Sunwin House inspiring next generation of arts and enterprise organisations

Built for the City of Bradford Co-operative Society in 1935-6, Sunwin House is a beautiful and rare example of the International Modernist style of architecture. The architect WA Johnson travelled widely throughout Europe in search of inspiration and was particularly influenced by the work of the German Jewish architect Erich Mendelsohn and his design for the Schocken department store in Stuttgart.

When his tribute opened, the Co-operative Emporium was the envy of its rivals, with the first escalators to be installed anywhere in a Co-op store and lifts and stairs tucked around the edges of the open shopping area. The building even warrants a mention in Pevsner Architectural Guides, companion to Britain’s most significant buildings of the era.

Times change, as do consumer habits, and the doors of old Sunwin House have remained shut for the last decade since TJ Hughes gave up the ghost. But hopes are rising that a city partnership could bring together an exciting new purpose for this Grade II-listed building. The Architectural Heritage Fund has awarded a £5,000 project viability grant to Freedom Studios Ltd to start exploring potential new uses for Sunwin House.

Alex Chisholm, co-artistic director at Freedom, said: “We are thrilled that the AHF has shared our vision and belief in the future development of Sunwin House and its potential impact on Bradford. The partners – Freedom Studios, Impressions Gallery, BCB Radio, East Street Arts and Yeme Architects – are passionate about bringing this iconic building back to life for Bradford, and the AHF has given us that vital first support to do so.”

Matthew McKeague, CEO of the AHF, visited the building and met some of the partners behind the project. He said: “Sunwin House is an impressive building, which retains many of its original, high quality features. It represents the challenges facing many similar stores and shops but equally an opportunity for the likes of Freedom Studios and its partners to reimagine what we want from these buildings and what we want our city and town centres to provide for us. This grant will help support the development of their exciting plans.”

The plans aim to rejuvenate Sunwin House through art, culture and enterprise and would strengthen what we are calling Bradford’s “ring of culture”. This is the growing network of institutions new and old that circle City Park and include the Science and Media Museum, Alhambra Theatre, NEC Arena, Impressions Gallery, Art 21 Gallery, Brick Box Rooms, Kala Sangam Arts Centre, Bradford Playhouse and St George’s Hall. All strong players in their own right. Together, this is one ring to rule them all.

In a concept visual created by Yeme Architects, Sunwin House is presented as a multi-functional space to host the merged activities of established organisations and businesses.  These would include a culture hub with Bradford Literature Festival and City of Film at ground floor level, a multi-use event space on the first floor, an arts hostel and communal kitchen on the second floor, enterprise co-working space and training centre on the third floor and rooftop with allotments and pop-up cinema. Giving a new lease of life to Sunwin House could drive new interactions in the city, broaden collaborations between arts and enterprise, stimulate footfall and tourism, reflect the dynamism of our young population and raise aspirations. I’m looking forward to it already.

Of course, there is a long way to go to transform this idea into reality, not least making the finances stack up in a way that works for all parties, but this is a big and bold vision to reimagine a landmark high street building for the post-internet age. It offers a stage for our brightest and best homegrown organisations. And it would provide another compelling reason for visitors to come to our city centre, day and night.

In our economic strategy for Bradford District, one of our priority actions is using our unique architecture, heritage and cultural assets to create compelling investment propositions and an environment for growth. We have a wealth of historic buildings that are both highly attractive and highly affordable. By building partnerships between local, regional and national organisations, we are developing ways to bring them back into use.

The original architect WA Johnson went to Europe to find his inspiration. He found it in Stuttgart at the Schocken department store. That building was demolished in 1960. Johnson’s tribute is still standing tall. And I’m delighted to see the old Emporium providing new inspiration for today’s generation of arts and enterprise organisations.

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

Bradford gave birth to 15 new start-ups every working day last year

“I think virtually all of the problems that Britain has, and Europe has, and the world has, can be solved by more entrepreneurship. So why don’t we start now by having more entrepreneurship?” So said Eric Schmidt, the former CEO of Google, at the inaugural annual lecture for the Centre of Entrepreneurs (CFE).

We agree and I’m pleased to say Bradford is doing its bit. New figures from the CFE show 4,127 businesses were formed in the district last year. That’s 15 new start-ups every calendar working day. This represents growth of 2 per cent from 2017 and made Bradford the 10th most popular place to start a business in 2018, up from 14th the previous year. Who knows what wonders are being dreamed up on our doorsteps?

I’m delighted but not surprised at this national success story for Bradford, given our young and enterprising population, distinctive offer, growth potential and globally connected nature. We already know that Bradford is the best place to start a business in Britain, according to Barclays, which found the UK’s best business rate relief, road infrastructure, number of job vacancies, cost of commercial rent, and business survival rate in our district. These are clearly making for a fertile growth environment, as the new CFE figures illustrate so well.

The UK is an established entrepreneurial nation, as confirmed by the CFE, which has published its fifth annual analysis of company formations. Latest Companies House data shows that UK business formations reached a record 663,772 last year and recovered from a drop in 2017. “It is encouraging to see formation numbers recover and hit a new high,” says Matt Smith, director of the CFE. “These figures demonstrate the resilience and confidence of entrepreneurs across the country, confirmed by a 5.7 per cent increase of business registrations and the strengthening of London as Europe’s leading startup hub.”

Friederike Andres, research assistant at the CFE, added: “As the UK prepares to leave the European Union, the Government needs to reassure entrepreneurs that it will continue to champion and support them. This includes efforts to mitigate any negative effects from EU exit, as well as tangible measures to reform business rates, boost SME procurement and tackle other underlying issues.”

Policy improvements can always be made to support entrepreneurs but tinkering around the edges won’t deliver the dramatic shift we need. I was fascinated to read about the radical plans to allow the North of England to raise its own taxes. This is the sort of bold transformation that could help to unlock more funding for the projects that will make the biggest impact.

In a newspaper interview, Jake Berry, the Northern Powerhouse Minister, explained it was time for the Government to consider a Department for the North, with its own secretary of state. “We should not close our minds to the localisation of taxation,” said Mr Berry. “A big complaint is that money is being invested more in London and the South than in the North. Taxes raised in the North could be spent in the North. And we should not close our minds to varying income tax at a local level.”

This could be transformational. Everyone knows that Bradford needs new infrastructure. Like many post-industrial cities in the North of England, it has suffered from decades of under-investment in the built environment. Upgrades to our infrastructure links would generate huge economic and social returns via increased productivity and agglomeration. It’s an argument that’s been rehearsed a million times before, but I’ll say it again: better physical and digital connections make it quicker and easier for our entrepreneurs to move around their goods and services.

The MP for Bradford South, Judith Cummins, was banging the drum for Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) and Bradford in Westminster Hall last week. She said: “Bradford, like other towns and cities across the North, urgently needs this high speed rail link to meet growing demand and to fulfil our economic potential. And that investment in NPR should include a Bradford stop in the city centre where the benefits will be felt by the greatest number of people.”

Instead of going cap to hand to senior ministers, we would have the power to make the investment decisions here. Business growth would surely follow, generating more wealth, more jobs and more tax returns. A virtuous circle. Who knows, we might even produce some of the innovations that can solve the problems of Britain, Europe or even the world, as Mr Schmidt would have it. We’ve certainly got the entrepreneurs, as the latest CFE figures show; we just need to back them.

• Dave Baldwin is chairman of Bradford Economic Partnership and chief executive of Burnley FC

New business development zones can unlock investment in district

With 15,000 registered companies, 60,000 employees, and 170 countries represented, DMCC is the four-time winner of the Global Free Zone of the Year award. Headquartered in Dubai, the 200-hectare development is believed to be the world’s most interconnected free zone. But once upon a time, DMCC was just an idea: the local government wanted to provide the physical, market and financial infrastructure to establish Emirates as a hub for global commodities trade. The Dubai Multi Commodities Centre was founded in 2002 and the rest, as we like to say, is history.

I’m mentioning this example because it shows just what you can achieve with a big vision. While we might not have the same sovereign financial firepower as the Emirates, we do have the globally connected district, the young and enterprising population, the distinctive offer and the significant growth potential. We’ve got a £10bn economy, 18,000 businesses and 200,000 employees. We’re lucky to have many successful manufacturing companies and a growing number of start-ups – 261 per month – and good survival rates among these business births. Bradford is also home to a healthy number of large employers, such as Morrisons, Yorkshire Water and Yorkshire Building Society, which support and develop local supply chains.

But, as with most post-industrial towns and cities in the North of England, the district has experienced decades of underinvestment in the built environment. The heritage mills that made us famous might offer that premium raw, exposed brick look so coveted by young urban professionals, but these great buildings were originally constructed for vertical manufacturing and businesses in sectors like engineering, chemicals, energy and food manufacturing need crisp, clean and modern single-story production sites across larger plots.

This is the reason why Bradford Council is exploring new ways of unlocking the district’s economic potential through the creation of new business development zones. These will be in the areas at the heart of the old industrial revolution: Bowling Back Lane in Bradford, Salts Mill Road through to Dockfield Road in Shipley and Dalton Lane in Keighley. The plan is to investigate how land in these areas is currently used and identify opportunities to bring forward redevelopment of under-utilised or poor quality sites or expansion of existing premises to maximise site utilisation.

The council will also examine the potential of promoting infrastructure investments in these areas including public realm, green spaces, major highways improvements, new street lighting, parking provision, public transport networks, walking and cycling routes and signage. Achieving these investments will turbo charge the performance of key employment areas in Bradford to make them more attractive and efficient locations for businesses to operate and invest in.

Bradford Chamber of Commerce is involved and will work with the council to explore collaborative initiatives to boost productivity and growth within the business development zones and wider district. Councillor Alex Ross-Shaw, portfolio holder for regeneration, planning and transport, said: “We are looking at how to boost investment and employment. We want to help businesses unlock untapped potential by boosting their productivity while bringing under-utilised industrial land back into use.”

Mike Cartwright, of Bradford Chamber, added: “Our members employ many thousands of Bradford residents and many of the companies wish to grow and create new jobs. Additional industrial capacity will add expansion so we are delighted that Bradford council is looking at boosting both the productivity and availability of industrial land. We look forward to working with the council to develop innovative new approaches to boosting investment, growth and jobs.”

In fast-growing places like China, Korea, Singapore and of course Dubai, business development zones are treated as important tools in national or regional economic and industrial development agendas. Douglas Zhihua Zeng, a senior economist at the World Bank, has argued these zones can be effective instruments to promote industrialisation and structural transformation, so long as certain ingredients can be put in place.

Global good practices include sound legal and institutional frameworks, strong government commitment, high quality infrastructure, careful planning and design, ongoing skills training and specialised education, continuous technological learning, innovation and upgrading, deep connectivity locally, regionally, nationally and internationally, positive social development, and environmental sustainability.

That’s all doable from my perspective. The council’s mapping process will take 18-24 months. Delivery of development of these sites is expected by 2024-25, just a few years away. Who knows, it could be Bradford winning all the foreign direct investment awards in the next decade.

• Dave Baldwin is chairman of Bradford Economic Partnership and chief executive of Burnley FC

Space: the final frontier for Bradford’s young minds

After a journey lasting nearly a month and covering 238,900 miles, Chang’e-4 finally made history last week. The Chinese probe became the first robotic spacecraft to touch down on the far side of the moon, the unexplored side of the astronomical body. It’s cosmic, really, when you think about it. The successful landing represents “a huge stride” for China, according to the republic’s lunar exploration chief, echoing the US astronaut Neil Armstrong’s famous words. It also signals China’s ambitions for the 21st century and its growing significance in the world.

For me, it highlights three issues: first, the power of science to inspire us to think beyond our immediate surroundings; second, the need to build and grow links with China as the emerging superpower; and third, the importance of aspiration and setting big goals.

Space truly is the final frontier and this was brought home to me when Bradford’s National Science and Media Museum hosted the spacecraft that took UK astronaut Tim Peake to and from the International Space Station. Mr Peake, who became the first Briton to walk in space, said he hoped the Soyuz TMA-19M would serve as “an inspiration for our next generation of scientists and engineers”. Students from University Academy Keighley were among those to see the spacecraft, which still bears the scorch marks from its reentry into Earth’s atmosphere, and learn about Mr Peake’s sixth-month mission to space and find out about the careers in the fast-growing UK space industry. One day perhaps they might be the ones boldly going where no man – or woman – has gone before.

There will certainly be plenty of opportunities; in Yorkshire alone, nearly 40 organisations are engaged in space-related activities. Academics at Bradford University are doing pioneering research into space weather using machine learning and predictive technologies to extract knowledge from solar archives. Far out!

China’s multi-billion space dream – it plans to build a new space station, establish a base on the Moon and carry out missions to Mars – is part of its “national rejuvenation”, according to Chinese state media. To me, it shows the republic is increasingly a force to be reckoned with and one that our district economy needs to be wired into. As a globally connected district, we are making strong progress on that front and towards the end of last year, representatives from Bradford Council and Bradford University joined a trade and investment mission from the Leeds City Region to China, with the aim of creating stronger links in film production, education and tourism.

The week-long visit took in Qingdao, Hangzhou and Hong Kong and promoted our district’s products and services to these vast marketplaces. During the trip, Bradford Council signed a memorandum of understanding to advance cooperation in the fields of economy and trade, creative and innovation industries, technology, culture and education.

Bradford and Qingdao already enjoy good relations and in 2017 Bradford UNESCO City of Film opened an office in Qingdao to foster co-production opportunities between the two cities, which both have burgeoning film industries. Qingdao has China’s largest state-of-the-art film production studio complex, owned by Wanda Studio, and Bradford is becoming the go-to location for a growing number of national and international filmmakers. (Every time I go by City Hall these days they seem to be filming a new episode of Peaky Blinders.)

Qingdao is also home to the Tsingtao, the nation’s second largest brewery company. I was chuffed to learn that our representatives were flying the flag for Saltaire Brewery, which I’m told went down very well in what is known as China’s city of beers. Cheers!

As well as being a huge market for beer, China also represents a huge market for healthcare. To that end, Bradford University has teamed up with a Chinese technology transfer company, iBridge, to establish a new programme that will enable UK technology teams to attract investment and accelerate the launch of their healthcare technologies and products into China. The potential is enormous. According to the latest research by McKinsey consultants, the Chinese healthcare market is set to reach an eye-watering $1 trillion by 2020, up from $357bn in 2011.

The numbers involved in healthcare and other Chinese markets are just incredible, which is why we need to be putting maximum effort into developing these business relationships. As the Chinese have demonstrated with the Chang’e-4 spacecraft and its achievement in the wide blue yonder, if you want to make your mark, you have got to be ambitious. Shoot for the moon. 

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

Being a good teacher is the hardest job in the world

Of all the hard jobs in the world, one of the hardest is being a good teacher. Being a good headteacher is even harder. Every child in Yorkshire deserves the best possible education, whatever their background, and we rely so much on those committed individuals who can inspire hope, ignite the imagination and instil a life-long love of learning.

Stuck between pupils, parents and politicians, our best education role models don’t always get the recognition they deserve, which is why I was so happy to see some of Bradford’s finest being singled out in the New Years Honours list. Developing our young and enterprising population is so important to our district’s future prosperity and wellbeing. The men and women who carry this responsibility deserve all our support.

Duncan Jacques, chief executive officer of the Exceed Academies Trust, becomes a CBE for services to education. The multi-academy trust currently runs six schools – Copthorne Primary School, Horton Grange Primary School, Horton Park Primary School, Appleton Academy, Holybrook Primary School and Harden Primary School – serving communities with some of the highest levels of social and economic deprivation in the district. All bar one of these schools have been judged as Outstanding or Good by Ofsted.

Mr Jacques said he was “delighted, surprised and honoured” with the award and on social media thanked all those who had sent him congratulations, including Jenni Mayo, headteacher of Oakworth Primary School, who said “many children in Bradford have benefited from your high aspirations and visionary leadership”. Kersten England, chief executive of Bradford council, summed it up when she said Duncan is “a great leader and educator… can’t think of a more important role in team Bradford right now”. I’ll second that, on behalf of the Bradford Economic Partnership, which fully recognises the contribution that teachers make to creating the workforce of the future.

Ruby Bhatti becomes an OBE for services to young people and housing. Ruby is an experienced solicitor, formidable advocate and dedicated public servant who has devoted much of her time to important causes in the Bradford community. Ms Bhatti’s numerous education commitments include board roles at the Dixons Academies Charitable Trust, Rainbow Schools Trust and the Bradford Diocesan Academies Trust. She supports other education leaders on governance on behalf of Bradford council and the Department for Education.

Ms Bhatti told her local newspaper: “The honour is an extremely humbling one which I dedicate to my late parents who brought me up and always tried to help others.” We need people like Ruby to make sure our schools are run properly. Thank you, and congratulations. 

Christopher Brown also becomes an OBE, for services to higher education. Mr Brown, of Sutton-in-Craven near Keighley, is chair of council at the University of Huddersfield, a post he has held since 2004. He helped steer this important Yorkshire institution to gold-rated status according to the Teaching Excellence Framework. Mr Brown, who read law at Oxford, is a former chief executive of gear maker David Brown Group plc and chairs the West Yorkshire engineering companies Wakefield Acoustics and Thermal Energy Ventures.

After successful business careers, it can be tempting for departing executives to disappear to the golf course. Not Mr Brown, who has dedicated nearly 15 years to the advancement of higher education in God’s Own County. He’s also a director at Ilkley Lawn Tennis and Squash Club. (That’s rackets, not clubs.) Congratulations, Chris.

Wahida Shaffi becomes an MBE for services to women, young people, interfaith and community relations. Ms Shaffi is the best sort of teacher in our society. She has more than 20 years’ experience of working with diverse communities from across the world. After completing an MA in international politics and security studies at the University of Bradford’s Department of Peace Studies, Ms Shaffi has gone on to facilitate, deliver training, complete research, develop and manage programmes and produce films on subjects related to equality, diversity, gender, conflict and interfaith locally, nationally and internationally in Bradford, the UK, Sri Lanka, Israel, Palestine, Syria, Turkey, Romania and Pakistan.

Did I mention Ms Shaffi is also the national director of the Catalyst programme, formerly the national women’s lead with the Christian Muslim Forum and is currently finalising the final phase of her Churchill Fellowship? I’ll leave it to her friend Jenny Ramsden who described Wahida on social media as “the strongest, kindest, nicest, most intelligent woman”. Congratulations on your award.

Duncan Jacques CBE, Ruby Bhatti OBE, Chris Brown OBE and Wahida Shaffi MBE… just a few of the inspiring teachers, in the broadest sense, at work across the Bradford district and in 2019 and beyond. Happy new year everyone.

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