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

TV doctor wants children to think big in Bradford

By Dave Baldwin

With his cheerful style and approachable manner, Dr Amir Khan is helping to change audience perceptions of medicine through his starring role in the recent TV show GPs Behind Closed Doors. The Bradford family doctor is also a lively and positive presence on social media.

In a recent post, Dr Khan relayed the following story: “Saw a young boy today who said he wanted to be a doctor but said people from ‘round here’ don’t get to be doctors. I told him: I grew up round the corner from here. Dad was a bus driver, Mum started as a cleaner and seamstress. If I can do it, so can you – just work hard.”

The best thing about social media is the ability to share inspiring messages such as these. In response, Kersten England, the chief executive of Bradford Council, said: “Couldn’t agree more. In Bradford, we believe people can start anywhere and go everywhere. We want all our children to have dreams and ambition and support to achieve them. Thank you for playing your part. It takes a whole village to raise a child.”

It certainly does. At the Bradford Economic Partnership, we are working hard to grow our district economy, generate new employment opportunities and improve the skills of residents. We have made some great progress to date by creating thousands of new jobs and increasing wages but some big challenges remain, especially in health and wellbeing.

Bradford is the sixth largest city in the UK with a multi-ethnic population of more than 500,000 people. We know that parts of the district have considerable levels of deprivation and some of the highest rates of childhood illness in the UK. For the young boy in Dr Khan’s story to succeed, he needs to have a healthy start in life.

This is why the Born in Bradford project is so important. It is working to unravel the reasons for ill health and bring new scientific discovery to the world. It is also providing a catalyst for communities to work with the NHS and local authority to improve child health and wellbeing. The project is following the progress of 30,000 Bradford families to find out what influences the health and wellbeing.

The discoveries are potentially scalable. The Glasses for Classes programme is just one example of impact: pupils aged four to five in 100 primary schools across England are now taking part in a research trial to improve maths and reading skills through the provision of eyewear. It is estimated that 2,500 children in Bradford need glasses but aren’t wearing them, which is affecting their educational attainment.

Born in Bradford is one of the largest research studies in the world and is attracting international attention as well as investment (£30m and counting to date). Sir Jeremy Farrar, director of the £26bn research charity Wellcome Trust, will be visiting the district later this month to launch the Born in Bradford scientific festival. Taking place at Salts Mill in Saltaire on September 27, the festival will share new findings about how society, lifestyles, genes and the environment shape our lives.

The health and social care sector offers many employment opportunities in our district. The new Industrial Centre of Excellence for Health and Social Care is giving 14-19 year-olds a taste of different vocations in the sector and the vast potential for fulfilling and rewarding careers. Like many of the best things happening in Bradford, it is the result of partnership working; in this case between stakeholders including Bradford Council, local NHS trusts, social care providers, schools, colleges and the University of Bradford.

Bradford isn’t alone in facing big health and social care challenges. To entrepreneurs and innovators, these challenges present opportunities. The Digital Health Enterprise Zone at the university is linking academic research with business growth and supporting startups, SMEs and scale-ups in emerging fields such as digital health, data analytics and technology-enabled care. Innovations that are discovered and developed here can be rolled out across the world.

By working together, we will help reduce health inequalities, create new business and employment opportunities and give everyone the chance to succeed in life, like the young boy at Dr Khan’s practice who dreamed of being a doctor but thought it wasn’t for him. * Dave Baldwin is chairman of Bradford Economic Partnership and chief executive of Burnley Football Club

Challenger bank chooses Bradford for new opening

By Dave Baldwin

Metro Bank is bringing its “revolution in British banking” to Bradford. The challenger bank said its new outpost will combine face-to-face banking with state-of-the-art technology, providing residents and businesses with a customer-focused and convenient banking experience. It is one of two Metro openings planned for Yorkshire, the other being in Sheffield. Metro refers to them as stores, rather than branches, emphasising perhaps a point of difference on the retail approach.

The lender launched in 2010 and has taken its time to expand beyond London. Earlier this year, it received a helping hand from Banking Competition Remedies, the fund set up by RBS to increase competition in business banking as a condition of its taxpayer bailout during the financial crisis. Metro said the £120m award would bring much-needed competition to the underserved SME hotspots in the North while investing in digital capabilities and creating new jobs.

Its investment research into Bradford will have revealed a thriving and diverse economy worth £10.1bn with fertile conditions for growth: the best business rate relief, value for money in commercial space rent, job vacancies and road infrastructure (all helpfully identified by Barclays in naming us the best city in Britain to start a business). The district is home to 18,000 VAT and PAYE-registered companies. More than 4,000 new start-ups formed last year. Each and every one of these businesses needs modern and responsive financial services to support its ambitions, which their current lenders may or may not be providing.

SME banking needs are changing fast, which is why the Government and regulators are keen to encourage more competition in the financial services sector. The big five banks – Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds, RBS and Santander – have traditionally dominated the UK market but challengers like Metro, Starling and Tide are providing an alternative for the new generation of business owners who expect innovation in their financial services. 

Metro’s Bradford store will be at the former Five Guys restaurant – one online wag commented you needed finance to buy a burger there – next to the Broadway shopping centre. Fast food will make way for fast banking with customers able to visit without appointment and open personal or business accounts on the spot and leave with debt card in hand along with internet and mobile banking set up.

Craig Donaldson, chief executive officer at Metro Bank, said: “Bringing the banking revolution to Yorkshire is a real milestone for Metro Bank. We’re thrilled to be arriving in these two cities next year.”

Councillor Susan Hinchcliffe, leader of Bradford council, added: “It’s great to see Metro Bank choose Bradford as one of its first locations in the region. The city is home to so many successful SMEs and Metro Bank have obviously recognised this with their new investment.”

The Bradford and Sheffield stores will create around 50 new jobs. Bradford has a strong financial and professional services sector with nearly 9,500 people employed in banking, insurance, fund management, accountancy, management consultancy and legal services, according to lobby group TheCityUK. That’s more than six per cent of the total workforce. We are home to major financial institutions including Provident Financial, Yorkshire Building Society and UK Asset Resolution and specialists such as Ecology Building Society, Al Rayan Bank and Atrium Financial. PwC, the global professional services giant, opened an assurance centre in the city earlier this year to tap into our talent pool.

Bradford is steeped in financial services with expertise dating back to its prominent role in the Industrial Revolution. Early lenders such as Bradford Old Bank, founded by woolstaplers in 1803, and Bradford Commercial Joint Stock Banking Co, founded with capital of £1.5m in 1833, helped lay the foundations for the banking industry as we recognise it today and became constituents of Barclays and RBS.

Metro will join a strong and growing sector of financial and professional services companies invested in Bradford. Competition is healthy for any market place and our SMEs should benefit from the introduction of new products and services tailored around their changing needs. Metro’s eye-catching blue, red and white branding will also be a welcome addition to the city centre. Just don’t call it a branch.

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

Bradford’s home to some of most inspiring architecture in Britain

By Dave Baldwin

Back in the days when money was no object, our Victorian forebears built a city that befitted its status as the world capital of the wool trade. Walk around Bradford today and everywhere you look there are abundant reminders of this proud and illustrious past. We have a wealth of heritage buildings. Architectural commentators call it “good bone structure”. This is a handsome legacy and it offers enormous potential for growth in the future.

Bradford has one of the most inspiring built environments in Britain. We have seized this opportunity and our distinctive offer is one of four central themes in our 2018-2030 economic growth strategy. We are using these unique assets to create compelling investment propositions and an environment for growth. To this end, Bradford Council wants to increase the supply of land for business use and is calling on agents, landowners and developers to put forward sites that might be suitable for future employment.

There are deals to be done. The council has identified the need to create 60 hectares of land suitable for business use to help fulfil our growth strategy. This would include offices, research and development facilities and general industrial use such as manufacturing and production. Our businesses need room to grow. Research shows there is particularly strong demand for good quality employment space in four hotspots across the district: east and north Keighley, Wharfedale and north, north east and south east Bradford.

The time is coming for Bradford and our diverse, modern and sustainable economy. Two decades into the 21st century, we have a young and growing labour force. SMEs are the lifeblood of our economy, the third largest in Yorkshire. We are also the location for a number of big players with well-known brands operating on a global scale. Bradford is home to many successful creative, cultural and tourism-based enterprises. The call for employment sites will strengthen this promising position.

Councillor Alex Ross-Shaw, Bradford Council’s executive member for regeneration, planning and transport, said: “This is a vital piece of work for us, so that we can identify land for future economic growth and ensure we can deliver the 1,600 jobs per annum the district needs. We’re keen to work with landowners and developers to map out potential sites and be clear about where development could take place in future.”

Marianne McCallum, chair of Bradford Chamber of Commerce Property Forum, said: “It’s clear that, in order for Bradford’s business community to fulfil its potential and play a full part in our economic growth, that more good quality sites are needed. We urge agents, landowners and any others who can play a part, to come forward with potential land sites that can be considered for future development. Bradford is on an upward trajectory and landowners can support that by making sites available now.”

Too right Bradford is on its way up. Transactions will follow as investors wake up to this fact. Interested parties must submit sites for consideration by September 24 when consultation closes on the next stage of the council’s core strategy. All sites put forward will be assessed for suitability, availability and deliverability and the usual planning rules and permissions will apply.

Bradford is no longer the world capital of the wool trade. But the investments in infrastructure made by our forebears stand us in good stead today. We have an abundance of buildings of architectural and historical interest. Many date back to the time of the Industrial Revolution when Bradford was a global pioneer. Regenerated, revitalised and reinvigorated for the coming generations of business and civic entrepreneurs, they will set the stage for our future success.

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

Hosting UK City of Culture 2025 would be brilliant for Bradford

By Dave Baldwin

Put simply, hosting the UK City of Culture in 2025 would be brilliant for Bradford. Our district is undergoing substantial regeneration. Business and civic leaders are working together for the greater good and making strong progress with our ambitious economic growth strategy. People are seeing Bradford in a different way.

Take Hull as an example. As UK City of Culture in 2017, the East Yorkshire port city staged more than 2,800 events, cultural activities, installations and exhibitions, winning a total audience of 5.3m people. Preliminary evaluation shows the East Yorkshire city generated £300m in tourism revenues and won nearly £220m in inward investment.

The feel-good factor can never be underestimated. Three in four Hull residents said they felt proud to live in the city. One in four local businesses added new staff and one in five extended opening hours. Hull attracted more than 20,000 items of national media coverage. The University of Hull, which carried out the evaluation, said the experience “left audiences with an overwhelmingly positive impression of the city”.

Bradford is twice the size of Hull (which has generously voiced its support for our bid). Imagine the impact that hosting the UK City of Culture could have on our district. We certainly have a strong case to make. We are home to the National Science and Media Museum. Our cultural heritage includes the Brontës, JB Priestley and David Hockney and we recently celebrated the 10th anniversary of being named the first UNESCO City of Film.

Bradford is brimming with new talent. Home-grown arts organisations including England’s largest learning disability theatre company, Mind the Gap, Bradford Literature Festival, female-led theatre collective Common Wealth, intercultural arts hub Kala Sangam, Bradford Community Broadcasting and an emerging new generation of cultural voices successfully engaging new audiences. This fact was not lost on Channel 4 which cited the city’s young, diverse and digitally-savvy communities as one of the reasons for moving its national HQ to West Yorkshire.

We have the infrastructure to stage an ambitious programme of international events. The city is home to some exceptional large-scale venues, notably the Grade II-listed St George’s Hall which recently underwent a £9.5m restoration project, and Bradford Live, the former 1930s Odeon which will reopen in 2020-21 as a world-class entertainment facility.

Our arts institutions are winning headlines for innovative and influential work. Theatre in the Mill, which has just been named as one of two national pilots for an Arts Council talent programme, is regarded as one of the most exciting companies in the North of England. Throw in Bradford’s wealth of public spaces, parks and heritage buildings and we can offer a truly spectacular canvas for events in 2025.

Reaction to Bradford’s intention to bid has been very encouraging. Jake Berry, Minister for the Northern Powerhouse, tweeted: “I’m thrilled to see that @Bradford2025 has thrown their hat into the ring for UK City of Culture. It’s a fantastic opportunity to shine a spotlight on the cultural heritage and bright future of #NorthernPowerhouse cities.”

Sabbiyah Pervez, the BBC journalist behind the We Are Bradford storytelling project, said: “Bradford is a vibrant, culturally diverse and young city with incredible potential. The talent here is inexhaustible so much so that you will find people creating opportunities for themselves in every corner despite their limited resources; it is for this reason Bradford was named best place in the UK to start a business.

“It’s a city of pioneers past and present, with a rich history of migration and social activism. This makes it a unique contender in this bid to become Capital of Culture.”

Amir Hussain, the founder of Yeme Architects, said: “The city’s rich architectural heritage profoundly reflects an illustrious past and sets the tone of aspiration. A ‘ring of culture’ surrounding the city has naturally evolved through a vibrant, young population that seeks to manifest its presence in the city.

“We believe the bid process and winning the title will vastly enhance this activity and will serve to create a more inclusive city as the inherent broad diversity can be better celebrated.”

Mary Dowson, director of BCB Radio and interim bid chair, said: “Our UK City of Culture bid presents a brilliant opportunity for us to showcase not only the incredible home-grown talent we have here in Bradford, but to create a legacy which improves opportunities for local people and promotes the city as a fantastic place to live, work and enjoy.

“Over the next few months we’ll be working hard to develop new partnerships and build a strong programme for the bid to include local, national and international events. We’re positive we can deliver a successful and spectacular year of culture in 2025, now we want the city to get behind us too.”

Final bids will be submitted in 2021 and the Government will anoint the winner later that year. It would be brilliant for Bradford.

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

Bradford’s starring role in Cricket World Cup success

By Dave Baldwin

A week or so after England’s miraculous Cricket World Cup victory, the Yorkshire-born spin bowler Adil Rashid was visiting his local mosque in Bradford. There he found cricket fans overjoyed at the success of their home-grown hero. After posing for selfies with young supporters at Masjid Umar, the 31-year-old told the BBC: “They’re seeing someone from this area who has made something for themselves and achieved something massive. There is hope there for them. He has done it and so can we. If I can be an inspiration to the youngsters – or anyone for that matter – then I have done my job.”

This is an important message. For a young person of South Asian heritage in Bradford, where social mobility can be a challenge, having a role model like Adil Rashid can be a powerful motivating force.

There is another important message to be found in England’s cricketing success: the contribution made by diversity. Mr Rashid said: “For us as a team, being so diverse – with myself, Moeen Ali, Eoin Morgan, Jofra Archer, Ben Stokes – it shows how we can come together and unite and play under the England banner. Unity can achieve so many things. We want to give the message that regardless of race, religion or colour, we have to respect everyone and be 100 per cent committed to what you want to do.”

Solid sentiments from Mr Rashid, who made history in 2006 when he became the first Yorkshireman of Pakistani heritage to represent Yorkshire County Cricket Club. He went on to launch the Adil Rashid Cricket Academy with his brother Amar in Bradford in 2012 to prepare and nurture future cricket stars, particularly those from disadvantaged communities.

Inspiration is one thing, infrastructure is another. It can be difficult to realise your ambitions if you don’t have access to good facilities, especially in urban areas. In this respect, the ongoing redevelopment of Bradford Park Avenue cricket ground is encouraging news. Established in 1880, the site was considered one of the great spiritual homes of cricket, hosting 306 first-class matches up until 1996 and regularly attracting crowds of 25,000 fans. It officially reopened in 2017 following a multi-million pound investment with eight new artificial practice wickets and a community pavilion.

A spokesman for YCCC told us: “We are optimistic that with new funding in 2020, we will be able to look at the next phases of the regeneration of Park Avenue. This will include a new pavilion and urban cricket centre. We continue to work in conjunction with the England and Wales Cricket Board, Government and Bradford Council to continue the regeneration of the famous old cricket ground. The ground continues to be used more and more by girls and boys, men and women from within the local community. We are very optimistic about its long-term future.”

Cricket is a great leveller. Lord Kamlesh Patel of Bradford, senior independent director at the ECB and a long-standing champion of our district, is trying to increase the number of British Asians getting into the game through the South Asian action plan he launched a year ago. The public health pioneer grew up playing cricket in the streets and on the pitches of Bradford in 1960s and credits the game for giving him the confidence, connections and opportunities to meet people outside his community and develop lifelong friendships.

The ECB’s plan aims to engage more effectively with South Asian communities to draw more players, fans and volunteers into every level of the game. It covers recreational cricket, talent development and retention, attendance, administration and culture and facilities and is targeting 10 core cities, including Bradford. There is a sound business case for the plan: research shows South Asian communities contribute 18 per cent of the cricketing economy.

We know sport has huge economic benefits. According to Sport England, it generates in excess of £20bn in GVA every year and supports more than 400,000 full-time jobs. There are countless wider benefits for society, not least the happiness and wellbeing of those taking part, improved health and education, reduced crime, community development and increased volunteering. Above all, watching sporting success together creates a feel-good factor like no other: it’s called national pride. I’m proud that Bradford – which can claim another World Cup winner in Jonny Bairstow – is playing its part with these stories of inspiration, diversity and regeneration.

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

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