More than eighty delegates from the arts, cultural, government and investment sectors have gathered at London’s Southbank Centre to support Bradford’s economic and cultural progression.
‘Bradford Champions Modern British Culture’ saw speakers from across the nation unite in their support for Bradford’s future and its bid to be City of Culture 2025, with the evening kickstarted with a breakdancing routine by Bradford’s Tranquil Productions.
The district’s bid to be City of Culture was launched in the morning at Bradford’s Kala Sangam and the steering group was also revealed to include chair of the Bradford Economic Partnership, David Baldwin, interim chair Mary Dowson from Bradford Community Broadcasting, Kamran Rashid from 30 Chapel Street, Syima Aslam, director of Bradford Literature Festival and other voices from cultural organisations across the district.
Sir Peter Bazalgette, non-executive chair of ITV and recent advisor to the government on ‘Creative Industries for the Industrial Strategy’, was keynote speaker and shared his support for Bradford’s cultural bid and the district’s commitment to changing its perceptions.
Introduced to the stage by compere Sabbiyah Pervez as a ‘legend in broadcasting,’ he said: “Bradford, as a self-appointed ‘Bradvocate,’ I applaud your ambition and initiative. In my recent review of the creative industries for the government, 68% of people said they believed arts and culture help communities; cities need soul and that’s why I wish you every good fortune in your bid for the UK City of Culture 2025.”
Providing an 18-month update on the Bradford Economic Strategy, which was launched in 2018 with bold targets including adding £4bn to the district economy and generating 20,000 new jobs by 2030, was chair of the Bradford Economic Partnership, David Baldwin.
He said: “Last year, Bradford had more than 4,000 business registrations on Companies House – the ninth highest of any city in the UK, we also have more than 20,000 BAME women in employment which has almost doubled in under 10 years.
“We’ve seen initiatives such as Bradford Manufacturing Week help address the skills gaps and create 3,000 work experiences for students across the district and Bradford Literature Festival continues to be a success in bringing high profile names and cultural discussions to our district, while collaborative initiatives such as Sparkling Bradford helped secure a 13% increase in footfall at The Broadway in comparison to national trends of a 2.3% fall.”
The audience also heard from Madani Younis, creative director of the Southbank Centre, founder of Bradford’s Freedom Studios and Bingley resident: “Bradford is the best of what we are as a country – as an artist, I was able to grow at a scale that I could not have afforded in London in my early 20s. The city gave me a confidence to stay true to it now. The idea that Bradford will become City of Culture is no surprise – it’s about time.”
A panel chaired by Culture, Creativity and Place adviser, Andrew Dixon, included Bradford Council’s chief executive Kersten England, interim chair of City of Culture Mary Dowson, Urban Splash director Tom Bloxham, who claimed it was a ‘privilege’ to work on the redevelopment of Lister Mills, and Channel 4’s head of corporate relations, Sophie Jones who discussed Bradford’s diversity and young population as important factors in bringing Channel 4 to Leeds.
Leader of Bradford Council, Councillor Susan Hinchcliffe, closed the evening as she introduced a film produced by Bradford filmmaker Jack King highlighting the district’s cultural offering, commenting: “We need City of Culture for the district to galvanise our cultural offering; everyone should be able to participate in culture. It will be a bid for the people by the people of Bradford. All voices need to be heard. We have so much to offer the north, the country and the world!”