Expert manufacturing with a social conscience – Bradford at its best

By Dave Baldwin

Spread Love Not Germs. In an era of soundbites, that’s a good one. The message is adorned across a lockdown-inspired antibacterial cleanser spray made in Bradford. Astonish, the cleaning products manufacturer, is producing 250,000 of the rainbow-coloured bottles for sale across the UK, with all proceeds going to NHS Charities Together. It’s a fine cause and shows Bradford at its best: expert manufacturing with a social conscience.

The second generation family-owned company is playing an important role in helping Britain through the Covid crisis. As well as producing millions of cleaning products every week to help prevent transmission of the virus, Astonish has also been supporting our heroic health and care staff.

Howard Moss, managing director, said: “Since the start of this pandemic we have been doing what we can to help frontline workers. We started by donating Astonish Essential Packs to Bradford Royal Infirmary and St James’s Hospital in Leeds. But we didn’t just want to stop there, we wanted to do more.”

Hence the new product, designed by customer Lauren Lynch and available nationwide at retailers including Asda, Wilko, B&M, Savers and The Range. Buy a bottle if you can and back a brilliant cause: NHS Charities Together is helping NHS staff and volunteers caring for Covid patients. Spread Love Not Germs – it’s an important message for our times.

Founded by Alan Moss in 1969, Astonish has built up a loyal customer base for its pioneering use of cruelty-free ingredients in household cleaning products. It is reckoned to be the only UK-made brand approved by Cruelty Free International, The Vegan Society and The Vegetarian Society. It clearly pays to be “squeaky clean”: sales are forecast to hit £27m this year.

The company is one of 1,200 manufacturers based in the Bradford district. We are lucky to be blessed such with a strong industrial base, a legacy from our heritage as the capital of the world’s wool trade. It is one of the foundations of our £10bn economy and will be a driving force in creating new employment and tax revenues as Britain recovers from the shock of the lockdown.

The sector is hungry for talent: a quick glance at one of the world’s biggest job websites reveals 45-plus pages of new manufacturing roles in Bradford. This is precisely why Bradford Manufacturing Weeks is so important and is rightly going ahead this year – from October 5-16 –  with support from sponsors Barclays, E3 Recruitment, Naylor Wintersgill, Gordons, Bradford Council and the West and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce.

Nick Garthwaite, chair of the chamber and managing director of Bradford-based manufacturer Christeyns, said: “Following online meetings with teachers across the district and correspondence with manufacturers, we know there is appetite for Bradford Manufacturing Weeks 2020. Schools in particular have expressed a real desire to give students the opportunity to once again learn more about our wonderful world of manufacturing.

“While the fortnight will run outside our normal methods of delivery with no physical meetings, networking or factory visits, we believe we can still make an engaging, educational and informative experience of the district’s young people.”

Activities include a design competition with £500 prize to create a sanitation station for students, virtual tours of local manufacturing facilities, question and answer sessions with local manufacturers, online Barclays Life Skills sessions covering CV writing and interview guidance and a panel debate with local apprentices talking about their roles.

Hopefully the events will dispel the notion that manufacturing is just for young men. There are as many opportunities for young women: just ask rising stars like Alex Johnson, an engineering apprenticeship at aerospace supplier Produmax.

Mr Garthwaite added: “Despite the challenges of this year, it is so important that we stimulate our young people. They have had a tough time recently with not being at school and there is some talk of this being ‘the Covid-19 lost generation’ with learning disrupted, exams untaken and work experiences not had.

“I believe that Bradford Manufacturing Weeks 2020 will support and encourage our district’s young people to see the future opportunities within Bradford manufacturers and in turn ensure our sector is robust and has longevity with a pipeline of talented young people for generations to come.”

To find out more, please visit the Bradford Manufacturing Weeks website and see Bradford at its best: expert manufacturing with a social conscience.

Inspirational companies that have helped keep Bradford District going

Bradford City Park

By Dave Baldwin

Whether you’re partial to a pint of Landlord or not, the news that Timothy Taylor is brewing again will provide some cheer that Bradford, and Britain, is getting back to business. It’s what we do best and, after the peak of the pandemic, it’s a welcome relief that companies are finding ways to safely resume operations. I’ll raise a glass to that.

The historic Keighley company halted production of its famous cask ale when lockdown took effect on March 23. But weekly bottled sales more than doubled during the period, according to the family-owned brewery, as beer lovers embraced the new normal. (ONS said UK off-licences saw a 31 per cent rise in volumes in a month.)

Taylor’s thanked its bottling partner Hall & Woodhouse for pulling out the stops to help meet demand. It’s a reminder of the importance of supply chains in helping our economy rebuild after this crisis. Many of our businesses are part of international systems and their global customers can take confidence in the response of Bradford companies like Luxury Fabrics.

Based at Stanley Mills, the textiles manufacturer managed to safely weave its worsted and woollen cloth throughout the lockdown and has continued to dispatch orders. It is starting to see the green shoots of recovery as new enquiries come in from clients in Asia and Europe. “We are fortunate to have a loyal customer base and look forward to working with them as soon as possible,” the company told Drapers.

Morrisons has won praise for its efforts to support its UK supply chain. The Bradford-based grocer has extended its immediate payment policy to smaller suppliers for a further three months. The policy covers around 3,000 small suppliers, including 1,750 farmers. The large supermarket groups have previously faced criticism for their treatment of suppliers so this is a welcome move.

David Potts, chief executive, said: “Small foodmakers and farmers have helped us to play our full part in feeding the nation. They have told us they face continued financial pressure and we want to be there for them during this challenging period.” Morrisons introduced the measures in March. They run until September.

Bradford companies are helping to provide safe environments for people to return to work as the lockdown lifts. Mansfield Pollard, a designer and manufacturer of air management systems, is launching a range of air sterilisation units which kill airborne bacteria and viruses to help support the economic recovery of the UK. 

Lou Frankland, managing director, said: “This technology has been proven to destroy bacteria and viruses, including coronaviruses, bringing huge benefits for the healthcare sector, which is initially our primary focus.”

She added: “But because of its flexibility and mobility, the UV air sterilisation units have the potential to be introduced within a range of working, educational and leisure environments. With this in mind, we are ready to quickly and safely upscale our production to satisfy the demand we expect to see.”

It’s inspiring to see a new wave of entrepreneurs emerging from this crisis. Bradford teenager Harvey Ryder, 18, is using a 3D printer bought as a birthday present to produce vital personal protective equipment for local hospitals, GP practices, pharmacies and care homes. The former Hanson Academy student and his friends have produced 1,500 visors to date.

Sandy Needham, chief executive of Bradford Chamber of Commerce, said: “Harvey is a wonderful example of a new generation of designers, engineers and manufacturers who embrace today’s digital technology to innovate, produce and supply resources which are vital to the functionality of our region and the country.”

The crisis might be keeping us physically distant, but it is bringing us closer together in other ways. Independent retailers and makers have come together to sell their wares at the virtual Bradford Street Market, a growing Facebook group conceived by Catherine Simes, author of the blog You Can Take the Girl Out of Bradford.

She said: “We wanted to create an online indie quarter to promote the best of Bradford’s independent businesses and an online community-marketplace for them to benefit from a shared online presence and customer base. I really hope that support will continue after the lockdown and that people will appreciate the value of keeping money in the local economy.”

Taken together, you can see that small, medium and large companies are doing their best to support Bradford and Britain as we come out of this crisis. I will leave the last word to Hafsah Syeed, the 20-year-old entrepreneur behind DU’AAA Ltd, which designs and makes affordable modest wear. Speaking about the Bradford business community, she said: “You realise how lucky you are when you’re in Bradford. I love they’ve all got that drive and motivation. They’re not letting anything stop them.”

Bradford Institute for Health Research

By Dave Baldwin

Fifteen years ago, Bradford NHS had just three researchers. Today, it has more than 200 based at the world-beating Bradford Institute for Health Research and working to improve the lives of people across the district. Bradford’s growing reputation for expertise in health research has helped win multi-million pound funding for a new centre for cutting-edge trials, including potential treatments for coronavirus.

The Bradford Patient Recruitment Centre, the only one to be set up in Yorkshire, will enable local patients to take part in late-phase clinical research funded by the life sciences industry and access new drugs for various chronic conditions before they become widely available within the NHS. The Bradford Institute for Health Research, founded in 2007 by the Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, is running the new centre.

Professor John Wright, director of research at the institute, said the funding announcement was the “culmination of a remarkable journey” in Bradford, which is already home to one of the largest research studies in the world, tracking the lives of 30,000 people born in the district between 2007 and 2010 to better understand the influences on health and wellbeing in families. Prof Wright said the Born in Bradford project will provide important biomedical evidence to the new centre.

“The new facility will be one of the top five centres for clinical trials in the UK,” he told The Yorkshire Post. “It will enable enduring relationships with leading global bioscience companies and ensure inward investment and support economic growth, as well as more importantly allow local patients to access the most cutting-edge drugs.”

Bradford is becoming known as the ‘City of Research’, according to Dr Dinesh Saralya, a consultant respiratory physician and the director of the new centre. Bradford emerged from a shortlist of 35 trusts to win a share of £7m public funding for the project. The money was made available as part of the Government’s strategy to strengthen the UK’s life sciences industry through large-scale trials and is a powerful vote of confidence in Bradford’s progress as a nationally renowned research centre.

Mel Pickup, chief executive of the NHS foundation trust, said: “In these most difficult of times, the race to create effective treatments for Covid-19 is of critical national importance. I am delighted that Bradford Teaching Hospitals will be making a significant contribution to that and that the people of Bradford and the wider region will have the opportunity to be a part of it.”

There are many fine public and private sector endeavours taking place across Bradford during this pandemic. I will be sharing some of these stories over the coming months to remind readers that we are making progress. One particular initiative from the University of Bradford stood out for me this week. It comes from the Centre for Applied Dementia Studies and gives a voice to people living with the syndrome during the lockdown.

The centre has been publishing first-person perspectives of sufferers and their carers in this period of enforced social isolation. The moving accounts have been viewed more than 2,500 times in one month alone. “In times of crisis, people seek personal connections,” said Dr Ana Barbosa, a dementia expert at the university.

For the person writing the blog, it helps them express themselves, connect with others, reduce feelings of isolation and improve wellbeing. For the person reading the blog, it increases knowledge and awareness of dementia and encourages them to identify with the writer. “It helps people to feel they are not alone,” added Dr Barbosa.

The centre is world renowned for its pioneering work in developing the person-centred and mapping approach to dementia care, led by the late Professor Thomas Kitwood and now widely used across the UK. Its latest work highlighting the human stories of the lockdown is to be applauded, offering hope and comfort to sufferers and their families.

For everybody, staying in touch is so important. Sharing positive and inspiring news keeps our spirits up. Over on social media, we urge Bradford-based businesses to spread the word about the good things happening in our district, using the hashtag #TogetherBradfordCan. Regular readers will recall one of my favourite sayings in business: if we can get everyone’s noses pointing the same direction, we can achieve anything. Who knows… we might even find a cure for Covid-19.

• Dave Baldwin is chairman of Bradford Economic Partnership