Bradford getting its vibe back with multi-million pound investment

By Dave Baldwin

Known variously as Tequila, Revolution and more recently Vibe, the former nightclub in Bradford city centre might seem an unlikely location for a new place of worship. But that is exactly what the Diocese of Leeds has in mind for the empty building in a prime location overlooking City Park.

Built in stone and glass in 2002 to match the classical style of neighbouring Alhambra theatre, the building in Glydegate Square is the subject of plans to create a £4.6m “focus point of faith” called Fountains Church, due to its proximity to the famous water feature.

The Bishop of Bradford, Toby Howarth, told the Church Times it would have “a strong Bradford identity: young, entrepreneurial, ethnically and culturally diverse, and confident about holding out a clear religious offer and call in the public space”. Reverend Linda Maslen, head of the project, said she wants the new church to be “a blessing to the people of Bradford, bringing life, hope, and love”. Whatever your faith, that’s a sentiment you can only welcome. We’re a broad church in Bradford.

The diocese chose the prominent site after an extensive search of properties in the city centre and is in negotiations with the leaseholder Bradford Council about securing planning permission for the change of use. “We hope and pray it will give spiritual refreshment right in the city centre”, said the Archdeacon of Bradford, Andy Jolley.

Council leader Susan Hinchcliffe said: “It’s great to see the Anglican Church making such a significant investment in the city. Like us, they have faith in the city and what we are creating here. This new investment further enriches the spaces for faith in the city centre and we gladly welcome it.”

Significantly, it adds another piece of the jigsaw puzzle in the ongoing regeneration of central Bradford with the development of the Bradford Live world-class venue, the 1,000-home City Village scheme and the multi-storey food market at Darley Street.

The growing body of work is attracting attention. The London and Dubai-based property investment company Aspen Woolf has published a new guide examining Bradford which describes the district as “a hidden gem” for property investment. “A vibrant, youthful city with a long-standing legacy as a stronghold against trying times and big changes, Bradford is coming into its own,” it reports.

“Boasting the ideal blend between urban city living and the beautiful, historical countryside of West Yorkshire, Bradford is home to an enterprising economy, affordable living spaces and some exciting developments.”

The guide lists Bradford’s affordable mortgage costs and strategic location as key attractions for YURs (young urban residents), the demographic driving the new economy, and notes the high yields available for buy-to-let investors in the BD1 postcode, which are the 10th highest in the UK according to Totallymoney.co.uk. It also notes the Bradford Economic Partnership’s long-term focus on our young and enterprising population, our distinctive offer, our growth potential and our globally connected district.

Aspen Woolf concludes: “Bradford is one of the country’s most exciting cultural hubs, with a youthful, enterprising and dynamic population. Underpinned by an entrepreneurial spirit and a strong business ethic, Bradford will only continue on its journey as one of the most exciting property investment hotspots in the country.”

Of course, investments can go down as well as up in value but it’s clear to us that our district is extremely well placed to make the most of the opportunities that are being thrown up by the enduring uncertainty of our times. Investors are taking note. Momentum is gathering. The vibe is back.

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

Alexa, we want Yorkshire SMEs to be leading digital health revolution

By Dave Baldwin

Alexa, is Amazon the future of healthcare in the home? The new collaboration between the NHS and the US tech giant might suggest so. The pairing of Amazon’s market-leading voice assistant with expert advice from the NHS is a very good expression of how technology can be applied to healthcare. In the link-up, Alexa’s algorithms will use medically verified information from the NHS to answer medical questions and provide guidance. “It means people will know when they should see their GP or go to A&E. And when, and how, they can treat common illnesses with the help of a pharmacist,” said Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who is keen for the health service to build similar partnerships with Google, Apple and any other tech developers.

The digital revolution has swept through industries like media, retail and financial services, empowering consumers and shaking up incumbents. But there is a big difference between downloading a song, buying an ebook or using a banking app and the digitised delivery of care. Real health and wellbeing is at stake. How do we know that new technology works? How do we know it is safe? Where are the checks and balances? These questions are vital for patients, clinicians and commissioners. They are also important for developers, whether big or small, which need compelling answers to expand their digital health services in an emerging industry.

High quality research is hugely important. With this in mind, we welcome the new £135m investment from the National Institute for Health Research for 15 new Applied Research Collaborations (ARCs), which will join up universities, innovators and local authorities to solve some of the biggest issues facing health and social care over the next five years. I’m delighted to say that our district will host the Yorkshire and Humber ARC. The Bradford Institute for Health Research, part of Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, will receive £9m in funding to prioritise research into a number of health issues including older people with frailty, healthy childhood, urgent care and mental ill health.

Health Minister Nicola Blackwood said: “As the population grows and demand on the NHS increases, it is paramount we develop the next generation of technologies and improve the way we work to ensure the NHS continues to offer world-leading care. The UK has a proud history of cutting edge health research and by supporting the great minds in health and social care, this funding has the potential to unlock solutions to some of the biggest challenges facing healthcare and revolutionise the way patients access treatments in the future.”

Lord Willis, who co-authored a recent report into the future viability of the NHS and social care, is chairing the Yorkshire and Humber ARC strategy board. He said:  “We are a Silicon Dale of health research in Yorkshire with some of the leading centres of excellence across Sheffield, Bradford, Leeds and York. The new ARC will ensure our NHS and social services are able to improve effectiveness and impact to benefit our patients and their families.”

Professor John Wright, director of the ARC, told The Yorkshire Post the new centre would help “translate research into patient impact” and play a transformational role in finding out which technologies are useful for the NHS and can benefit the public health. He said the centre will harness public sector data and use the insights gleaned to put the emphasis on intervention rather than treatment. “Prevention is better than the cure,” added Prof Wright.

The Government has correctly identified that embracing innovation in healthcare can help create high-skilled and well-paid jobs and support the growth of the UK health tech sector. This is why Mr Hancock wants to open up the health service to innovators from business, academia or overseas and make it easier to get good ideas into work in the NHS. The opportunity for Yorkshire and Humber is significant with world-class strengths in health research. Our region has some glaring health inequalities that must be tackled. Our universities and our innovators are producing regular breakthroughs in life sciences. We need to make sure our SMEs get a helping hand into the health economy so the spoils don’t all go to Amazon and co.

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

Chamber welcomes PR chief Suzanne Watson as new president

Nearly 20 years ago, Judith Donovan CBE made history when she became the first female President of Bradford Chamber of Commerce. The cigar-smoking businesswoman became known as one of Yorkshire’s first entrepreneurs after starting her own marketing agency in 1982. She sold JDA for an undisclosed sum to her managers in 2000 and embarked on a successful post-business career in public service.

Almost two decades on, the chamber has appointed its second female president in Suzanne Watson, the founder and managing director of Ilkley-based Approach PR, who succeeds Nick Garthwaite, the managing director of manufacturer Christeyns UK, at the helm of the business organisation, which was founded in 1851.

“Better late than never!” said Judith. “It might have taken me 149 years but it shouldn’t have taken another 19 to get the second female. But with female leaders in virtually every major civic role in Bradford, the city is now setting the pace. The chamber is still one of the best in the country so I know Suzanne will love every minute, as I did, and I wish her all the very best.”

Suzanne founded Approach PR in 2000 after starting her career as a newspaper reporter in North Wales and West Yorkshire. Working for a local paper provides a privileged glimpse into the rich tapestry of life and Suzanne used her experience in journalism to establish a successful public relations and social media agency with clients in the manufacturing, retail, charity, food and drink, hospitality and tourism sectors.

She said: “This is a time of immense change and progression for our city and district and it feels the right time for a small business owner to be taking on the position of President of Bradford Chamber of Commerce. 

“Our district has around 15,500 businesses and of those, 99 per cent are micro to medium sized. Everyday, they, like me, live and breathe the challenges caused by productivity barriers such as transport, connectivity, the skills gap and funding. My own experience puts me in a strong place to be a voice and a representative of our business community. 

“After working alongside Nick, who has done a wonderful job for the last two years, I feel confident that with the support of a great chamber team and the business community behind me, we can do great things for Bradford’s profile, development and economic growth.”

As Suzanne points out, the vast majority of companies are micro to medium in size. Yet their views often struggle to register among the political and business elite in Westminster and the City of London. Let’s not overlook that small businesses employ 16.3m people in the UK and generate a combined £2 trillion in annual turnover. In this respect, Suzanne will provide a valuable perspective as a small business owner.

High-growth companies attract a lot of media interest, especially those that achieve dizzying valuations. As they chase the next billion-dollar business, investors seem to forget that unicorns only exist in the land of make-believe. SMEs provide a reassuring counterbalance to all the hype, steadily generating profits, jobs and tax revenues that together maintain a level of prosperity in communities across the UK.

As Suzanne notes, these businesses rely on good road and rail links, fast and reliable broadband, confident and capable school leavers and access to finance to help meet demand for their goods and services. On the face of it, these aren’t big asks but with the national conversation preoccupied with Brexit, the bread-and-butter investment decisions on transport, connectivity, skills and funding are being delayed. This is where we need the chamber’s voice to be heard loudest and clearest. I’m sure Suzanne will do a sterling job and we look forward to working with her.

On behalf of the Bradford Economic Partnership, I would like to place on record our thanks for the significant contribution made by Nick Garthwaite over the last two years, especially with the creation of Bradford Manufacturing Week, which has encouraged countless young people to consider careers in industry. With role models like Nick, Judith and Suzanne, they won’t be short of inspiration to follow their dreams in business.

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

TV producer praises unique talent and skill in Bradford

For those unfamiliar with The Inbetweeners, the Channel 4 show chronicled the painfully funny and puerile escapades of four adolescent males as they struggled with the coming of age. It ran for three series, produced two hit films and earned its place in telly history as pure gold.

The trials and tribulations of Jay, Will, Simon and Neil have helped to inspire a new British-Asian sitcom set in Bradford and currently in pre-production for Channel 4. The comedy producer Stu Richards of Rockerdale Studios confirmed he is casting for five South Asians from Bradford who are “funny and fresh” for the roles of 18-year-old college students. He is also looking for local people to join the production crew, including make-up artists and prop designers, and is hopeful that Bradford College can supply some of the talent.

Mr Richards told the local paper: “It’s not literally a remake of The Inbetweeners, they’re all slightly older for a start. But it is about the camaraderie between four lifelong friends who are useless in their different ways. So there’ll be a cool handsome one, a hapless one, a conspiratorial one etc. They’re all young lads who are trying to deal with the world and the struggles of becoming a man.”

It’s a timeless theme and I cannot think of anywhere better to bring it up to date for modern Britain. “For me, Bradford is unique,” added Mr Richards. “There’s so much talent and skill in the city and this is a real opportunity to tap into those resources.” I’m told Channel 4 will announce more details soon, including the identity of the Bradfordian writer.

With the Bradford Literature Festival in full swing, the cultural renaissance is gathering pace as the district welcomes distinguished guests from all over the world. These include Tasneem Chopra, the Australia-based international diversity consultant. She told the BBC how she only knew about Bradford through its literature festival. Ms Chopra said: “When I see events like this, I see people who look like a microcosm of the world. I see little children who can look up and see ‘that could be me’. You can only be what you can see.”

That’s so true. We need to make sure that young people from our district are exposed to successful role models during their formative yearsl. This is why initiatives like Bradford Manufacturing Weeks and the Bradford Education Covenant are so important in raising aspirations and showing children there really should be no limit to their ambitions, whatever their background.

This was underlined by Anita Rani, the TV presenter born in Bradford to Indian parents, who returned to her home city to host Channel 4’s diversity festival which took place earlier in June. Speaking to an audience of industry executives, she challenged the dominance of “posh white men” working in TV: “I feel I have to justify why I should present things more than anyone else because I’m an Asian woman, and on top of that I’m blimmin’ northern.” We need more people like Anita blazing trails for others to follow.

Opportunities are growing in the cultural industries. Arts Council England has just announced National Lottery funding worth £1.5m for a group of Bradford organisations to create a Producing Hub in the district. This will help develop the local performing arts sector and talent and increase the capacity to produce work.

Evie Manning, director of arts organisation Common Wealth, said: “Bradford is a city that over the years, despite limited formal arts infrastructure, has created so much brilliant work in a very grassroots way. The Producing Hub will encourage artists at all stages in their careers to experiment, express themselves and help build a narrative of Bradford that is proud of what makes us unique – as a city that has always been radical and is a home to people with lots of experience and lots of stories to tell.”

To keep up to date with some of those stories this summer, look out for the Sparkling Bradford campaign. This is backed by Visit Bradford, Broadway shopping centre, Bradford Council, Bradford BID and Bradford Economic Partnership. All the organisations with a stake in the future of our district have joined forces to deliver a life-enhancing package of things to do, many of which are free of charge. Pure gold.

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