Bradford’s becoming known for strong female leaders

To the tourist, the Bradford region is probably best known for stunning Victorian buildings, Bronte country, David Hockney and curries. To the reader of the business pages of the Yorkshire Post, it would be as the home of Morrisons and Provident Financial, engineering and manufacturing excellence and an entrepreneurial population forging its own future.

As Chairman of the Bradford Economic Partnership, I know that the region is becoming known for something else too: a hotbed of outstanding female leaders. In the private, public and third sectors, and in arts and culture organisations, there is a growing cadre of dynamic women leading organisations going places.

The Economic Strategy for Bradford District 2018 – 2030 sets out a plan to increase the value of Bradford’s economy by £4bn. To achieve this, everyone has to have the chance to realise their potential. The emergence of outstanding women from diverse backgrounds, and the breadth of sectors in which they work – ranging from technology and high-value engineering, to food and drink, and arts and culture – bodes well for our vision of sustainable, inclusive growth.

Entrepreneur Gemma Andrews began blogging about cooking while living in London, before returning to Bradford to set up a business supplying food ingredients. Today Superfood Market has revenues of £10m and trades in 48 countries worldwide. Despite her busy diary, Gemma still finds the time mentor the bosses of local start-ups.

Joanna Robinson, managing director of Bradford-based air management expert Mansfield Pollard and a board member at the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership, was named on Northern Power Women’s Future List, which recognises those making a difference. As one of the few women in senior positions in her industry, Joanna certainly is. She said: “I am extremely proud to represent Mansfield Pollard on this list and would like to thank my team for helping me to promote manufacturing and engineering to girls and women with the hope that we will inspire them to pursue careers within the industry.”

Dynamic female leaders are at the head of local businesses with longer histories and a bright future. Debbie Mellor is boss of Keighley Laboratories, a firm incorporated in 1920 which specialises in the heat treatment of metals and which works with transportation, marine, aerospace, defence, rail, oil and gas firms. Debbie is a great role model in what has traditionally been a male-dominated industry. And Victoria Robertshaw, co-owner of the Keelham Farm Shop, had a successful career in the City of London before returning to Yorkshire in 2004 to run the family business. Keelham now employs more than 300 people and Robertshaw is an award-winning boss.

Bradford’s outstanding artistic and cultural heritage is providing a solid base upon which a group of female leaders are forging a new legacy. Syima Aslam, founder of the Bradford Literature Festival has transformed the festival from a two-day affair in 2014 to the international event through ambition, vision and hard work. A list of New Radicals 2018 published in a national newspaper recently highlighted the pick of social enterprises around the country doing good for society or the environment – and Bradford was well-represented. Ruth Ibegbuna, a community leader from Bradford, was a judge. The top 50 included Evie Manning, co-founder of Common Wealth, a community theatre group that brings audiences together, raises awareness and inspire change.

Our plans for economic growth are ambitious and will only succeed if we take people from across the community with us. We are fortunate to have inspirational women leaders in civic roles who are utterly committed to this cause. Adeeba Malik is Deputy Chief Executive of Bradford’s QED Foundation, which seeks to reduce poverty, disadvantage and discrimination. Kersten England, Chief Executive of Bradford Council, spends her days working towards ensuring that economic growth is sustainable and championing diversity, equality and civic leadership. Susan Hinchcliffe, Leader of Bradford Council and chair of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, is one of the region’s big hitters and helped write the Economic Strategy for Bradford District 2018-2030.

As well as celebrating the leaders shaping our region’s future, it’s fitting to pay tribute to a public servant whose history is characterised by championing diversity and equality and working for the public good. Ian Greenwood OBE sadly passed away this month: he was a towering figure in local government, having twice served as leader of Bradford Council – and holding many more regional roles besides – in a career spanning four decades. Imran Hussain, MP for Bradford East, spoke for us all when he described “a tremendous loss to the City, the wider region and civic politics”. But Imran got it right when he pointed to what Ian leaves behind: “What will endure is his legacy of positive change across Bradford, his belief that we as a City are stronger when we all work and come together, and his drive to make Bradford an even better place.”

It’s that festive time of year again

It’s that time of year again: Christmas lights are switching on in towns and cities up and down the country as thoughts turn festive. London’s Oxford Street display is always spectacular and Leeds’s lights have their charms, but a Bradford Christmas is always a bit special.

The Broadway was the place to be on Saturday. X-Factor star Rebecca Ferguson thrilled the crowds alongside fantastic school choirs and a brass band. It was inclusive and welcoming, and a huge cheer went up when the lights went on.

It was also a great start to ‘Sparkling Bradford’, a new campaign bringing together festive events across the region. Whatever your interests and wherever you live, you can find something at Sparkling Bradford: Alpaca treks in Bronte Country at Oxenhope, Saltaire’s Living Advent Calendar, Ilkley Christmas Teepees, Santa Specials at the Shipley Glen Cable Tramway and Keighley and Worth Valley Railway Christmas Specials.

Backed by the Broadway, Visit Bradford, Bradford Council, Made in Bradford and the University of Bradford, this campaign reflects growing confidence in our region and the need to put our best foot forward. We have so much to shout about: Sparkling Bradford lets us

say it in one loud Yorkshire voice.

We want more people in the region’s shops this Christmas. Shops are the lifeblood of the high street but too many are having a tough time: online shopping has transformed retailing, while intense competition, rising costs and slower spending are biting.

The British Retail Consortium said last week that the number of shops, pubs and restaurants in the UK which are empty rose by more than 4,400 in the first half of the year. Figures released last week suggest that as many as 85,000 retail jobs were lost in the first nine months of the year.

More support is needed. Fundamentally, we need to find a fairer way of taxing business by reforming an outdated system which places a disproportionate burden of tax on city centres and property-based retail.

The success of the Broadway should provide cheer for shops and restaurants. The centre said last month that over 1.5 million more people visited in 2018 than the year before. Sparkling Bradford should help to attract more shoppers –  there are more than 15

events planned for the Broadway over the festive period.

Broadway’s success shows the importance of giving shoppers something extra. It’s all about the experience. People hitting the shops increasingly make it part of a longer trip out: they want an attractive environment to spend a few hours, with entertainment and events and maybe somewhere to eat and have a drink.

This is where the Bradford Business Improvement District (BID), which got the green light in October, will help. An additional £2.5m will be invested in Bradford city centre over the next five years to make it more vibrant and attractive to drive footfall. Streets will be improved and kept cleaner, and there will be more events and entertainment. The BID in Keighley is doing similar things: as much as £1.43m could be raised and spent in the town to increase footfall and drive visitor numbers.

Bradford Council is doing its bit – earlier in the year Airobounce, a family amusement centre; Remy International, a wine bar and bistro; and Noodle Sing, a Chinese restaurant; were supported to expand through the City Centre Growth Scheme, creating 30 jobs.

2019 promises to bring more reasons to visit the city. St George’s Hall in Bradford, one of the UK’s oldest listed concert halls, opens in the spring after an £8.5m makeover to restore it to its former glories.  The Odeon is being redeveloped too into a world-class entertainment venue. Sparkling Bradford means that the momentum of fantastic events in the region during 2018 – including literature festivals in Bradford and Ilkley, the Dragonboat race at Saltaire and Bingley Music Live – will continue.

When the Christmas lights went on last weekend I was reminded – again – just how special and distinctive Bradford is. Our fantastic heritage buildings were bathed in a festive glow and there were smiles everywhere. It was a great start to a great season in a great city.

  • Dave Baldwin is chairman of the Bradford Economic Partnership and chief executive of Burnley Football Club

Channel 4 move is early Christmas present for Yorkshire

Channel 4’s decision to house its new regional headquarters in Leeds is a fantastic early Christmas present for Yorkshire. In a three-way bidding race, Birmingham had been seen as favourite to host the iconic broadcaster, with Manchester second and Leeds third. The bookies aren’t often wrong, but a few looked like turkeys when C4 announced that 200 jobs were coming to the Leeds City Region.

It was a highly competitive process and no-one took anything for granted this side of the Pennines. But there was quiet confidence: we knew that the West Yorkshire Combined Authority and Screen Yorkshire had assembled an exceptional team and that our offer was ambitious and compelling.

Strong leadership was needed to get everyone’s noses pointed in the same direction. Bradford Council leader Susan Hinchcliffe, Chair of the WYCA, pulled together skills, talents and assets from across the region. Roger Marsh, chair of the LEP, led and fronted the bid, bringing his trademark insight and professionalism. The whole team deserves huge praise.

This is game-changing for the media, digital and creative industries in Yorkshire: 200 jobs in Leeds for starters and the WYCA predicts that more than 1,200 jobs could be created in the region, delivering an economic boost of £1bn.

Make no mistake: Leeds wouldn’t have won this without Bradford’s support, history, assets and talent. As chair of Bradford Economic Partnership, I know about the region’s creative heritage and pedigree. My home city is the first UNESCO city of film and the home of the National Museum of Photography, Film and Television (now the National Media Museum). Our beautiful architecture and stunning countryside has provided a perfect cinematic backdrop. A film of the TV show Downtown Abbey was recently being shot in Bradford’s Little Germany district. Feature films including The Railway Children, East is East and more recently, Bollywood film Gold also bear Yorkshire’s stamp. Fans of Peaky Blinders might recognise locations including Saltaire and the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway.

There’s fantastic off-screen and on-screen acting, writing, production and journalistic talent too: look at Suman Hanjf, the British-Pakistani film-maker who studied at Bradford College; Mariaah Hussain, star of TV show Ackley Bridge; and Kamal Khan, the Bradford-based actor and scriptwriter. Nick Ahad, the BBC Radio Leeds presenter, playwright and former YP man also deserves a mention, as does Clio Barnard, a rising star of UK film-making (The Selfish Giant, Dark River, The Arbor) who does much of her work in and around Bradford. I could go on.

C4 has paid tribute to the commitment of the Leeds City Region to bring diverse new talent into the industry and working to harness the diversity of different communities across West Yorkshire, including in Bradford.  Let’s face it: the media is a closed shop to some. A report produced by Ofcom found that women, ethnic minorities and disabled people are all under-represented in the UK’s TV industry. It goes further: too many people from less well-off backgrounds are simply not getting a fair a chance to show what they can do.

We are working to address this and to broaden the media and talent pipeline by investing in supporting creative skills in the region. The Industrial Centre of Excellence (ICE) in Creative and Digital Arts in Bradford offers training, apprenticeships, work experience, careers information, mentoring and bursaries for people seeking a career in the sector. Bradford’s Screen Skills Diversity Programme helps a broader segment of society gain skills and jobs in the film and television industry.

C4’s move will only be a true success if more talented people in the region get ahead in the media or creative world, regardless of their background. I want to see local people succeeding and becoming role models for others, raising aspirations and inspiring confidence. Our talented young people will be helped by being able to learn from some of the C4 staff who will move to Yorkshire, bringing know-how and experience. C4 staff will soon realise that Yorkshire has a fantastic quality of life: outstanding properties, beautiful countryside, vibrant culture and great people.

One thing is clear – you don’t need to be in London to have a successful TV career any longer. The BBC is a major employer in Salford and C4 will be in Leeds. Both are close to Bradford, and the ICE.  There’s a thriving independent production sector across the North, and Leeds has a fast-growing digital industry. C4 last week noted Leeds’s proximity to the other great cities of the North including Bradford, Hull, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and Sheffield.

These great cities could be closer still: last week’s Budget included £37m for the development of Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR). We are pushing hard for an NPR station in Bradford to better link our region to Leeds, Manchester and beyond. Like C4’s move to Leeds, an NPR station in Bradford would be another game-changing victory worth celebrating.

  • Dave Baldwin is chairman of the Bradford Economic Partnership and chief executive of Burnley Football Club

Export capital: trading overseas is in our DNA

Bradford’s DIY spirit has always stood it in good stead. My home city is entrepreneurial – as its 35,000 self-employed residents will tell you – hard working and self-sufficient. The business community knows that instead of waiting for others, it’s usually best to get on and do it yourself.

This is especially true of importers and exporters carving out opportunities for themselves around the world. Exporting is in Bradford’s DNA: our annual exports are valued at around £2bn. In 2015, Bradford was named Britain’s export capital after research showed that 86 per cent of small businesses in the city were selling products or services overseas – more than any other city in the country.

The Economic Strategy for Bradford District 2018 – 2030 sets out a plan to make Bradford a more vibrant, outward looking, globally connected city. If Britain is to thrive post-Brexit, we need more businesses doing trade overseas.

I think we are leading the national trend; according to the Office for National Statistics, in the year to June 2018 UK exports rose by 4.4 per cent – or £26bn – to £621bn. The services sector grew 2.2 per cent to £278bn, while goods rose by 6.3 per cent to £343bn. The Government is pushing this agenda. In the Budget the Chancellor said that the UK’s export credit agency, UK Export Finance (UKEF), would see its direct lending facility rise by up to £2bn meaning more financial support available for exporters.

This isn’t only businesses boxing up goods for export – although we have plenty of fantastic firms doing that – but innovative exporters of knowledge and services. Virtual College, based in Ilkley, creates online training and learning management software for organisations. It has trained more than 3 million people in more than 100 countries. Bingley-based Emerald Publishing produces nearly 300 academic journals, 2500 books and 1500 teaching cases which are used around the world. Founder Keith Howard OBE is an inspirational philanthropist in the region, with deep links to the city having worked at Bradford University before founding the firm which now has a global footprint.

There are outstanding companies shipping the region’s goods around the world.  Chemicals giant BASF manufactures more than 250,000 tonnes of chemicals from its massive site at Low Moor, and around 84 per cent of its products go abroad. In my Yorkshire Post column last week, I wrote about Seabrooks and how its well-loved crisps are being sold in Middle East and Australia. Bradford’s Maharaja Textiles has become one of the largest textiles wholesalers in Europe, exporting to Canada, Hong Kong and Australia. I could go on.

As chair of Bradford Economic Partnership, I know that one of the biggest problems for businesses looking to expand overseas is a lack of local knowledge. Different laws, regulations, customs and norms can be difficult to navigate. Throw in a different language and it can feel bewildering.

But local help is at hand. Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership teamed up with private businesses last summer to set up the Export Exchange Patrons scheme. This is a network of local champions who will support businesses to expand into new markets by offering advice.

Chamber International, a Bradford management consultancy firm which helps UK companies to expand abroad, has recently formed partnerships with the British Centres for Business (BCB) in Dubai, which supports UK companies grow in the Middle East; and Resolve, a business based in North Yorkshire and the US, which supports UK firms in North America.

The US is the UK’s biggest export market. According to Chamber International, other top destinations for the Bradford exporters it works with include Turkey, China, India, UAE and Saudi Arabia, as well as other nations in centred in the Middle East and Asia.

The Economic Strategy for Bradford District 2018 – 2030 points to the region’s trade and family connections beyond the European Union, particularly in Asia and Eastern Europe.

This partly reflects Bradford’s diverse population, which is a source of pride and a great asset.  Black and ethnic minorities make up 36 per cent of the city’s population. I see a competitive advantage here for Bradford: we have tens of thousands of personal and family links with people across the world which we can leverage and use to build enterprise.

While the Government is trying to line up post-Brexit trade deals with other nations, our businesses know that they can’t afford to wait. Let’s build on our DIY spirit and do it ourselves.

  • Dave Baldwin is chairman of the Bradford Economic Partnership and chief executive of Burnley Football Club

Events schedule to highlight a Sparkling Bradford this Christmas

Key partners from the Bradford district have announced that they are working together to offer an all-inclusive Christmas initiative, called Sparkling Bradford.

The Sparkling Bradford initiative has been developed by The Broadway Bradford, Visit Bradford, Bradford Council, Made in Bradford and the University of Bradford.

Sparkling Bradford will encompass all of the season’s events and experiences, highlighting the district as a Christmas destination for people of the North this festive period.

To celebrate the inaugural Sparkling Bradford campaign, local creative Andy Warriner from Keighley, penned a poem that encompasses what Christmas means to Bradfordians[i]. The final verse reads:

“Distinctive, delightful,

diverse and delicious,

make Sparkling Bradford,

your choice, this Christmas.”

The poem was performed and recorded by local school students, Georgina Macdonald (15), Willow Clapham (12), Jessica Braddy (11) and Charlotte Malin (8) of Skipton and Sebastian Peters (11) of Shipley to mark the start of the festivities. The video will be shared across social media, as well as appearing on big screens around the district.

Sparkling Bradford events have been wrapped up in a Christmas brochure, to be delivered across the district in the coming weeks and features events from each corner of the district, including Alpaca Treks in Oxenhope to the Industrial Museum’s Victorian Christmas Market and Saltaire’s Living Advent Calendar. There will also be an opportunity to win £1000 worth of holiday vouchers, with a treasure hunt that takes visitors around the city centre in search of 12 Christmas baubles[ii].

Speaking of the initiative, Coun Sarah Ferriby, Bradford Council’s Executive Member for Healthy People and Places, said: “Sparkling Bradford is exactly what the district needs, it brings together all of the events that people love into one big Bradford Christmas. The Festive Launch takes place at The Broadway on 10 November and will be followed by annual highlights such as Illuminate Bradford, Ilkley Christmas Teepees, Keighley and Worth Valley Railway Christmas Specials, the pantomime at the Alhambra as well as events at Bradford Council-run theatres, museums and in our parks and so much more. It’s all in the brochure and online in one digestible package, making it easy for people to see what’s on offer.”

Coun Ferriby added: “At key points throughout the next two months you’ll also be able to use our special Sparkling Bradford Snapchat filter, which will add a little glitter to your festive selfie!”

One of the young stars of Sparkling Bradford, Jessica Braddy, said: “I loved reading the Sparkling Bradford poem, it made me feel so festive and excited about everything we do in Bradford. It’s such a special time of the year and Bradford is such a special place. I really hope that everyone loves what we’ve done and it makes even more people excited about visiting our district this Christmas!”

For more information about Sparkling Bradford, and a list of events, follow #SparklingBradford or visit

[i] Sparkling Bradford by Andy Warriner:

From candles and crackers,

to clinking of glasses,

the cocktails and curries,

of partying masses.


From worship to wishes,

and mistletoe kisses,

the singing of carols,

to feasting on dishes.


From chocolate to chestnuts,

and pantos with laughter,

the goodwill of giving,

with pudding for afters.


From ribbons for wrapping,

to resting and napping,

the echo and memories,

of families chatting.


Distinctive, delightful,

diverse and delicious,

make Sparkling Bradford,

your choice, this Christmas.


[ii] For more information visit


Good news is all around us at the moment

Whatever it is that Nick Garthwaite has for breakfast, I’m having it. The managing director of Bradford chemicals company Christeyns was unstoppable in October: he masterminded the fantastic success of Bradford Manufacturing Week and last week Christeyns bought Clover Chemicals, a Derbyshire manufacturing business, in a tidy bit of business.

Nick is a great advocate for Bradford and I know he will be delighted at the growing momentum in Bradford’s economy. In my Yorkshire Post column last week, I wrote about the success of Bradford Manufacturing Week, Bradford Bulls’ promotion to the Championship and the success of the Business Improvement District (BID), which will mean an additional £2.5m investment in the city centre over the next five years.

It was a hard act to follow, but the good news seems to be all around us with fresh investment into the city. Seabrook, the historic Yorkshire crisp company, was bought by the UK subsidiary of Japanese food giant Calbee. The Bradford business, which employs around 160 people, will continue as normal – only now as part of a multinational business with a record of investment. It means more crisps made in Yorkshire will be sold around the world.

In July 2015, private equity business LDC invested in Seabrook and money was put into improving facilities and expanding to new markets. Bradford’s finest crisps are now sold in the likes of the Middle East, China and Australia. No doubt Seabrook’s new Fire Eaters crisps – billed as the spiciest crisps around – will go down a treat in Tokyo.

More good news came with word that mobility technology company Fleetondemand is creating up to 40 new jobs in Saltaire and Leeds after lining up a £5m investment through the Business Growth Fund (BGF). The Saltaire-based firm, which connects business people to vehicle rental, car leasing and business travel services globally, is expanding and plans to develop new products and boost sales.

These are skilled jobs in an innovative, growing business. They are the type that our region needs if we are to achieve the ambitions set out in the Economic Strategy for Bradford District 2018-2030. The strategy sets out a plan to turbocharge the economy and drive innovation, increase productivity and create wealth by building on our strengths in engineering, chemicals, digital technologies, energy, utilities and food manufacture. The news about Fleetondemand, Seabrook and Christeyns plays to these strengths. There are also signs of growth in the region’s drinks manufacture sector too.

EYES Brewing said last month that it was putting down roots in Bradford. EYES, which calls itself the UK’s first wheat-focused brewery, is moving to the former Bradford Brewery building. It was a shame to see Bradford Brewery shut in mid-August, but the building will now be brought back into use. EYES Brewing looked at Leeds for its base but could see Bradford’s potential. The brewery should open by Christmas and I will be stopping in to say hello.

Another clear sign of investor appetite in the region is plans to develop up to 400,000 sq ft of industrial, distribution and office space at a local former water treatment plant. Keyland Developments, which owns the 57-acre site in Oakenshaw, is selling the vast site because it sees demand for space in the regional industrial sector. As many as 800 jobs could be created and planning consent is already secured. It will make a great piece of business for someone.

Taken in isolation, each of these investments are interesting tales. But when put together, they tell a clear story – established businesses expanding, new ventures being formed in our historic heritage buildings and growth opportunities being seized.

As chair of the Bradford Economic Partnership, what’s really pleasing is that they reflect both our region’s historic business strengths and point to growth in newer sectors too.  It’s clear – things are happening because people’s noses are pointing in the same direction and momentum is building in our civic and business communities. Members of Bradford’s business community are seizing the day. I wonder what they are all eating for breakfast.

• Dave Baldwin is chairman of the Bradford Economic Partnership and chief executive of Burnley Football Club.