Humanity scholar and boy band brother sum up genius of festival

One is an internationally-renowned Islamic scholar who believes that humanity is the foundation stone upon which religious practice should be built. The other is a 1980s boy band star turned Hollywood actor and viral video sensation. Both are proving to be among the hottest tickets for this year’s Bradford Literature Festival.

That Habib Ali al-Jifri, the UAE-based author of Humanity Before Religiosity and founder of the Tabah Foundation, and Luke Goss, one half of Bros and now LA-based actor, are leading online sales sums up the sheer brilliance of our very own world-class festival. This year’s showcase features 500 writers and 400 events over 10 days, running from June 28 to July 7 and taking place at venues small and large across the district. Have a look through the programme: there really is something for everyone, particularly young people.

Habib Ali al-Jifri will be in conversation with the Bishop of Leeds Nick Baines on Saturday July 6 at St George’s Hall. They will be discussing the turbulent times of the day and the key issues confronting not only people of faith but humankind as a whole, drawing on insights from their respective religions and personal experiences in a multi-faith event that, judging by the demand, is not to be missed.

Luke Goss, meanwhile, will be talking about his new book, Desert Conversation. It is billed as “a stream-of-consciousness reflection on solitude, love, faith, consumption and more that truly answers the question, what happens After the Screaming Stops”. That’s the title of the BBC documentary charting Luke’s reunion with twin brother Matt nearly 30 years after they were one of the biggest bands in the world. The film has gone viral, just like ticket sales for this event at the University of Bradford’s Great Hall on Saturday June 29.

For fans of economics, there is plenty to get stuck into. The event titled Living on Another Planet: The Super-Rich 1% caught my eye as it poses the question, is there a scenario in which the uber-wealthy can co-exist without disrupting the economic and social cohesion of the wider world? Grappling with this tricky issue will be Oliver Bullough, author of the best-selling Moneyland, Deborah Hargreaves, former FT journalist and founder of the High Pay Centre think tank, and Daryl Cunningham, the Yorkshire-based cartoonist and writer. This takes place somewhat appropriately at the Banqueting Suite in City Hall on Sunday July 7.

Business readers will know that capitalism is getting a bad press at the moment, not helped by the excesses that will no doubt be pilloried at the above event. The general sense of uncertainty isn’t helping. Paul Mason, the journalist and film-maker, will be offering a tonic with his new book, Clear Bright Future: A Radical Defence of the Human Being, which promises “a vision of humans as more than puppets and consumers” and highlights the importance of language, innovation and cooperation. (Bradford is a living and breathing example of that, Paul.) The ex-Channel and BBC Newsnight economics editor will be at Waterstones on Monday July 1.

In an increasingly polarised political landscape, it’s easy to overlook the vital role that business plays in creating and maintaining prosperity. Capitalism might not be perfect and certainly needs improvement, particularly in spreading more evenly the opportunity to succeed, but it does pay for an awful lot of what we all take for granted.

In this spirit, I would like to thank all of the sponsors and funders without whom this festival wouldn’t be possible. Bradford Literature Festival represents a fantastic opportunity for companies from a CSR perspective, given its focus on accessibility, literacy and cultural engagement. With its national profile, it’s also a great marketing platform.

This is just a small selection of highlights from this year’s inspirational showcase. The founder and director Syima Aslam is doing a fine job as the author of one of Bradford’s biggest and best success stories of recent years. She said: “It’s important to me that as the festival grows in stature nationally and internationally that we stay rooted in Bradford.” We know the district has extraordinary challenges as well as extraordinary opportunities. In that respect, it’s a microcosm of the world in 2019. Where better to find the solutions?

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

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