Bradford Businesses Successful in Community Business Challenge

Five community businesses in Bradford have each been awarded £10,000 in the M&S Community Business Challenge. The successful businesses are:

  • Bread + Roses
  • The Thornbury Centre
  • Margaret Magdalene CIC
  • Friends of Silsden Town Hall
  • Queensbury Celtic Football Club

This business support programme is a partnership between M&S and Power to Change and PWC.

All five businesses received £10,000, an offer of business advice from M&S and an opportunity to join PwC’s social entrepreneur club, which offers:

  • a business strategy
  • strategic business advice
  • advice on how to continue to grow
  • advice on how to create efficiencies

Congratulations to the five successful businesses. We look forward to seeing them develop through this support from M&S and Power to Change.

Bradford is the most improved city to live and work

Bradford City Park

Bradford has been named as the most improved city in a nationwide study of the best places to live and work in the UK.

Bradford’s standing as this year’s top improver is driven by jobs, work-life balance and skills amongst its 25+ year olds.

Bradford has experienced a large reduction in its unemployment rate, measured at 4.1% in 2018 compared to 10% in 2015. The city also demonstrated moderate improvements in work-life balance, health, environment and skills amongst the adult population.

Bradford Council Chief Executive Kersten England said:

“We are delighted to be rated as the most improved city in this year’s Good Growth Index. This is in part is recognition of our employment growth and the great quality of life in the district.

“This has come during a great year where there are many positives to point to – from great national businesses investing in the district such as the NEC and Channel 4 to our strong local businesses such as the growing EXA Networks in the IT sector and expanding high-tech engineering businesses such as Global Precision Engineering in Keighley.

“The district has recently been rated by Barclays as the best city to start a business in the UK and we have welcomed the creation of over two thousand businesses in the first nine months of 2019.

“We know there is more to do and we are looking forward to building on this success.”

The annual Demos-PwC Good Growth for Cities 2019 sets out to show there’s more to economic well-being than just measuring GDP. The index measures the performance of 42 of the UK’s largest cities, England’s Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) and ten Combined Authorities, against a basket of ten factors which the public think are most important when it comes to economic well being. These include jobs, health, income and skills, as well as work-life balance, house-affordability, travel-to-work times, income equality, environment and business start-ups.

Talented Bradford writers producing outstanding theatre

By Dave Baldwin

Tech and media giants are piling billions of dollars into streaming services. 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. The fate of all this investment will live or die by the quality of its output. That will be determined by the quality of input. Good writing, in other words.

Bradford offers an astonishingly rich seam of original content. The district is producing some very exciting new writers. BD Stories, presented by theatre company Freedom Studios, perfectly illustrates the point. The double bill of short short plays celebrates the stories and cultures of Bradford. The production is a triumph of emerging writing talent and points to a promising future.

BD Stories

The first play, Number 4, is set in a women’s basketball team and tells a powerful and universal story of friendship, identity, body image and sport. The playwright Asma Elbadawi was born in Sudan and moved to Bradford as a young child. She overcame dyslexia to become a poet, performance artist and writer. She is also a basketball player, coach and global brand ambassador for Adidas.

“Growing up with dyslexia means I had an issue with spelling,” Asma told the BBC. “I would just write the poems and not share them. As I got older, I got the urge to share my work a lot more… Anyone can do those amazing things they see other people do.”

Asma has performed at TEDx Bradford, Bradford Literature Festival, Liverpool Acoustic Festival, Women of the World Festival and London Word of Mouth. She won the 2015 Words First poetry competition in Leeds. Her poetry and interviews have featured on the BBC, Al Jazeera, Channel 4 and Buzzfeed. Number 4 is her first play.

The second play, Pashto Thriller, tells the story of a teenage British-Pakistani girl growing up in Bradford in the 1980s, struggling with having to wear a shalwar kameez at school and harbouring a secret love of Michael Jackson and dancing. When Bibi visits from Pakistan, grandmother and granddaughter find more in common than they thought. It is an exhilarating play; funny, sad and joyful.

It is Aina J Khan’s first play. She moved to Bradford aged 15 and based the story on her and her mother’s experiences. Aina is a journalist and has been published in the Guardian, Al Jazeera, Vogue, Financial Times and Vice. She told The Yorkshire Post: “Within Bradford, there is such a volcano of talent and creativity because there are so many people who are starving to tell their stories because they have been neglected for so long. They have not had the funding and focus that other cities like London have had.”

Both Aina and Asma were associate artists at Freedom Studios, a pioneering theatre company responsible for developing artistic and creative talent in Yorkshire. They were encouraged simply to write about what they wanted to write about. Audiences will agree the results are outstanding. “Significant, important and inspiring”, said writer, critic and BBC presenter Nick Ahad of their work.

Alex Chisolm, co-artistic director, said: “BD Stories came about to bring these two plays to a wider audience in Bradford, an audience that has wholeheartedly embraced both plays. Freedom Studios exists to nurture new talent and new stories and bring them to life with and for communities. Bradford has a richness of stories in all of the connections, and frictions, between its many communities. And it has a wealth of talent to tell those stories to a wider world.”

All this bodes well for our bid to host UK City of Culture in 2025. It shows why Channel 4 chose to set up its new national headquarters on our doorstep. A canny move. Studios looking for the next big streaming hit would do well to look beyond the usual sources for their inspiration. They will find plenty to write home about in Bradford.

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.