Meet Bradford’s new radicals making waves

Despite the gloomy autumnal weather, a walk through Bradford always puts a spring in my step. Stunning heritage architecture around every corner, businesses primed to grow and an enterprising young population: this is a fantastic base from which to grow a city in the global economy.

Bradford is the UK’s youngest city, with more than a quarter of the population under 18. Other places would chop off their right arm for this: young people are often the game-changers with the talent to spot an opportunity and the energy and dynamism to do it. Everyone in Bradford has a part to play in unlocking our economic potential but it’s our young, diverse population that will shake things up.

The Observer newspaper this month published a list of Britain’s 50 best social enterprises. The New Radicals 2018 are the pick of social enterprises which are making waves by doing good for society or the environment. Schemes include work to support migrants, help people find work, increase recycling, and support children with disabilities.

As chairman of Bradford Economic Partnership, I want Bradford to be the UK’s fastest-growing economy over the next decade. This isn’t business for business’ sake: I’m motivated by improving access to employment and education and people having the chance to achieve their potential. To do this, our public sector, businesses and social enterprises will need to fire on all cylinders.

Bradford was well-represented in the New Radicals 2018 list and several local inspirational women featured. Ruth Ibegbuna, a community leader from Bradford who leads the Roots Programme, was a judge. She knows a thing or two having worked as a teacher before setting up the Reclaim Project in 2007, a youth leadership and social change organisation.

Fiona Broadfoot was in the top 50. She’s an inspirational activist who runs an organisation to support women at risk of being sexually exploited by providing long-term support, advice and assistance. Heroes like Fiona don’t always get the recognition they deserve. I hope that awards like the New Radicals 2018 may help fix that.

Common Wealth is a community theatre group co-founded and run by Evie Manning from Speaker’s Corner, a Bradford city centre creative space. This New Radical-listed group puts on entertaining yet thought-provoking socially and politically-inspired theatre on subjects including Muslim female boxers and tough times in the UK’s steel industry. This is inclusive enterprise with genuine purpose, by bringing audiences together it seeks to raise awareness and inspire positive change.

Evie Manning is in good company in coming through Bradford’s thriving arts and cultural scene. This month, Syima Aslam, founder of the Bradford Literature Festival, won in the Hospital Club 100 Awards, which recognise influential and innovative talent in the UK’s creative industries. I’m a huge fan of Syima’s and think she’s destined to do more great things.

If you’re an art lover you may have heard of Madani Younis. If not, you soon will: it was announced this month that he is to be the next director of London’s Southbank, the UK’s biggest arts centre. Younis cut his teeth in Bradford, as founding artistic director of the Freedom Theatre. He will take some Bradford flair and Yorkshire grit to one of the biggest arts jobs in the country.

As well as these inspirational leaders, there’s also a new generation of businesspeople being inspired by Bradford’s powerful culture of entrepreneurship. There are around 35,000 self-employed people here and in 2017, Bradford was named best city in the UK to start a business by Barclays.

Entrepreneur Gemma Andrews began blogging about cooking while living in London. As the blog became popular, readers asked for the recipes and ingredients. Gemma spotted an opportunity to make her mark up by supplying the ingredients herself and set up shop. She returned to her home city to grow the business and today Superfood Market turns over a cool £10m and trades in 48 countries. After being named Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2018 in the Bradford Means Business Awards this summer, the 30-year-old said: “Bradford is a perfect environment to grow a business.”

Stories like these show the amazing talent and dedication of Bradford’s people. When our young people are inspired, fantastic things happen on these streets. Here’s to the ones who shake things up.

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

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