The time is right for Bradford to be UK City of Culture

By David Baldwin

Today will be a tale of two cities: one the capital of our great nation and seat of decision-making powers and the other the up-and-coming place of youth, potential and opportunity.

I am referring to London and Bradford and the events being held in both destinations today to officially launch our bid to be the UK City of Culture in 2025.

We will be in London tonight to hammer the message home that we are the leading contender in the competition to host this prestigious title and the best place to capture all the benefits it can bring. But the day begins in Bradford at the Kala Sangam arts hub with a coming together for the growing coalition of cultural and community groups we need to make our bid successful.

We will also be announcing the members of the steering group which as chairman of the Bradford Economic Partnership I am delighted to be joining.

The Southbank Centre will be staging our London event, just across the Thames from Whitehall and the Department for Digital Culture Media and Sport, which will announce the winning entry at the end of 2021.

We have recruited a line-up of leading figures from the arts and cultural industries to bang the drum for Bradford, including keynote speaker Sir Peter Bazalgette, chairman of ITV, Lynette Huntley, chief of staff at Channel 4, and Madani Younis, creative director at our host venue.

Madani is one of the brightest stars in the arts world, winning plaudits for his energy, vision, innovation and experimentation in the course of his career, which started in Bradford at the Asian Theatre School and Freedom Studios.

He told us: “Bradford reminds me of what makes our country great and this bid is an opportunity to shout about how great our city is with new friends.”

We will also be hearing from Kersten England, chief executive of Bradford Council, Tom Bloxham, the chairman of regeneration pioneer Urban Splash, and Mary Dowson, interim chair of our City of Culture board and director of local radio station Bradford Community Broadcasting.

The BBC journalist Sabbiyah Pervez will be compere.

Viewers will know her from the corporation’s We Are Bradford storytelling project which pioneered a new approach to news gathering and gave a voice to our residents on the national stage.

Supporters include promising new talents such as Suman Hanif whose filmmaking is attracting international attention and is producing her first feature film, Amara and Family, in Bradford.

She sees the city as a wonderful backdrop for telling globally relevant stories about the universal themes of mental health, identity, immigration and female empowerment.

We can also count a number of allies in the cultural establishment such as Roger Mosey, the former head of BBC television news and Master of Selwyn College at the University of Cambridge.

He said: “I’ve lived and worked in various cities in the UK and I am completely convinced that the atmosphere and the culture of Bradford are unique.

“It’s about the mix of heritage and youth: a city that has experienced tough times but also has a sense of humour and a good heart. It’s still a place I think of as home, and I wish the city the best of luck in getting the recognition it deserves.”

Our time is coming. We believe major investment in jobs and regeneration will result from Bradford’s bid.

It will add further impetus to our economic growth strategy.

This aims to add £4bn to the district economy, generate 20,000 new jobs and improve the skills of nearly 50,000 residents by 2030.

We are making strong progress against our targets. We are staging inspirational events, nurturing young talent, winning arts investment and welcoming new names to the district and wider city region such as professional services giant PwC and national broadcaster Channel 4.The social and economic regeneration is gathering pace in Bradford.

The City of Culture 2025 can be the catalyst to take this to the next stage.

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