When Tottenham Hotspur scored their third goal at Turf Moor in December, the fans sang for their hat-trick hero: “Harry Kane, he’s one of our own”. As chief executive of Burnley FC I was disappointed to lose that day. But I understand the Spurs fans’ pride in a player who many see as being like them – he grew up close to White Hart Lane and always supported the club.
I feel a similar sense of pride in my home city, Bradford. Bradford City FC, where I worked for seven years, might not have a player to match Harry Kane just now. But a world-famous illusionist is one of our own. Dynamo, who entertains millions with his amazing magic, grew up here and always talks up Bradford. In June 2016, he backed our bid to host the Great Exhibition of the North and spoke about Bradford’s positive impact on his career.
Dynamo has faced his share of adversity. Slightly-built and shy as a child, he was bullied and suffered from Crohn’s disease. Magic was an escape – he would stay inside for hours and practice tricks. His confidence grew as he developed a unique style of magic. After recovering from a spell in hospital with Crohn’s disease, he decided to give magic everything he had. Trick by trick, show by show, he worked his way up and became a superstar.
Like his fans around the world, I was sorry to learn that Dynamo is currently unwell. This month, he opened up about the toll that Crohn’s disease is having on his health and his ability to perform magic. But there was no self-pity from this young man. He vowed to get better and to put his efforts into helping refugee children who had fled war-torn Syria while recovering. He is also diversifying by learning new tricks and adapting how he performs.
Diversification and innovation are crucial in business. As chairman of the Bradford Economic Partnership, I know that we must be willing to adapt and change ways of working. According to the Centre for Cities’ Cities Outlook 2018 report, 24 per cent of current jobs in Bradford are in occupations that are likely to shrink by 2030. Just 10 per cent of current jobs are in occupations that are likely to grow. The Economic Strategy for Bradford District 2018-2030 sets out how the city can reposition itself in the global economy by drawing on our enterprising and growing population, supporting innovative businesses and our knowledge institutions, building public and private partnerships and the regeneration of our towns and cities.
Attracting and supporting entrepreneurs to set up in Bradford is crucial. Entrepreneurs identify a talent, product or service which will sell and build it at scale. I see Dynamo as an entrepreneur as well as an entertainer. When starting out, he identified his talent but needed help to get going. He visited the Prince’s Trust charity, got advice and inspiration and – crucially – a small grant which he used to make a DVD to showcase his talents. It was a shrewd marketing investment. He built scale by uploading films of his magic to the internet.
The UK could be doing more to encourage enterprise. Bradford is trying – the council has set up Industrial Centres of Excellence (ICE), which help young people gain qualifications, skills and experience that they need and which local businesses want. The curriculum is up-to-date and relevant having been jointly developed by schools, colleges and local businesses.
The Prince’s Trust also does its bit. Its Mosaic Enterprise Challenge links teams of students aged 11 to 16 with mentors to compete with other schools in running a business. In March, Bradford’s Dixons Kings Academy won the Yorkshire Regional Final of the 2018 challenge. The school won the regional finals in 2016 and 2017. The national final is on May 16; I hope it’s third time lucky.
I wish Dynamo a speedy recovery. I remember when he performed magic tricks for Bradford City fans queuing up for tickets to the Capital One Cup semi-final against Aston Villa in December 2012. He appeared out of nowhere to entertain the fans, but I wasn’t surprised – after all, he’s one of our own.
- Dave Baldwin is chairman of the Bradford Economic Partnership and chief executive of Burnley FC.