What would you pick out today to show a Stranger to the town?
Perhaps you would take your Stranger to see remains of the past, in the same way that Watts did. Simply by following her route you could look at the C19th rise and C20th fall of the hosiery industry; you could examine the optimism of the modernism of the 1960’s and ask whether that age was intellectually closer to her than to us, with its enthusiasm for the ‘white heat of technology’ and confidence in a better, brighter, more prosperous tomorrow. You may contrast the ancient lath and plaster of the Guildhall with the glass walls of De Montfort University, and think about the revolution in technical education and opportunity in the C20th. Or you may think people are as important as places, and wander past the canal basin to the dazzling ‘golden mile’ of jewellers, sari shops and curry houses; ‘the closest that Britain gets to an Indian Bazaar’. Meeting places like the Town Hall Square or the Clock Tower might be more important to you; places of memory.
Watts’s social circle – individuals who could afford, in time and money, leisure – was tiny. There were precious few places of ‘mass participation’, simply because there was no ‘mass’, to seek betterment or just entertainment; certainly no football, rugby or cricket grounds.
How would Watts see what we would pick out today? She would probably see the Highcross Shopping Centre with wonder, not tinged with regret at the loss of the high street; all the goods of the world laid out before, and affordable to, the ordinary citizen of Leicester.