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University of Leicester hosts 100th birthday festival

The University of Leicester welcomed students, staff, alumni and guests from the local community on Saturday in celebration of the University’s Centenary.

Hundreds headed to the city campus, next to Victoria Park, for a family-friendly ChangeMakers Festival, just days before the University formally marks 100 years since it was founded as a living memorial to the people of Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland.

Paralympic Gold medallist Nick Cummins was a popular guest, the current PhD student sharing his journey to winning Gold with Team GB’s Wheelchair Rugby team in Tokyo this summer, while there was also a showcase of a Century of pioneering research with talks from Leicester academics, interactive demonstrations, and a scavenger hunt across campus.

Kids had the chance to ‘meet’ the University’s resident juvenile Tyrannosaurus rex, Jane, solve a crime with the help of the School of Criminology, plus explore how researchers discovered the resting place of King Richard III in a Leicester car park – and much more.

Professor Nishan Canagarajah, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leicester, said: “Our identity today proudly reflects our past, and so to see the campus – despite the weather – abuzz with such vibrant activity reflecting our first 100 years has been hugely moving.

“We have been particularly determined to pay tribute to the people of Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland who have supported the University in our first Century and the community who, through their time, efforts, and sacrifice, have made our institution the ground-breaking centre of activity it continues to be today.

“This festival has shown the very best of Leicester: and now we want to build on that same energy as we launch our second Century.”

Other attractions included art exhibitions at the Attenborough Arts Centre and performances on a special Centenary stage with a variety of African, Caribbean, Chinese and South Asian musicians and dancers representing Leicester’s cultural diversity.

Guests then packed out a marquee on Centenary Square for a screening of Jurassic Park, featuring the late Richard, Lord Attenborough, who famously grew up on the Leicester campus with his brother Sir David – the naturalist having dedicated Centenary Square in 2018 alongside Richard’s son, Michael Attenborough CBE.

Amaara, 5, and Mohammed, 7, were among the budding archaeologists exploring the secrets of Roman Leicester with members of University of Leicester Archaeological Services. Amaara said: “Everything has been really fun. Even better than school!”

Mohammed enjoyed discovering how to solve a crime with the University’s resident forensic specialists. He added: “I liked solving the crime. We put the clues together, checked the fingerprints, and found out who stole the cookies.”

Alumni from decades past returned to campus for the festivities, with former student housemates Carol Preston, Melanie Wrigley and Charlotte Carotenuto, who graduated in the 1980s, among those taking in the series of ChangeMakers lectures from Leicester researchers in a range of subjects.

Carol, who studied Politics during her time at Leicester, said: “The talks have all been fantastic. Really interesting, really diverse, and it’s made me want to be a student again!”

Former Biological Sciences student Melanie added: “To be in a lecture theatre again has been a great experience, with the opportunity for people to ask questions – the sessions have been really stimulating.”

The University will formally mark the 100th anniversary of first opening its doors to students on Monday 4 October 2021 with a global celebration. Find out more at le.ac.uk/centenary/events.

Explore the University of Leicester’s Centenary celebrations, Our 100 and more about our story so far at le.ac.uk/centenary.

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