Put your hands up if you’re not from Bradford. Two thirds of the audience raised their hands. Put your hands up if you’re leaving with a positive impression of the district. Almost everyone did. The 350-strong crowd at TEDxBradford was as diverse as they come: aged 14 to 76, male, female, Muslim, Christian, Jew, atheist, agnostic, Hindu, Sikh, local authority, faith sector, arts, culture and business. All present, correct and trending on Twitter that January day.
This story, as told by organiser Kamran Rashid, shows how Bradford is creating places for people to come together and work together. This inspiring tale was one of many success stories shared at +365, the first annual review of the Bradford Economic Partnership’s growth strategy, held at Keighley College’s magnificent atrium last week.
Mr Rashid revealed how global brands with young audiences are starting to take notice of Bradford, a district where 30 per cent of the population is aged under 20. Red Bull, the multi-billion dollar energy drink group, invests significant amounts in global marketing to target very specific audiences. It chose Bradford for its programme to champion social entrepreneurs driving positive change in their corner of the world. Generation Z, the people born from the mid 90s to early 00s, is putting our district on the map.
“Bradford’s putting Yorkshire on the map,” added Phil Forster, aviation development and corporate affairs manager at Leeds Bradford Airport. Speaking at +365, he said: “When we talk to airlines, they are aware of what’s going on in this district. Bradford was one of the key reasons AMP Capital wanted to come to this region.” AMP Capital is the $150bn global investment manager and owner of Leeds Bradford Airport since 2017.
We also heard from PwC, the professional services giant, which is opening a new assurance office in Bradford. The Big Four firm was looking for a location for the national centre. Will Richardson, the Leeds office senior partner, pitched Bradford to PwC’s UK chairman and convinced him of the potential and talent in the district. PwC is recruiting school leavers, graduates and people in later life looking for a change of career. The investment will create 225 new jobs. It’s hard to underestimate the value of a blue chip business like PwC choosing your district above others.
Founder Syima Aslam told us how her Bradford Literature Festival had challenged the conventions of what a literature festival should be and who it should be for. She curated a programme that talked to people of Bradford and went on to win national and international attention. Ms Aslam said: “It’s made others in the literature sector take notice and ask what we’re doing. We’re attracting audiences that no-one else has.” Literature festivals typically attract a very certain demographic. Bradford’s is different and appeals to all, especially the young.
Nick Garthwaite, President of Bradford Chamber and managing director of chemicals manufacturer Christeyns UK, reminded us of the great success of the inaugural Bradford Manufacturing Week, which engaged 2,600 students, 22 secondary schools and 40 manufacturers. “For some young people, it was life changing,” said Mr Garthwaite. “For businesses, it is incredibly motivating.”
Ian Ward, chairman of Bradford Business Improvement District and general manager of the Broadway Shopping Centre, echoed the importance of collaboration in initiatives like Sparkling Bradford, the festive campaign which succeeded in driving up footfall across the district. His Keighley counterpart Steve Seymour told us about the thriving independent retail scene in Cavendish Street and how the Keighley BID is helping to promote businesses in the town centre.
Kersten England, chief executive of Bradford Council, said her highlights of the year have been new partnerships between different organisations, wage growth, a substantial increase in BME female employment and a significant rise in manufacturing apprenticeships. “The district is getting its mojo back,” she added. “We’re building confidence among investors, brands and government.” Cllr Susan Hinchcliffe, leader of Bradford Council, reminded us who we are doing this for: the 140,000 children in our district. “They deserve the best place we can deliver for them,” she said.
For me, success is a journey, not a destination. Our economic growth strategy is designed to take us from 2018 to 2030. We need to recognise our successes as the years unfold and also our challenges where we fall short. We must never lose sight of the big vision, which is for a pioneering, confident and connected district. Sometimes you’re ahead of the curve, sometimes you’re behind it. But with everyone’s noses pointing in the same direction, we’ll make sure we stay on it.
• Dave Baldwin is chairman of the Bradford Economic Partnership and chief executive of Burnley Football Club.