakers at the Moving Architecture conference last September, where he provided an overview of the research project and introduced a framework for further understanding of adaptability. Simon initially organised the Adaptable Futures competition, that we won, and is interested in our approach since then.



Pete Norton is a partner in the K H Norton Group and lives locally. The business deals in Diecast collectable Models and Plastic Kits, and has been based in Leicester for 60 years. They trade across the world. Pete remembers busier times in the area when people use to fish in the 1970s, but says that the boat community nowadays avoids the waterways because they’re not well maintained. He is very passionate about the natural environment along the canal (check his photographs) and hopes Soar Island becomes a nature reserve.


Deborah Rose is the Development Team Manager at Leicester City Council, and the person behind the Cultural Quarter’s recent regeneration. She is passionate about Leicester Waterside, knows every nook and cranny of the site, and has lots of past experience working there – she currently works on the Rally Park redevelopment. Deborah thinks that our proposal is very appropriate for the site and the economic times that we are in, and is willing to help towards its realisation.


Nick Ebbs is the director of Igloo Regeneration and the CEO of Blueprint (based in the East Midlands). Over the past years he has worked on many of the East Midland’s major urban development projects, including the Government’s Sustainable Communities Plan. He has also written a number of Economic Development Studies, is a regular conference speaker and a lecturer in Nottingham University. Nick knows the area well and believes that there is potential to become a place that people want to visit.


Dean Williams (also known as The Art Wizard) is a Leicester-based artist and sculptor. We met him at the CreativeCoffee where he explained that he is keen to find cheap short term rents in spacious buildings, so that he could work on large sculptures, without having to pay rent for the whole year. This could be an opportunity for Leicester Waterside as there are several large vacant buildings. We went on a tour with him around the site and visited one of the vacant buildings, that could ideally incubate an artist’s studio or a workshop space.


John Hurst was all ready to relocate his business, Hurst Automotive, to make way for the new masterplan four years ago. He even teamed up with his neighbours to put in outline planning to redevelop their sites for housing. Then it all fell through: ‘typical Leicester’, according to John. Hurst Automotive specializes in repairing BMW and Mercedes and is in a good location for clients, close to the city centre and by the main road. John recognises these assets of the site and is more than happy to stay there.


Lornette runs Leicester Vocal Tech, a performing arts school for children and adults. All the activity takes place behind closed doors, Lornette would like for it to spill outside if the area was more child-friendly. Although they’ve been here seven years, she does not feel part of the local business community. Their opening hours are in the evenings and weekends when neighbouring businesses are closed. Vocal Tech offers singing lessons, dance classes and a recording studio. Once inside, the building is filled with music and singing but from the street, you wouldn’t know the building is even open.


Ben Ravilious is the director of Ultimateweb Ltd, a web development company, and a photographer. He takes most of his photos in and around Leicester to dispel the myth that Leicester is a ‘grey town’ lacking in architectural, historical or cultural heritage. Ben has been involved with the Waterside project from the outset, offering us his thoughts, contacts and creativity. He is enthusiastic about maintaining the existing character of Leicester rather than allowing developers to treat the city as if it were a blank slate.


Ruth Singer is a textile artist and author who lives locally. She is interested in the environment in several ways: she creates products using recycled materials, writes about eco-sewing, is a Transition Leicester member, and is actively involved in the Green Light Festival. Ruth is keen on offering her expertise and resources to help, but also suggested that we should work with local schools, like the Slate School just across Northgate street, in order to get the local community directly involved as much as possible.


Alistair Reid is the Strategic Director of Development, Culture and Regeneration for Leicester City Council. He thinks that this is definitely a moment of serendipity, as the economic climate has changed the way urban regeneration is thought about. In the absence of the ‘big pot of money’, Alistair is interested in working in collaboration with other parties (local community groups, universities etc) to develop an area.



Chris Brown is the CEO of Igloo Regeneration and director of Blueprint, Igloo’s public/private partnership with the Homes and Community Agency, undertaking innovative sustainable mixed use regeneration in the East Midlands. Chris has been a member of the government’s Urban Sounding Board, director of BURA, chair of the RICS Regeneration panel, a CABE Regional Design Ambassador and a member of the Princes Foundation projects panel. He has his own blog and has been on board with this project from the start.



Kitt McGrath is the area Manager for the Homes and Community Agency –  the largest landowner at the site. HCA, a national housing organisation, is also partnered with Igloo/Blueprint. Kitt clearly expressed her interest in giving their properties over for use, and said that they are quite flexible with what can happen in them. Finally, she offered her expertise, as HCA has lots of experience in community regeneration schemes.


Caroline Wright currently works for Stayfree Music which is located in Frog Island, just on the other side of the canal. Stayfree offers a variety of services and spaces related to the making of music: recording and rehearsal rooms, equipment hire, storage space and recently a music venue. They’ve occupied the building for two years now, and are in the process of transforming every inch of this old sock factory into a multi use space for the public. Caroline organized a live concert at the Ship Inn, by ‘Arthur and Curtis, and is keen in further investing in the area as a performance hub for Leicester.


Amran Rashid owns a block of properties on the site, which is partly occupied by his own business, Leicester Taxis, and partly rented out to another business (UK Shoe Components). Amran is a savvy businessman interested in buying more properties in the area. He lives on the outskirts in a big house and garden, and thinks this is an industrial area through and through,and that it could do with more small business units. Leicester Taxis is a ‘one stop shop’ for taxi drivers, and has been going for 12 years. It repairs and sells taxis to drivers across the country.

Washington and Pastor Bernard

Washington Ushamba and Pastor Bernard Mberi are both from the Jubilee Worship Centre- a place of worship which offers counselling to a wide range of people in need through prayer. It is a church which attracts people from all over Leicester, providing a quite central location that can be easily reached from town on foot. Originally they didn’t want to invest if the whole site was to be demolished, but without the threat of demolition they are keen to maybe create a new community centre.


Having grown up in Leicester, Jayne Childs loves the creativity and vibrancy of the city. She hosts the CreativeCoffee Club, where she kindly introduced us to a few people and took the time to hear about the project. Her enthusiasm for Leicester Waterside was really encouraging. Jayne is also a member of Amplified Leicester, and blogs about her garden (and occasionally about her slightly vacant dog, Jack).



Ted Cassidy is the city’s Assistant Mayor and also holds the Cabinet portfolio for the Economic Development, Culture and Tourism. He’s behind many projects in Leicester, just one being Phoenix Square. He attended our big event on the 8th of August to express his interest in our proposal, and kindly offer us all his support. Ted also believes in Alistair Reid’s serendipity idea, as he thinks that there is a lot of potential in residents and businesses working together with the local authorities, and that this is just the right moment for it to happen.


The same couple have been running Huckleberry’s Cafe for 24 years. Huckleberry’s is open for breakfast and lunch, but it is now all on its own, in the middle of a sea of half-demolished buildings and vast derelict sites. They’ve seen a lot of changes in the area, and the cafe’s trade has been hit hard by the closure of the local hosiery factories. They remain positive about the future of the area however.




It was Doug Golding from Transition Leicester who initially brought up the green agenda at our Leicester Waterside meeting. He is inspired by the project, and suggested a series of actions to give the area a boost: events, grain food production, environmental training etc. After all, Green Light Festival is held every year with great success and all the Transition Leicester members definitely have lots of experience and expertise to offer.


Steven successfully runs a family business that goes back many generations in the city. He owns one of the most beautiful buildings on site, and is happy to continue using it for his business, as it is close to the city centre and has large and open interior spaces (the business requires extensive storage facilities). He is optimistic for the future of the area, and hopes that more residents come to the site and secure its revitalization. Steven even offered part of his property for public use. Could that be the first garden café on Leicester Waterside?


Nick Rawle is a photographer and we first met him at the CreativeCoffee Club in July. We kept contact with him and he also attended out meeting one month later at the Marmára café. Nick has been consistently interested in our proposal. He knows the area, and thinks that there are many ways to bring people in. He currently helps run the new Leicester People’s Photographic Gallery, and suggested hosting an exhibition of photography from the site, so as to give the area a publicity boost.

 Herbert and Sue

Herbert and Sue Eppel are both members of the Leicester Civic Society, Leicester Friends of the Earth and the Leicestershire Branch of the Inland Waterways Association. They strongly support the concept of reusing existing buildings and preserving the local architectural heritage, while at the same time protecting and indeed enhancing biodiversity during the regeneration. Sue and Herbert were also enthusiastic about the idea of improving services for boaters, perhaps initially by providing an outdoor café-type facility and a water point at North Lock. They also mentioned that IWA volunteers could help with cleaning up the canal and river.



Rob Hicks is a senior officer at the Planning and Economic Development Team of the City Council. He is currently responsible for the Rally Park redevelopment,working with Deborah Rose. He has worked on community based schemes and thinks that the natural landscape along the canal is really important as long as people start treating it with respect. Rob has plenty of energy and experience and therefore we are happy with the prospect of working with him.



Ken Mafham is an independent planning consultant, who is really interested in the wider area around Leicester Waterside. He believes that both Frog Island and the residential Tudor Road area are complementary and should be integrated to enhance the riverside site. Ken also came up with the idea of setting up a neighbourhood plan. The new localism agenda offers a way for local people to make planning decisions that weren’t open to them before.


Dr James Pinder has a background in building surveying and is a Senior Research Associate on the Adaptable Futures project at Loughborough University. He was one of the speakers at the Moving Architecture conference, where he explained about how a building’s capacity to change can impact on its sustainability, management and use.





Robert Schmidt III, is an architect and a Senior Research Associate on the Adaptable Futures project by Loughborough University. He has studied and practiced architecture in the USA, Japan and UK and was one of the speakers at the Moving Architecture conference in London, September 2011. We have been working closely with Rob since the beginning of the Adaptable Futures competition and our collaboration has been really constructive and a benefit for the Leicester Waterside project.

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