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’s UK City of Culture bid is a sign of increased optimism

Dancers at the Bradford 2025 launch event

By Dave Baldwin

Monty Python was right: always look on the bright side of life. A major US study of more than 70,000 people has confirmed that optimists live longer than those with a negative outlook. The researchers from Boston University also found that positive people were more likely to set themselves goals and believe they would achieve them.

That’s the point I want to make here. To be successful at anything, you must believe in yourself. Bradford’s bid to host the UK City of Culture in 2025 is a sure sign of growing self belief. If you doubt me, have a look at Jack King’s We Are All Bradford film, the first commission for the bid, and feel the sense of confidence and optimism in the way people of all ages and backgrounds are talking about our district.

“It’s a city of constant stimulation… it’s always challenging you and asking you questions… it’s a city of joy and a home away from home… a city of industrial innovation… of creative and artistic innovation… and a city of the world,” according to some of the voices in the film. See it for yourself and share it with your friends.

Winning host status is our goal and we are going all out to achieve it. Businesses have an important role to play. Suzanne Watson, President of Bradford Chamber of Commerce, said: “We support Bradford’s bid to become UK City of Culture 2025. Businesses know they will be more successful operating in a vibrant, aspirational place. Being UK City of Culture would help us to share more widely the assets and enthusiasm that we see locally.

“I think that the bid process itself will bring in different stakeholders to contribute positively to the campaign and this will highlight some of the very significant gains that Bradford can achieve by being accorded this designation. We already have lots to shout about but being UK City of Culture can help us make a step-change in this area. The bid will demonstrate Bradford’s global connectivity, its strong partnership working and its historical and continuing contributions to the arts, commerce, politics, sport and innovation… to name just a few areas.”

Sandy Needham, Chief Executive at West and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, added: “It’s the arts, sport, the environment and people that define the culture of a city. Bradford’s museums, festivals, architecture, sport, international food and young population make it a welcoming place. For many visitors, it exceeds expectations. It’s a good place to start a business too – workspace costs are reasonable, for example, and there’s a growing population.

“Recruitment is a competitive market so being based in a city offering quality of life and cultural activities makes a difference to how attractive jobs are. Initiatives such as our own Bradford Manufacturing Weeks help raise awareness of local career opportunities while businesses in that particular sector are already exporting their products all over the world, and so promoting Bradford.”

Bradford does face extraordinary challenges. But it also presents extraordinary opportunities. I’m an optimist. I believe that if we all work together and get our noses pointing in the same direction, we can achieve great things: whether that’s adding £4bn to our district economy, getting 20,000 extra people into work, raising the skills levels of 48,000 more or winning the bid to host the UK City of Culture in 2025. If there is ever any doubt, give a whistle and remember: always look on the bright side of life.

Business leaders, by their nature, tend to be positive people. Given the constant cut and thrust of running a business, it is essential to see the glass as half full. They can make a big difference to our bid by showing their support. To find out more, I invite them to get in touch with the Bradford Chamber or visit the Bradford 2025 City of Culture website.