The new Darley Street Market is another piece of Bradford’s jigsaw

Darley Street Market artist's impression

By Dave Baldwin

The people have spoken. They have chosen a name for the biggest project to date in the ongoing regeneration of Bradford city centre. The £21m market development will be called Darley Street Market. The simple but effective title was chosen by nearly half of respondents in a public survey launched late last year.

What’s in a name? First, it clearly signals the location for visitors to the city. And second, it draws on the heritage of Bradford’s historic high street, the location of markets for more than a century. The combination of location, heritage and investment are essential for any successful regeneration.

Cllr Alex Ross-Shaw, portfolio holder for regeneration, planning and transport at Bradford Council, said: “The markets have a special place for so many Bradford residents and therefore it was very important for us to consult with as many people across the Bradford district.

“We want residents to be involved in the new market project and what better way than to decide on the name for the new market. Darley Street Market was the overwhelming favourite as people made clear they wanted a name that was direct, celebrated the heritage of the street and gave a clear indication as to its location.

“We are fully committed to delivering the extensive reconstruction of the markets offer in the city centre and this is another step in creating a space that not only offers an innovative shopping experience, but also a place that the local community feels belongs to them.”

The project will burst into life this spring. The destruction of several vacant stores will make space for the creation of a beautiful new multi-storey market building. Large windows will bathe the interiors with natural light, multiple entrances will welcome shoppers and a public square will connect Piccadilly and Darley Street and provide a place for open air events and outdoor stalls. Filled with food, fashion and other fare from every corner of the world, it will be irresistible.

The council has appointed Kier as its preferred bidder for the development. Phil McDowell, operations director at Kier Regional Building Northern, said: “This vital regeneration project is the largest to be undertaken in Bradford and will provide a dynamic, vibrant and diverse shopping location for visitors. We’re thrilled to be appointed as preferred bidder to work with Bradford Council and are committed to delivering a project that benefits the community.”

Darley Street Market will be split across three floors, each with their own special identity and environment. The lower ground floor will focus on dry foods within a vaulted structure intended to be warm and intimate. The upper ground floor will house the main fresh food stalls. The first floor will host a world food court with communal seating areas.

It’s going to be great. I wouldn’t be surprised if this becomes the byword for market developments in Britain in the same way the award-winning City Park has established itself as one of the best examples of reimagined public spaces in the 21st century.

The entire city centre will be transformed this decade as developers commit to the district. In the One City Park project, Muse will create a state-of-the-art and environmentally excellent building with 56,403 sq ft of Grade A space. At Forster Square, Morgan Sindall will carry out a £17m redevelopment of the railway station with improved facilities, public spaces and better access to city centre for the benefit of commuters, shoppers and visitors. In the area around the Top of Town, a city village of 1,000 new homes and spaces for business is planned.

All this adds up to something significant. This is what happens when you get everyone’s noses pointing in the same direction. Investment, jobs and growth will follow. The people are getting behind it, as demonstrated by the 1,200 individual responses to the survey on public markets. This is a renewal of pride and ambition.

The impact of Bradford as a film and TV location

Jim Broadbent and Helen Mirren on the set of The Duke, filmed in Bradford

By Dave Baldwin

City Hall played host to the A-list actors Helen Mirren and Jim Broadbent as the latest major film production rolled into the district. Dame Helen has clearly been enjoying her stay, telling her many social media followers about Mumtaz curry house, Snow White at the Alhambra Theatre and an 80s night out, commenting about “the one and only Bradford with its own magic”.

The Academy Award-winning stars are appearing in The Duke, directed by Roger Michell of Notting Hill fame, which tells the story of Kempton Bunton, a taxi driver who was convicted of stealing Goya’s portrait of the Duke of Wellington from the National Gallery in London in 1961. Bunton claimed he wanted to raise £140,000 to help pay for TV licences for old-age pensioners in his home city of Newcastle.

David Wilson, director of Bradford UNESCO City of Film, told the local newspaper: “It was a real pleasure to host the first scenes of this film in Bradford. We have worked closely with the production for the past few months to prepare some excellent Bradford locations.

“In addition to the excitement of having such great talent in the city there is also the economic impact in terms of hotel stays for crew and local spend at cafes. We have also managed to get some great opportunities for students from the University of Bradford and Bradford College to support the production.”

Experience like this will be invaluable for the lucky students. It means they don’t have to pack their bags and travel to London or Hollywood to get a taste of what it is like to work on a major film production. The industry opportunity is on the doorstep here in Bradford.

The region saw almost non-stop production again last year, with the Bradford Film Office playing a vital supporting role in providing locations, production office space, hotel accommodation, local crew and extras. Peaky Blinders, Gentleman Jack, Victoria, Pennyworth, Ackley Bridge, the Downton Abbey movie, and Official Secrets were all shot in or around Bradford and the wider region.

Clio Barnard, the director of award-winning Bradford-based films The Arbor and The Selfish Giant, has returned to the district to make her latest feature, Ali & Ava, with filming in BD3. AA Dhand, the acclaimed Bradford-based crime writer, is making his first film, No Ordinary Life, which is set to premiere at the Bradford Literature Festival.

All this work provides a direct boost through multiple employment opportunities in front of and behind the camera. The longer term impact comes from promotion of our district as a tourist destination, both urban and rural. The City of Film offers location tours for film fans from across the world. The Bradford Movie Trail takes in scenes from classics such as Billy Liar, The Railway Children, Rita, Sue and Bob Too and Monty Python’s Meaning of Life as well as many more recent favourites.

Success breeds success. As in other areas of our economy, momentum is building in our domestic film industry. Mr Wilson said: “It is very clear to me that the Bradford district is held in very high regard and with a lot of affection by production managers, producers and directors who are making repeat visits but also recommending Bradford to other productions.”

We are living in a content revolution. Tech and media giants are pumping billions of dollars into original material in the global battle for attention. Netflix is spending $15bn a year on new content. Apple is committing $6bn to catch up. Disney is joining the fray with its new streaming brand. Not to mention BBC, ITV and Channel 4, which I understand is already operating in Leeds ahead of its head office move. It is estimated that more money will be spent on new content this year alone than during the entire 90s.

With our incredible architectural heritage and awe-inspiring natural landscapes, it is highly likely the flow of investment to Bradford will increase in coming years. Little Germany could easily pass for Gotham. The Dales for the Shire. Not only do we have the stunning locations, we also have the creative writing, acting and directing talent that is now bursting its way to the fore. Our film industry will form an important part of our bid to host UK City of Culture in 2025. And that would be the best starring role in a generation.

Royal visit is stamp of approval for Bradford

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge outside Bradford City Hall

By Dave Baldwin

As royal visits go, this was near perfect. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, in their first official engagement of the year, came to Bradford and saw at first hand some fine examples of the work taking place across our district to support and promote community cohesion.

Cheered on by enthusiastic crowds, William and Kate visibly enjoyed themselves as they met entrepreneurs, apprentices, charity workers, faith leaders and volunteers dedicated to improving quality of life in one of Britain’s most diverse cities.

“The diversity of Bradford has always been very intriguing,” Prince William is reported to have said. “I think what you are all doing to help each other and bring the community together is very powerful. You can see that communities are trying to come together, trying to help each other, get to know each other and that is really crucial.”

In this respect, Bradford leads Britain. After some difficult decades, the city is bouncing back and last year won the ‘Most Improved’ title in an influential report on social and economic growth. The prince added: “If we can replicate that more across the country then it can only be for good – bringing everybody together, which is the reason why we want to get round the UK now and see as many places in the UK we may not have been very much to, and try to understand some of the more complex challenges.”

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge meet young people at Bradford City Hall

The visit began at City Hall where the royal couple met with young people who had been noted for their work in the city. Their discussion covered mental health, drug dealing, video games, apprenticeships and women in engineering. Bradford Council chief executive Kersten England CBE said: “What struck me most was the immediate and easy rapport between the Duke and Duchess and the young people. Their Royal Highnesses were clearly impressed by the talent, passion and ambition in the room. The discussion was thoughtful and engaged, it didn’t shirk difficult topics but was upbeat and optimistic.”

Afterwards, they met business and civic leaders including myself, representatives from Bradford Chamber of Commerce and Adeeba Malik CBE, the deputy chief executive of Bradford-based charity QED. She told the prince: “Your trip to Pakistan, please don’t underestimate the importance of it. It was phenomenal. It was so powerful.” The Duke and Duchess visited Pakistan in October to celebrate the nation’s historic ties with Britain. The five-day tour was the first royal visit to the country since 2006. “We loved it,” said William.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at My Lahore in Bradford

The next stop was My Lahore restaurant, named after the food capital of Pakistan, where the prince and princess met students from Bradford College taking part in an apprenticeship scheme and made mango and kulfi milkshakes in the kitchen. They spoke with boxer Amir Khan, a friend of the restaurant owners, about his boxing foundation and mental health in sport.

The royal couple also visited the Khidmat Centre, where they joined a Better Start Bradford workshop, which uses music and play to support children’s social, emotional and physical development while supporting adult self esteem. Bradford baker Siama Ali presented the Duke and Duchess with a beautifully designed cake, adorned with royal portraits and Union Jack flags.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at the Khidmat Centre in Bradford

The final visit was to a workshop run by Near Neighbours, an organisation that brings together people in diverse communities to create relationships of trust and to help people transform their neighbourhoods. It summed up the theme of the visit. The Bishop of Bradford, Toby Howarth, praised the Royal Family for “championing Christian-Muslim relationships well before it became fashionable”. He added: “The Royal Family have made it very clear all the way along that Britain is a nation for everyone, every religion, every culture. Her Majesty has done that, Prince Charles has done that and now we can see the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will do that.”

A parting message came via social media from the official Kensington Palace account to an audience of 1.9m. It said simply, “Thank you Bradford!” and featured a video montage of their visit, which I think they enjoyed as much as we all did. Bradford succeeded in showing one of the most famous couples in the world a perfect example of a vibrant, confident and diverse modern place. We can consider this a royal stamp of approval for Britain’s most improved city.

Why people and businesses are choosing Bradford

One City Park artist's impression

By Dave Baldwin

People vote with their feet. In Bradford, we are seeing more people eating and drinking in the city centre after work. This spike in footfall – called “alive after five” – is all down to the office sector, according to BID manager Jonny Noble. “More Grade A offices are a no-brainer,” he said.

They are on their way. Muse Developments, the urban renewal specialist, has been chosen by Bradford Council to deliver a major new office building at City Park as part of the local authority’s wider regeneration of the city centre. The One City Park project will create a state-of-the-art and environmentally excellent building with 56,403 sq ft of Grade A space in the city centre.

David Wells, regional director at Muse Developments, said: “This development will form an important part of the council’s city centre masterplan and we will be delivering a best-in-class destination that attracts new occupiers to Bradford and reinforces the city centre as a fantastic location for business.”

It’s going to be a busy decade for Bradford. The £21m market project will provide the city centre with modern market facilities and help meet the challenge of the changing high street. A city village of 1,000 new homes and spaces for business is planned for the area in and around the Top of the Town. Forster Square train station is set to undergo a major redevelopment. All will improve the amenity of Bradford and encourage more people to work and live in the city centre.

Businesses are starting to look at Bradford in a different way. PwC chose Bradford city centre for its new UK assurance centre in a significant vote of confidence in the district and its talent pool. The global accountancy giant is creating up to 225 new white collar jobs at 5 Godwin Street, another Grade A office development. No doubt those new recruits will be contributing to that spike in footfall after work.

They have plenty of choice for places to go. The £260m Broadway Shopping Centre has established itself as one of the UK’s most successful retail and leisure destinations and is winning national recognition for its performance in areas like footfall, customer spend, dwell time and community engagement, campaigns such as Sparkling Bradford and its ability to attract new tenants. For those who like something a little different, the historic tunnels of Sunbridge Wells and its subterranean bars and venues are certainly “alive after five”.

Our city centre workers have spending power. Bradford saw the biggest growth in advertised salaries of any major city in the UK, according to research published last month by the job search engine adzuna.co.uk. Bradford salaries rose by 3.6 per cent last year, compared to declines in places like London, Manchester and Leeds. Adzuna said Bradford is “bucking the trend and showing strong growth”.

Employment is bouncing back after some tough years. Bradford enjoyed the largest improvement in the jobs score of any city in the UK between 2015 and 2018 with unemployment falling from 10 per cent to 4.1 per cent over the period, according to the Demos-PwC report on Good Growth. It also showed how more than 43 per cent of adults held at least an NVQ level 3 qualification in 2018, compared to 39 per cent in 2015. As a result, the report crowned Bradford as Britain’s most improved city.

Property investment is all about timing. Congratulations to Muse on being selected to bring forward the One City Park project. The timing could not be better. The developer and the council say they will work together throughout 2020 to formalise the proposed partnership, develop the design of the building and work on a planning application. Subject to planning, work will begin on site in 2021 with expected completion in 2023. Before long, the city centre will have more Grade A space to attract new investment in the district.

Cllr Susan Hinchcliffe, leader of Bradford Council, said: “The appointment of award-winning developers Muse to design and build One City Park is yet another firm indicator that Bradford is on the way up. Building on the success of City Park and the progress of Bradford Live, it’s a further indication that the UK’s youngest city, with its entrepreneurial spirit, is recognised by the wider business community as a place where they want to, and can, do business and that we are a council which supports them to do that.”

People do vote with their feet. So does business. And they are making their way to Bradford.

2019: a brilliant year for the Bradford District

One City Park artist's impression

By Dave Baldwin

Looking back, it’s been a brilliant year for Bradford. To prove the point, this week’s column highlights some of the success stories that emerged from our diverse district during 2019. Taken together, they demonstrate our social, economic and cultural renaissance is gathering pace.

In January, new figures from the Centre for Entrepreneurs foundation showed that 4,127 businesses were born in Bradford in 2018, the equivalent of 15 new start-ups every working day. Who knows what wonders are being dreamed up on our doorsteps?

We have the entrepreneurs; we just need to back them with investment in infrastructure. In February, Transport for the North published its strategy for the next three decades. It singled out the impact that Northern Powerhouse Rail would have on Bradford, home to half a million people and the fifth largest economy in the North, currently worth £10.5bn. It says NPR is “central to unlocking opportunity and transformational growth in Bradford”. Too right.

March marked the first anniversary of the launch of our economic growth plan. We are making strong progress in attracting new investors, starting up and scaling up businesses, building new partnerships and bringing more people into the workforce. We have seen a private sector jobs boom of 6,500 new roles; we have broken through the 20,000 barrier in the number of BME women in employment, almost double the amount since 2010; and we have seen an inflation-busting seven per cent increase in average weekly workplace earnings.

Aside, I loved the headline in The Times, “Who needs London, Paris or Monte Carlo, when you’ve got Bradford?” Okay, it was only a Giles Coren restaurant review but we’ll take the glowing national coverage as an example of the positive momentum we’re gaining as a district.

PwC, the global accountancy giant, unveiled its new national assurance centre in Bradford in May. Speaking at the launch, Judith Cummins, MP for Bradford South, said: “This is a really exciting time in Bradford and the opening of this office means new jobs, new investment and a boost to Bradford’s profile right across the city and the country. I know that PwC’s decision is a recognition of the significant commercial opportunity that Bradford offers.”

Bradford Literature Festival returned in June with a stellar line-up featuring 500 writers and 400 events across 10 days. That Habib Ali al-Jifri, an internationally-renowned Islamic scholar, and Luke Goss, one half of 80s pop band Bros and now LA-based actor, were among the hottest tickets summed up the sheer excellence of our very own world-class festival.

We all know it takes courage to stand up for what you believe in, especially when the odds are stacked against you. Lillian Armitage had plenty and more than a century after she was jailed for her part in the suffragette movement, a Bradford street was named after her in July. It’s great that our district is celebrating the contributions of women like Lillian through a new campaign called Pioneering Bradford Lasses.

England went cricket mad in the summer and homegrown heroes Jonny Bairstow and Adil Rashid became national heroes for their part in the miraculous Cricket World Cup victory. In August, I wrote about Adil’s visit to his local mosque in Bradford to meet overjoyed cricket supporters. He said: “They’re seeing someone from this area who has made something for themselves and achieved something massive. If I can be an inspiration to the youngsters – or anyone for that matter – then I have done my job.”

In September, we launched Bradford’s bid to host the UK City of Culture in 2025. Our district is undergoing substantial regeneration. Business and civic leaders are working together for the greater good. Bradford is brimming with new talent. We have the infrastructure to stage an ambitious programme of international events. People are seeing us in a different way. Being host city would be brilliant for Bradford.

Strong cities need strong institutions and when a leading example is singled out for its excellence, it strengthens the standing of the city overall. Step forward University of Bradford, named by The Sunday Times in October as the UK’s University of the Year for Social Inclusion 2020. It’s a perfect illustration of the transformational work taking place across our district.

Bradford Manufacturing Weeks was a soaraway success. Delivered by Bradford Chamber of Commerce, this year’s initiative created an estimated 5,000 work experiences with 65 manufacturers involved, double the number of 2018’s inaugural programme. As well as helping boost apprenticeship numbers, the scheme gives young people a glimpse of the inspiring, innovative and rewarding enterprises creating wealth and prosperity across our district.

In November, Bradford was crowned Britain’s Most Improved City in an influential annual report on economic wellbeing following a record reduction in unemployment and significant growth in skills. The nationwide study, Good Growth for Cities 2019 by think tank Demos, measured the performance of 42 of the UK’s largest cities against a range of 10 priorities including jobs, health, income, skills, work-life balance, housing affordability, travel-to-work times, income equality, environment and business start-ups. 

As I write, Bradford Council has announced Muse as its development partner for One City Park, a new state-of-the-art office building at the city centre’s award-winning City Park and the next step in the ongoing growth and regeneration of the entire district. All in all, I am delighted but not surprised at Bradford’s successes over the last year. It shows what can happen when you get everyone’s noses pointing in the same direction. See you in 2020.

Introducing the new Bradford 2025 director

Bradford Bid director

By Dave Baldwin

If I’m asked why Bradford is bidding to host the UK City of Culture in 2025, my answer is simple. There is no better candidate. Winning this status would accelerate the regeneration of our district and bring major social and economic benefits to our people. Even the process of putting together the bid over the next two years will help bring the city together as part of our longer-term cultural strategy.

Here are some facts and figures in support of our story. Bradford is the sixth largest city in the UK. It is a city of great architecture – you can call it ‘good bone structure’ – and rich cultural heritage. We have a powerful and dynamic business community with some truly innovative companies. But 60 per cent of our population live in the poorest 20 per cent of wards in England and Wales. And nearly one third – 32 per cent – of our children live in poverty.

We have to turn this around for the sake of the generations to follow. We are making excellent progress in our economic strategy, as evidenced by being named Britain’s Most Improved City in a recent report from think tank Demos and accountancy giant PwC, which emphasised our strong growth in jobs and skills. We know that significant challenges remain, not least that Bradford is often misunderstood as a city and stereotyped by the media. We need to change these perceptions and rekindle the pride of our people.

Our ambition to host the UK City of Culture is part of this wider strategy and has marked an important milestone with the appointment of a full-time director to lead the campaign. Richard Shaw is a highly experienced arts and media professional with a strong track record in public engagement, broadcasting, management and marketing. He has held senior marketing, development and production roles at world-class organisations including the British Film Institute, the National Theatre, English National Ballet and Lion Television.

We are delighted to welcome him to Bradford and I know he will be inspired by the awesome potential of our district. Richard, who was born in Yorkshire and attended Hull University, said: “The bid for the UK City of Culture title is a huge opportunity for Bradford to shout proudly about its extraordinary cultural heritage and to celebrate the new generation of artists, musicians, writers, performers, producers, entrepreneurs and businesses that bring this great city to life today.

“I’m enormously excited to be coming back to live in Yorkshire and to help work on a bold, distinctive and genuinely inclusive bid. We need to capture as many voices as we have across the district to find themes and stories about Bradford, its people and its place in the UK to make a compelling case to the judges. And as Europe’s youngest city, Bradford’s young voices will be instrumental in helping shape our vision.”

With more than 140 languages spoken in our district and a rich diversity of ethnic backgrounds, Bradford’s stories can resonate with audiences across the world. Led by Richard, I am sure the bid team will put together a knockout package for the 2021 deadline. The size of overall prize is worth highlighting: the most recent UK City of Culture, Hull, counted £676m worth of new public and private investment as the economic legacy of its host status in 2017. With a population nearly twice the size of Hull, Bradford could become the first City of Culture to generate a billion pound dividend for its people.

We have to be ambitious. There is so much talent bursting out of our district. Harnessing that potential and putting it under a spotlight will reap incredible rewards and inspire countless young people to go for it. We have some great role models. People like AA Dhand, the crime writer who has just announced his first short film, ‘No Ordinary Life’, which will be premiered at next year’s Bradford Literature Festival, or Sonya Whitworth, managing director of Shipley-based assessment technology provider BTL Group, who has just beaten representatives of some of the biggest global brands to take home silver at the prestigious Stevie business awards in New York. As I said at the outset, there is no better candidate to host the UK City of Culture in 2025.

Bradford is one of the best places to run a business

Design Exchange building in Bradford

By Dave Baldwin

Bradford is one of the best places in Britain to run a business, according to new research into the key factors for economic success. The district makes fourth place in a national ranking, behind only London, Kirklees and Leeds, based on evidence from a variety of metrics linked to setting up and running businesses.

These “magic ingredients” include commercial property rental values, parking spaces, government finance and support schemes, broadband speed, 4G coverage, unemployment rates, quality of life, population aged between 18-34, annual gross pay, number of arts, entertainment and recreation services and professional, scientific and technical businesses per 1,000 18-34 year-olds. Bradford fares strongly on all fronts.

The Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP), which carried out the research, singled out the low price of rent (£15 per sq ft) and parking for businesses (£3.34 per day) in Bradford, providing significant cost advantages for businesses. The study also highlighted the number of government funding schemes available for businesses. Bradford has six.

Notably, the district ranked highly for quality of life, based on official statistics for areas such as health, relationships, education and skills, what we do, where we live, our finances and the environment. Bradford was fourth in the table in the ONS measure of wellbeing.

Roger Marsh OBE DL, Chair of the LEP, said: “This research confirms what we always knew to be true, Bradford is a great place to run a business. There is a lot of bespoke support and funding available through the LEP for Bradford businesses owners, and I encourage them to get in touch.”

The LEP research adds to Bradford’s growing reputation as a city bouncing back after some difficult years. Last month, Bradford was named Britain’s most improved city in a nationwide study by think tank Demos and accountancy giant PwC. The Good Growth for Cities index measured the performance of 42 of the UK’s largest cities against a range of 10 priorities including jobs, health, income, skills, work-life balance, housing affordability, travel-to-work times, income equality, environment and business start-ups.

The Demos-PwC report singled out Bradford for the largest improvement in the jobs score of any city in the UK between 2015 and 2018 with unemployment falling from 10 per cent to 4.1 per cent over the period. It also showed how more than 43 per cent of adults held at least an NVQ level 3 qualification in 2018, compared to 39 per cent in 2015.

Both studies carry echoes of the Barclays report from late 2017 which identified Bradford as the best place in Britain to start a business on the basis of SME growth factors including business rate relief, infrastructure, broadband speed and labour productivity.

The changing narrative is attracting attention and not just in the national media. (Recent Guardian headline: ‘Beautiful Bradford: 15 great reasons to visit the UK’s most-improved city’.) New investors are buying into our growth story. PwC opened its new national assurance centre in the city centre earlier this year, describing Bradford as “the obvious choice”. NEC Group has taken over the Bradford Odeon and is transforming it into a 4,000 capacity venue to open in 2020-21 under the name Bradford Live. Channel 4 is opening its new national headquarters on our doorstep in a nod to the young and diverse talent in our district. And new businesses are starting up all over the place. Last year, Bradford had more than 4,100 new company registrations.

We know that challenges remain. Success does not come overnight. But we have a clear economic growth strategy, which 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 have been making good progress against these targets and we acknowledge important external validation along the way. We know Bradford is a great place to start and grow a company. Our businesses get a bang for their buck. And it’s catching on.

Civic leaders putting Bradford’s name up in lights

City Park illuminated at dusk

By Dave Baldwin

Feel the fear and do it anyway. That was the motto followed by Suzanne Watson when she left a secure job in journalism to go solo as a freelancer. Everything had changed with motherhood. Suzanne still wanted a fulfilling career but also wanted flexibility so she could be there as a parent. She decided that being her own boss was the best way to take control and create the balance she needed. “It was the scariest leap,” said Suzanne as she set out in business in her own. And so Approach PR was born.

Suzanne recalled her formative years as a public relations entrepreneur in her president’s speech at the Bradford Chamber of Commerce’s annual dinner and highlighted the vital importance of companies like hers in generating real wealth and prosperity in communities up and down the country.

“In 18 years, Approach has worked with UK and international businesses and brands, survived one credit crunch, had six different offices and won 26 industry awards. Today, 100 per cent of our clients are Yorkshire-based and 54 per cent of these are based in Bradford,” she told the packed hall at the Midland Hotel.

“Micro businesses like Approach make up 88 per cent of Bradford’s business community. And while micro businesses aren’t considered ‘high growth’, we have turned over £3.5m and provided employment for 30 local people over the last 18 years. Not record breaking, but difference making. Because if local businesses succeed, we all succeed through employment, inward investment, transport improvements and confidence.”

Suzanne added that confidence, alongside community, friendship, trust and camaraderie, are the qualities that help company directors navigate the complexities of life in business, paying tribute to the steadfast character of the chamber in politically uncertain times. Through the membership organisation, Bradford is fighting to keep Northern Powerhouse Rail and HS2 on track and trying to unpick the devolution deadlock and free up funding and controls for the region.

Challenges aside, we are making great progress as a district, demonstrated by confident initiatives such as the Bradford Literature Festival, the bid for UK City of Culture 2025 and Bradford Manufacturing Weeks (plural). The recent Demos-PwC report which identified Bradford as Britain’s Most Improved City delivered great external validation for our strengthening economy, based on a record reduction in unemployment and significant growth in skills.

As we welcome a new civic leader in Suzanne, we also express our gratitude to another individual who has served our district with distinction. A decade ago, Bradford trumped Los Angeles, Cannes and Venice to be named the world’s first UNESCO City of Film. This was in recognition of our long history with the industry dating back to the birth of cinema, inspirational locations and many celebrations of the moving image. For the last 10 years, Bradford City of Film has been chaired by Steve Abbott, who led the successful bid for the international designation.

As well as providing locations, crew and support to film and TV productions including Peaky Blinders, The ABC Murders and Victoria, the organisation has been a global beacon of best practice for using culture to drive social and economic development. Bradford is widely respected for its knowledge and expertise in this area and shares its experiences through its membership of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network, a group of 246 locations which place creativity and the creative economy at the core of urban development plans to make cities safe, resilient, inclusive and sustainable.

Bradford City of Film has forged close links with Qingdao, a growing movie production hub, and helped it become China’s first City of Film in 2017. The University of Bradford has launched an animation degree course in partnership with Qingdao University of Science and Technology which started teaching this year. Bradford has strong connections with Bollywood too. The film Gold was shot in the city last year with Indian megastar Akshay Kumar who tweeted to his 32m followers about his “great time” and “wonderful experience” in Bradford.

Many of these successes can be traced back to Steve Abbott and his team. Steve, who grew up in Barkerend, attended Bradford Grammar School and went on to produce films including A Fish Called Wanda and Brassed Off and Michael Palin’s much-loved TV travel shows, is standing down as chairman to make way for “younger and more diverse blood”. We should pay tribute to men and women like Steve and Suzanne for their stellar commitment to the district. They are putting Bradford’s name up in lights. 

Bradford is the ‘most improved’ place in the UK

Bradford City Park

By Dave Baldwin

A record reduction in unemployment and significant growth in skills have helped Bradford to claim the title of Britain’s most improved city in an influential annual report on economic wellbeing.

The nationwide study, Good Growth for Cities 2019 by think tank Demos and accountancy firm PwC, measures the performance of 42 of the UK’s largest cities against a range of 10 priorities including jobs, health, income, skills, work-life balance, housing affordability, travel-to-work times, income equality, environment and business start-ups. 

For the fourth year running, Oxford and Reading have been named the top-performing cities, followed by Southampton in third place. But Bradford emerged as this year’s top improver, driven by jobs, work-life balance and skills among those aged 25 and over.

The Demos-PwC report singled out Bradford for the largest improvement in the jobs score of any city in the UK between 2015 and 2018 with unemployment falling from 10 per cent to 4.1 per cent over the period. It also showed how more than 43 per cent of adults held at least an NVQ level 3 qualification in 2018, compared to 39 per cent in 2015.

Despite the standout jobs performance, challenges remain in Bradford. The report identified how incomes in general and skills among 16-24 year-olds fell over the period. But it pointed out that improvements in these two variables could see the city move further up the index in coming years.

Ben Glover, senior researcher at Demos, said: “Our research shows we have a positive story to tell about our cities: three-quarters have experienced an improvement in their index score this year. We are delighted to see the great city of Bradford crowned this year’s top improver, largely due to an impressive fall in its unemployment rate.

“But in Bradford and beyond, city leaders cannot afford to rest on their laurels. Our research finds declining scores for housing affordability, home ownership and health. Failure to tackle these issues will act as a real constraint on these cities in the future.

“This will require local policymakers to find new ways of putting local people at the heart of decision making, recognising they don’t have all the answers themselves. Only then will the power of our communities be harnessed, allowing our cities to reach their full potential.”

Every city in the UK faces challenges, wherever they are in their arc of development. In the study, higher performing places demonstrated declines in housing affordability and owner occupation – described as the “price of success” – while lower performing cities saw falls in health, work-life balance and transport scores.

Still, the Demos-PwC report made brilliant headlines for Bradford and provided further evidence for those outside the district we are bouncing back to the big league after some difficult years. Dr Zulficar Ali, of the Sweet Centre, told the BBC that while the textile mills have largely gone, a new breed of entrepreneur is now emerging in the city. (Indeed, there were 4,127 new start-ups in Bradford in 2018.)

“The changes have uplifted the city hugely. It’s a vibrant city, a cultural capital. It’s a great place to live and work and there’s such a great potential,” added Dr Ali, whose famous Manningham restaurant was founded by his family in 1964.

The Guardian pitched in with a guide of the best things to see and do in Bradford, including visits to the Prashad, Karachi and Waterside Bistro restaurants, Bradford Literature Festival, National Science and Media Museum, The Brick Box, Haworth, Saltaire, Salts Mill, North Parade, Common Wealth Theatre, The 1 In 12 Club, Fuse Art Galley, South Square and Kirkgate Centre.

Catherine Riley, manager of the Kirkgate Shopping Centre and a member of the Bradford Chamber of Commerce 2019 leadership group, told the BBC: “Our UK Capital of Culture bid in 2025 is coming and will improve the perception of the city. There’s a growing feel-good factor.”

There certainly is. We are delighted that the underlying social and economic progress has been highlighted in the Demos-PwC report. It follows big votes of confidence in our district from the likes of NEC, Channel 4 and PwC itself, which opened a new assurance centre in Bradford earlier this year. We want everybody in the city to have the chance to succeed, whatever their background. We don’t want anybody to be left behind as our district rises up the rankings.

Bradford businesses supporting the circular economy

Circular Yorkshire

By Dave Baldwin

She dreamed of being sailor as a young girl and saved her school lunch money to buy her first boat. Dame Ellen MacArthur made sailing history in 2005 when she set the solo speed record for circumnavigating the world. During the 71-day, 27,000-mile voyage, the yachtswoman experienced a powerful realisation, one that would change the course of her life.

In an interview with The Guardian, she recalled: “I remember quite poignantly writing in the log on the boat; ‘What I have got on the boat is everything’. It really struck me that you save everything, everything you have, because you know it’s finite, you know there isn’t any more. What you have on that boat is it, your entire world.”

Dame Ellen added: “The basis of my thinking was completely around resources. It was around the pure fact – stemming from what I had learned on the boat – that resources are finite. The more I learned, I just saw this as the greatest challenge I had ever come across. If we are using these resources in a very linear fashion we are going to use them up at some stage, and no one knows exactly when.”

With this acute awareness of the limitations of the widespread linear approach to resources, she launched the Ellen MacArthur Foundation to develop a sustainable alternative known as the circular economy, based on the principles of designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use and regenerating natural systems.

The University of Bradford has worked closely with Dame Ellen since the launch of her foundation nearly a decade ago. The foundation helps businesses and organisations to accelerate the transition to a more regenerative economic model and has published a series of seminal studies on the business case for the circular economy, winning accolades from the World Economic Forum and helping to shape government policy.

In partnership with the foundation and businesses including B&Q, BT, Cisco, Renault and National Grid, the university introduced the world’s first circular economy MBA in 2011, equipping students and their sponsoring bodies with the skills to use resources and energy more effectively, reuse products and materials and deliver increased profits. The foundation recognised Bradford’s world-leading expertise in the field with Pioneer University status, a big deal for the institution and our region.

November is Circular Yorkshire month, a new campaign to increase understanding of circular economy principles and business benefits. With Bradford’s extensive knowledge and experience of this new economic model, we are proud to support the initiative. Find out more by searching for #CircularYorkshire online.

Our business community leads the way in many areas of environmental performance, according to the latest Leeds City Region Business Survey. The survey of 2,000-plus companies across the region revealed that Bradford businesses are more likely to operate schemes to save energy, water and waste. They will tend to use environmentally friendly technologies and have formal environmental accreditations. And they will probably have taken action to clean up their supply chains. Economists say businesses undertaking at least one of these actions are more likely to report stronger growth in turnover and employment. A win-win, in other words.

Given the strength of the advanced manufacturing sector in Bradford, I am not surprised at our strong showing in this survey. Manufacturers are resourceful by nature and typically have a global outlook. They also have a business imperative; a growing number of their OEM customers have mandated environmentally friendly practices in supply chains, largely driven by regulatory and consumer demands. 

One of Bradford’s largest private employers, Yorkshire Water, sees Bradford as ideal for its circular economy developments. Liz Barber, Yorkshire Water CEO, said: “The masterplan for our 32-acre site at Esholt should see it become a real beacon for sustainable development. It will retain the existing treatment works which already generates much of its own power and other developments will bring in sustainable housing and new industries which can also make use of the heat and grey water generated from the works.” This column turns full circle and returns to Dame Ellen for the close. This inspirational woman has strong links with Bradford. Her mother and grandmother were born in the city, which virtually makes her one of our own. We are enormously proud of the work she is doing and urge businesses to embrace the principles of the circular economy if they have not already done so. The circular economy supports economic growth, builds community resilience and addresses climate change, three of the most important challenges of our time.