Living in Leicester has never been more exciting. Between people eager to see a car park, the influx of the international press conference, the portraits filling the windows of the City Council building, and the queues wrapping around the cathedral over the past two weeks, it is hard to ignore the atmosphere of delight and energy after the extraordinary discovery of the remains of Richard III. Of course, I also have the advantage of proximity, meaning that the exhibition in the stunning Guildhall, Leicester’s oldest building, is not too far away should the recent queues feel deterring.
The free exhibition has quite justifiably been drawing large crowds from around the country as well as international visitors. Though small as an exhibition space, the collection displays information about the archaeological and genealogical research undertaken before and after the dig. The crowning glory of the exhibition is the full size, interactive digital display of the remains. As all the technologically adept children in the room were clearly delighted with this, I couldn’t help but feel thrilled by the way in which the dig, the remains and the research are all widely and freely accessible to all people of all ages.
A selfish part of me was particularly tickled by the display board with quotations from Shakespeare’s eponymous history play, together with images of a sour looking Laurence Olivier and, to my delight, a caricature of Henry Irving, all spread around bold letters spelling out the unanswerable question: Hero or Villain?
An additional treat is the Guildhall itself. A timber-framed building dating back to the 14th century, with its stunning Great Hall where, legend has it, Shakespeare himself performed as a travelling actor.
Today, medieval re-enactors walk through the exhibition and hall, telling tales of the defeat of Richard’s army at the Battle of Bosworth, while people from around the world learn about the burial at Grey Friars Church, and children negotiate the digitised remains of a king. It may feel surreal, but Richard III is officially part of Leicester. Now, of course, he is here to stay.
For more information about the Richard III exhibition at the Guildhall, click here.