Leicester residents accused of sneaking into nearby pubs as locals identify their accent

Hayley Dixon
Leicestershire police issued a dispersal order in Market Harborough on Saturday night  - @leicspolice
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When Coronavirus struck there were many new things to be wary of - using door handles, straying within two metres of a stranger, touching your own face.

But now it seems that the people of the East Midlands have added one more item to the list - the Leicester accent. The city has faced the "perfect storm" of being the first to be placed under local lockdown as the rest of the country celebrates the easing of social distancing rules.

As a result people from neighbouring towns and villages have been trying to spot residents who have snuck out in the queues for the hairdressers or the pub.

The police have no powers to stop people from leaving the city, so some establishments have taken matters into their own hands and are even asking people to bring along their council tax bill to prove they are not a fugitive.

On Super Saturday, as most of the country celebrated their first taste of freedom in 104 days, the normally sleepy Market Harborough turned into a "war zone" as locals claim that they were invaded by hundreds of those living under lockdown.

 Just days after Leicester mayor Sir Peter Soulsby sparked fury when he said those who fancied a pint "could drive to Market Harborough", police were forced to issue a dispersal area to clear the town centre until 7am on Sunday.

The town with a population of 25,000, lies just 12 miles outside the Leicester quarantine boundary and is believed to be one of only two places in the country subjected to  such an order last weekend.

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Kevin Spicknall, an electricity engineer, watched the scenes unfold from a cherry picker where he was working and estimated that around 300 people arrived by train and taxi.

"You could tell they were from Leicester - the accent is very different. It's really noticeable to someone from Market Harborough when they speak to someone from Leicester," Mr Spicknall said.

"There were lots and lots of police - almost like you'd see at the football."

How is the Leicester accent different?

In nearby Nottingham a group of football fans from Leicester had to leave a pub on Saturday after they were caught cheering a little too loudly when Jamie Vardy scored a goal.

One resident joked that "it's all going swimmingly" with "fighting with police and people from Leicester getting haircuts".

Adam Commons, the Vice Chair of Leicestershire Police Federation, said that a local lockdown has created a "two-tier system across the county and all areas come with their own needs". 

"We can't stop people leaving, though our advice would be please don't, we are in the middle of a public health crisis," he said.

"We had a perfect storm as we saw Leicester become the first city to go into local lockdown at the same time pubs and other businesses opened up."

But with more bobbies on the beat than there had been on New Year's Eve, the weekend passed without major incident which Mr Commons said was a "credit to the people of Leicestershire".