The time is right for Bradford to be UK City of Culture

By David Baldwin

Today will be a tale of two cities: one the capital of our great nation and seat of decision-making powers and the other the up-and-coming place of youth, potential and opportunity.

I am referring to London and Bradford and the events being held in both destinations today to officially launch our bid to be the UK City of Culture in 2025.

We will be in London tonight to hammer the message home that we are the leading contender in the competition to host this prestigious title and the best place to capture all the benefits it can bring. But the day begins in Bradford at the Kala Sangam arts hub with a coming together for the growing coalition of cultural and community groups we need to make our bid successful.

We will also be announcing the members of the steering group which as chairman of the Bradford Economic Partnership I am delighted to be joining.

The Southbank Centre will be staging our London event, just across the Thames from Whitehall and the Department for Digital Culture Media and Sport, which will announce the winning entry at the end of 2021.

We have recruited a line-up of leading figures from the arts and cultural industries to bang the drum for Bradford, including keynote speaker Sir Peter Bazalgette, chairman of ITV, Lynette Huntley, chief of staff at Channel 4, and Madani Younis, creative director at our host venue.

Madani is one of the brightest stars in the arts world, winning plaudits for his energy, vision, innovation and experimentation in the course of his career, which started in Bradford at the Asian Theatre School and Freedom Studios.

He told us: “Bradford reminds me of what makes our country great and this bid is an opportunity to shout about how great our city is with new friends.”

We will also be hearing from Kersten England, chief executive of Bradford Council, Tom Bloxham, the chairman of regeneration pioneer Urban Splash, and Mary Dowson, interim chair of our City of Culture board and director of local radio station Bradford Community Broadcasting.

The BBC journalist Sabbiyah Pervez will be compere.

Viewers will know her from the corporation’s We Are Bradford storytelling project which pioneered a new approach to news gathering and gave a voice to our residents on the national stage.

Supporters include promising new talents such as Suman Hanif whose filmmaking is attracting international attention and is producing her first feature film, Amara and Family, in Bradford.

She sees the city as a wonderful backdrop for telling globally relevant stories about the universal themes of mental health, identity, immigration and female empowerment.

We can also count a number of allies in the cultural establishment such as Roger Mosey, the former head of BBC television news and Master of Selwyn College at the University of Cambridge.

He said: “I’ve lived and worked in various cities in the UK and I am completely convinced that the atmosphere and the culture of Bradford are unique.

“It’s about the mix of heritage and youth: a city that has experienced tough times but also has a sense of humour and a good heart. It’s still a place I think of as home, and I wish the city the best of luck in getting the recognition it deserves.”

Our time is coming. We believe major investment in jobs and regeneration will result from Bradford’s bid.

It will add further impetus to our economic growth strategy.

This aims to add £4bn to the district economy, generate 20,000 new jobs and improve the skills of nearly 50,000 residents by 2030.

We are making strong progress against our targets. We are staging inspirational events, nurturing young talent, winning arts investment and welcoming new names to the district and wider city region such as professional services giant PwC and national broadcaster Channel 4.The social and economic regeneration is gathering pace in Bradford.

The City of Culture 2025 can be the catalyst to take this to the next stage.

Two, one day events as north and south unite to showcase Bradford’s cultural and economic offering

Two events showcasing Bradford’s cultural might and economic growth will be hosted and attended by leading broadcast personalities this week, putting the spotlight on the city and its district.

Thursday 26 September sees the unprecedented, same-day north and south celebrations of Bradford’s economic growth alongside the formal announcement of its bid to be City of Culture 2025 as leaders from all sectors unite to position Bradford as a place to live, invest, visit and work.

Cultural partners and community supporters will join civic and business leaders at Kala Sangam at 8.30am to see the premier of a two-minute video which puts the spotlight on Bradford’s cultural heart. Mary Dowson, founder of Bradford Community Broadcasting (BCB) and chair of the steering group which will lead the City of Culture bid, will welcome invited guests and discuss the impact on Hull and Coventry of both running for and securing the City of Culture title.*

At 5.30pm at the Southbank Centre in London, the “Bradford Champions Modern British Culture” event will be opened by Bradford Economic Partnership chairman Dave Baldwin who will look at progress 18-months on from the launch of the 12-year Bradford Economic Strategy, reflecting on success in business, employment, closing the skills gap and announcing to national and regional guests, the district’s bid to be City of Culture 2025.

Hosted by BBC journalist Sabbiyah Pervez, the two-hour event will include speeches from Sir Peter Bazalgette, non-executive chair at ITV and chair of online retailer, LoveCrafts who recently led an independent review into the UK’s creative industries on behalf of the government, Madani Younis, a former Bradfordian and founder of the city’s Freedom Studios and now creative director at the Southbank Centre and Lynette Huntley, Channel 4 Chief of Staff.

Both events are heralded as instrumental in communicating Bradford’s confidence, its results and its diverse business, cultural and tourism offering to attract further investment into the city and wider district.

David Baldwin, chair of the Bradford Economic Partnership which launched in 2018, setting out a strategy to add £4bn to the district’s economy, generate 20,000 new jobs and improve the skills of nearly 50,000 residents by 2030, said: “Thursday represents two crucial moments in our national repositioning of Bradford. Community representatives, our business and civic leaders and our supporters are gathering at home and in London to showcase and share exactly what today’s Bradford is and who tomorrow’s Bradford will be.

“Bradford is experiencing a resurgence of confidence which is reflected in our cultural, tourism and business offerings and seen in the success of the figures I’ll be announcing on Thursday.

“We have an energy, a spirit, a charm and an offering like no other city in the UK. We’re attracting national brands and leading financial, retail and professional service businesses to our city. We’re chosen by more entrepreneurs than anywhere else in the country as the place to start a business and we’re leading the drive to reinvent and reposition manufacturing – the very lifeblood of the UK economy – to the next generation of employees.

“This week Bradford starts its bid to become the UK’s City of Culture and, through our ambitious economic strategy we will continue our journey as one of the pioneer cities in the UK through job creation, skills development, investment and cultural partnerships.  To a national audience on Thursday we will demonstrate how Bradford is the epitome of pride, ambition, confidence and potential and we will be calling for some of the country’s most influential thought leaders and investors to join us, visit us, invest in us and shape their future with us.”

Cllr Susan Hinchcliffe, leader of Bradford Council who will be speaking at both events, added: “Bradford is the youngest city in the UK which gives us real creative energy.  But we also have a centuries-old cultural heritage which makes us stand out from the crowd. We will be talking to audiences at home and in the capital on Thursday to promote the Bradford bid to build on the growing confidence the district has, as we start this next exciting chapter of Bradford’s cultural and economic growth.”

Workforce plan has perfectly clear vision

By Dave Baldwin

If you want people to buy into your vision, it’s got to be easy to understand. This one is perfectly clear: to equip Bradford people with the skills that employers need; to improve the quality of jobs in the district and to make sure good jobs and careers are available to all communities.

Titled People, Skills and Prosperity, Bradford District’s Workforce Development Plan brings together the council, colleges, schools, employers and training providers to work more collaboratively. If you want to achieve big hairy audacious goals in life, you’ve got to have everyone’s noses pointing in the same direction.

We have one ambition: to be the UK’s fastest growing economy over the coming decade, increasing the value of our economy by £4 billion and getting 20,000 more people into work as outlined in our growth strategy. Some might say that’s pretty audacious, but it’s eminently doable and we’re making strong progress.

Our plan has two principles: inclusiveness and sustainability. That means ensuring everyone can contribute to and benefit from growth and ensuring growth protects and enhances our natural environment. Quite simply, the future generations won’t forgive us if we don’t.

We have three strategic assets: people, business and place. Our young and diverse population provides Bradford with a unique advantage. Our innovative and productive businesses give the platform for growth. Our diverse place and communities provide a range of live and work opportunities. You can’t argue with any of those strengths.

Three themes run through the plan: building skills employers seek, improving job quality and connecting our communities to good jobs and careers. As part of these, we are expanding sector-based workforce development, ensuring people make informed decisions about their future careers, maximising the economic power and influence of our anchor institutions, developing a one-stop shop to support business talent requirements, supporting low-skilled jobseekers into work and upwards, and developing an inclusive community learning plan.

Andrew Laver, managing director of timber merchant Arnold Laver and chairman of Bradford’s Industrial Centres of Excellence (ICE) programme, said: “Strong businesses drive economic growth, and for businesses to thrive and prosper, we need a skilled workforce. Developing the skills of people in the district, and importantly making sure that young people in schools gain the qualification and experience they need to drive success, is an essential part of our shared success.”

Cllr Imran Khan, Portfolio Holder for Education, Employment and Skills and Deputy Leader of the Council, added: “The people of Bradford are key to the success of our district. A successful economy in Bradford is dependent on the skills of everyone who lives and works here. This plan will help us improve skills at every level, will support our local businesses and provide a better quality of life for our residents.

“The plan has been developed following extensive consultation with partners and is about enhancing and building on existing successes. It calls on everyone – business, education, families and individuals – to work together to create a skills system that works for everyone.”

We don’t have a lot of extra money to deliver this plan. We need to be as creative and resourceful as possible in repurposing and better coordinating existing funding and working with businesses to stimulate private sector investment. We also need central Government to help pay for the up-skilling of our workforce. The “seismic shift” in funding and powers called for by the Convention of the North wouldn’t go amiss.

Above all, we need everyone to carry on working together. We are the Bradford Economic Partnership. The clue is in the name: it’s a partnership, a team effort. As Cllr Khan said, everyone who lives, works and runs business in the district has a role to play in improving skills at all levels from entry through to PhD.

Bradford Council approved the plan this month. At the meeting, a headteacher spoke about the life-changing impact of programmes like these. Zoe Mawson, of Beckfoot Heaton Primary School, said: “Three years ago we weren’t giving a good education to our children. One of the biggest challenges was that children didn’t have high expectations of themselves or their families. They didn’t see how their futures could be different. We wanted children to believe they could have the future they wanted.”

The school now welcomes a range of visitors from different backgrounds, from apprentices to members of the Royal Household, to talk about their careers. “What it’s done is let them know the world is their oyster,” said Ms Mawson. Our plan is the sword to open it, to paraphrase Shakespeare.

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