Walking Through Cities: Little Germany in Bradford

Originally posted on Rocket Room P:


Little Germany

In the middle of the city of Bradford is the area known as Little Germany. As the name suggests, everything there feels a bit more continental and quirky. There’s something old fashioned about the place. It’s the Germany of a Universal film from the 1930’s.



The smallest details seem to be decorative. Maybe there’s just something about being here that makes you look closer.





Little Germany is also home to the Bradford Playhouse. The school took us here to see the film of Jane Eyre. Whore and Tetsuo were showing the same week.




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Will it take a Cannon to fire Galloway?

indexIf first impressions are anything to go by, I shouldn’t be writing this post about Sophia Cannon, the woman who wants to take Bradford West off Gorgeous George. I first found out about her in a Grauniad piece, “Is Labour scared of George Galloway?” What raised my ire? When asked why she wanted to stand in Bradford West, she told the Guardian “Two words: Bethnal Green, 2005.” Great! I thought to myself This is just what we need – another ego who’s using us for self promotion & settle a score from London. This morning, Saturday, I got a Twitter DM: a phone number and “Call me!” which I did. The first thing Cannon told me: “I need you to stop using your infographic” on education. Who the fuck are you? sprang to my lips but she was already on to the next sentence and I didn’t get a chance to do much bar listen for quite a while. So, why am I writing a post about some pushy carpetbagger who wants a dust up with Gorgeous George? Education.

Recently, I’ve been banging on and on about education on Twitter, writing to MPs and Lords and councilors and all sorts of people. Why? Bradford’s education is awful. I’ll write more anon but Bradford’s the second worst local authority in the country for GCSE performance and was named and shamed by Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw as being one of only 13 LAs in the country which had less than 50% of schools rated as Good or better. It was this issue that put me on Sophia Cannon’s radar.

“Education’s my baby,” she told me, before launching into a potted history of how she was part of the team which devised, implemented and delivered the London Challenge through her work with the Canary Wharf Foundation, a scheme which saw London’s schools moving from amongst the worst to the best in the country. When’s it our turn? has been my burning question. Cannon’s answer is simple: as soon as she’s elected.

Speaking with her, it was immediately obvious that education is her passion. She told me about how education saved her life, the trials of being a bright but bad lass who went on to become a barrister thanks to the luck of being placed in a neighbouring authority’s good school which supported her, nurturing her talents and widened her horizons. She knows the benefits of a good education because she’s lived it.

What impressed me most, though, was her knowledge, understanding and experience of taking an area with a failing educational system and transforming. That is exactly what Bradford needs. And she doesn’t just know what the problem is, she fixed it elsewhere and is determined to replicate that success in Bradford.

George Galloway knows there’s a problem with education in Bradford: he campaigned on it in 2012, he’s said a few times that we need a Bradford Challenge, similar to London’s, and he’s a go-to-guy for quote whenever Bradford’s bottom of the pile again. But what’s he actually done?

Cannon, on the other hand, was part of setting up London Challenge, spoke passionately about getting finance, getting support, getting the politicians on side, getting sports teams, universities & business to play their part, and, most of all, getting education sorted. Galloway’s spoken about the London Challenge, no doubt, but Cannon’s done it.

Confronted by a mouthy firebrand with seemingly less than perfect reasons for wanting to represent me in parliament, you can understand my feeling of déjà vu – I’ve been there with George and, for me, it just hasn’t worked out how I expected. I saw in Galloway an opinionated, passionate man who would get in front of the camera and bang the drum about what’s great about Bradford, understand how it could be improved and get things changed. I’ve been disappointed. In Cannon, I see the same, but many differences. Sophia Cannon told me a lot about how she intends to represent Bradford West, and the differences between her intentions and Galloway’s style are stark.

Stressing that she’s not just about the party and will plough her own trough, she was blunt, even indiscreet, about her thoughts on other politicians, but it was her working relationship with key members of both front benches which impressed me: no matter what the make up of the next government, she knows the next education secretary, has worked with them and is able to influence them. (I know, I know, she says she is but is she really? – but we know that Galloway is firmly and proudly outside the tent pissing in and is not able to influence any party in that way; he told me as much when I wrote to him about education, stating that, clearly, he is powerless as Respect is not in government nationally or locally.) She is confident that, in parliament, she will be able to influence others, from the backbenches of the Labour party to the education secretary and up to the Lords, where her former boss, Oona King who endorsed her candidacy, sits.

Another way in which she differs from Galloway is that she has a good relationship with the press, both right and left wing. Galloway has complained, possibly with some justification, that, as an outsider, the press leave him alone or set him up. I wanted a known face with a strong voice to talk Bradford up and ensure we got what we need: what I’ve found is that, whenever Galloway’s in the press, it’s for reasons which make me disappointed, even ashamed, to have him representing me: angering rape victims, spats with former employees, stating Bradford’s an Israel-free zone, and telling the world not to come to Bradford to see the Tour de France all pissed me off. Have I heard him sing our praises, advertise our best bits or stamp his feet about our falling educational standards, unfair government cuts or show up the government for the way it treats us and the wider North? No. Cannon says she can and will.

My final points in favour of Cannon are odd to explain and justify: location, race, religion.

Firstly, she’s not a Bradford lass. To many, this is a negative – after all, shouldn’t Bradford’s future be in the hands of a Bradfordian? I think it’s a positive that she’s an offcomedun. The biggest thing the Labour Party could do to woo me back is to send in a serious candidate with experience and nous, to send in not the best Bradfordian but the best person – and, of course, she is free from the stain of Biridiri which, as we all know, is about all the national media knows about voting in Bradford. Known in political, educational and legal circles, Cannon wants to improve Bradford and leave a legacy. We’ve had empty shirts with a Bradford accent before – she’s something new and different and that’s what I want.

The second part is more touchy: I’m tired of the national media, when they hump their way up the M1 every election time, believing that Bradford is a city divided (viz Jemima Khan ‘outing’ Galloway’s supposed conversion to Islam). In part, it’s true – but does any multicultural city not, at least in part, struggle with diversity? What angers me is they come up with the firm idea that we’re ruled by Kashmiri clans who’ll never allow anyone but a favourite son get near the ballot paper, find a story to ‘prove’ it, take a gritty pic & piss of back down South for Pimms. What every commentator on Galloway’s election win said was, basically, that the whites won’t vote for an Asian and the Asians won’t vote for a non-Muslim (unless the other chap’s a drinker, nugdge, nudge). Bollocks. What nobody noted was that Bradford West’s last and very successful Labour MP was Marsha Singh, and he was neither white nor Muslim. What better demonstration that we vote on merit for the candidate we want, for the person and party who shares our ideals and rubbishing these harming, shameful claims of racial and religious divide than by returning once again a non-white, non-Muslim? You shouldn’t be voting for a person just because they share your skin tone or your God, but by returning Sophia Cannon, at least London’s papers will have to find another stick to beat us with.

In short, Sophia Cannon knows what the problems are, has been in similar situations before and has worked hard to fix them, and she’s not weighed down by Bradford baggage. Rude, brusque and demanding – yes – but maybe that’s what Bradford needs… but it’d be nice if she’d say ‘Please’.

GALLOWAY - sadBut what about George? Perhaps he’s been just what we need in Bradford West. Like many other Respect voters, I cast my ballot for him in part to teach the local Labour Party a lesson: stop taking us for granted and send us someone worth voting for. Maybe Sophia Cannon could be George’s greatest legacy, after shocking the party, ensuring they never take us for granted again.

There are, of course, others in the running. I don’t know much about Nasreen Karim, and I’ll write more if find out; I was impressed with Naz Shah, a local campaigner on equality and domestic violence, as well as chair of a local mental health charity, for her pieces in the Urban Echo about the differences between reciting and understanding the Koran. Cannon, Karim or Shah would, probably, get my vote in May (especially as I’m disenchanted with and banned (seriously, he banned me) from voting for the incumbent).

On the other hand, Shakeela Lal and Naveeda Ikram, both serving Labour councilors in Bradford, are firmly in the mould of what’s come before and would demonstrate that Labour’s learnt nothing from Galloway’s victory. Although Ikram’s a former mayor (and Britain’s first female British-Asian to hold such a post) so has kudos , they are both party, local party and Bradford politics through and through… and we know how that faired last time. Surely even Labour, even Bradford Labour, couldn’t be so daft as to fall back into old ways after the damning Rowntree Trust report which slated it and its selection practices. Actually, when it comes to Bradford West, maybe it could.

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Charitable Giving

What would make you more likely to give a little to a local charity?


I volunteer with Bradford Cinderella Club. We support Bradford District’s underprivileged kids go on the trips their more affluent peers take for granted… and we’ve been doing it for nearly 125 years.

We’d like to raise our profile further among the Bradford public. Many local groups and schools know about us and the work we do, but we want to be in the hearts and minds of others so they know someone’s working hard for the kids who can slip through the cracks when it comes to a treat.

I’d like to increase the number of people who recognise us and the work we do, increase the amount of donations we receive so we can increase the number of kids we support, and, maybe, increase the number of people who volunteer with us.

To begin, it’d be great if you’d quickly click the poll above. There are no links, no hidden traps and nothing that says you’re got to donate. Simply, it’s so I know what I’m doing is right and will have impact.

Of course, if you’d like to support Bradford Cinderella Club, you can always donate here.

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Why I’m on Strike

I’m not at school today. School’s closed. If you’re in the North West, where I teach, you’ve probably seen it on the news or you’ve been directly affected it. You may have had to find childcare or been forced to take a day off work or work from home. If you’ve been put out, I’m sorry. I really am sorry. However, I don’t think I’ve got a choice.

I’m going to give you my reasons for striking. Once you’ve read it, you can call me the names I’ve been called previously: “lazy’, “workshy” and “parasite” are just a few. I would ask you, please, to read to the end before you comment, though. If you feel any of those labels are right for me, or if you think I’m doing the wrong thing, please do tell me… but do give this a read first.

Teachers are going to be called a lot of things today, but we’re used to that. Recently, we’ve been told we’re Marxist “enemies of promise”, lazy, fail poor kids and are responsible for the rise of fascism. Today’s different, though, as we’ll have politicians suggesting we’re greedy, self-centred and aren’t thinking about the rest of the country – and you – as we take industrial action. I can understand why the government has to say this and I can also understand why you might agree with them. After all, you’re feeling the effects of my actions and, to be frank, my union (it doesn’t matter which one) hasn’t done a good job of telling you why I’m striking. The unions are very good at getting teachers out on strike, but they haven’t sold our cause to you. Had they told you why our actions are in your and your child’s interests, I think we’d have far more support from you and everyone else in our communities.

Why am I on strike?

There are a number of reasons, and I’ll list them. They’re not in the same order or the same explanations given by my union: these are my personal reasons why I’m not in school.

Firstly, class sizes are bigger. There are fewer teachers teaching more students. Teachers and others in education are losing their jobs. The number of teachers is dropping (Teacher numbers fall by 10,000 in a year) and this comes at a time when the number of students in schools in rising, with some describing the shortage a ‘crisis’. This has led to the government removing the requirement that your child must be taught in classes of no more than 30 pupils – the government is increasing class sizes.

There’s a simple reason for this: cost. Your child’s education isn’t worth paying for, say the government. More students per teacher means a lower cost per child. Indeed, Sir Michael Wilshaw, appointed head of OfSted by the current government, says that schools will soon be required to choose between high-quality staff and smaller class sizes – your child can either have a highly skilled, experienced and qualified teacher in a very large class, or can be in a smaller class with a less experienced (possibly unqualified) teacher.

Secondly, teachers don’t have to be ‘teachers’. The government is removing the requirement for the person in charge of your child’s education to be a trained teacher. The government has removed the need for staff in academies and free schools to be fully qualified teachers, and they are expanding this to state schools. Most people agree that this is simply a cost-cutting measure. The government says that there are some fantastic people teaching who don’t have a teaching qualification and this isn’t about cutting costs, but is about raising standards. If that’s true, why are unqualified teachers paid so much less if they’re at least as good as qualified teachers? If these unqualified staff have the skills of qualified teachers, and can become qualified in school using their existing skills and experience in the classroom, and would get a pay rise when they did, why don’t they? Finally, I wouldn’t put a child on a school bus knowing the driver didn’t have a driving licence, so why is it OK for the person in charge of the class (or even the school in one case) to have no formal training or teaching qualification?

Currently our education system is seen the sixth best in the world. I want to make it the best, not the cheapest.

Thirdly, teachers’ pay and conditions are being hacked away. This one’s really hard for me to talk to you about. Why? If you’re like most of us, your pay’s gone down, your conditions are worse and your outlook is bleaker, too. You’re probably thinking “I’m having to pay for the mess the bankers got us into; why shouldn’t teachers pay too? We’re all in this together, right?” Well, I hope you don’t think me too self-centred or selfish when I disagree, especially as I don’t think you’ve been treated fairly either.

I’m being asked to pay more into my pension in order to get it later and receive less. In a hugely problematic time economically, the government has said categorically that our pensions aren’t financially viable – that our pensions are bankrupting the country. Wow! If this is true, it’s no wonder I should and must take a reduction in my pension. The problem is a report from the House of Lords, by a lord appointed by the current government, said that our pensions were already affordable, were far from the ‘gold-plated’ pots of money the government tells you they are, and measures such as the change from RPI (Retail Price Index) to CPI (Consumer Price Index) had already drastically reduced the value of teachers’ pensions and the cost to the tax payer for public servants’ pensions has already been slashed by 25%. But, if the government says they’re unaffordable, fine – show us your calculations, just like Lord Hutton did, so we can check your figures. The problem is, the government won’t. They would like us to ignore the figures given by their own appointee and trust their other secret figures which they won’t release.

We’re in the same boat as all public sector workers, with job cuts, pay cuts, and pension cuts – we all have to suffer a little for the greater good, right? No. You see, our MPs who are saying the public purse can’t afford to pay so much to people who serve the state, aren’t taking a pay cut themselves. In fact, they are pushing for an increase to their their pay whilst everyone else suffers. In May, John Bercow, the Conservative Speaker of the House, began pushing for an increase to MPs’ salaries of between £10,000 and £20,000 and, in private, MPs have said (on average) their salaries should rise from £66,000 to £86,000, with Conservative MPs suggesting a figure of nearly £100,000 a year is fair and reasonable. My salary has increased by 1% (so, with inflation, I can buy a lot less than last year) and yours has increased by 0.6% on average (so you’re even worse off than me) but MPs want at least 32% increase in pay. MPs argue that £85-100k a year is necessary to attract the best people into Parliament. Unfortunately, this is where my argument might fail – because I agree with them. I think changes to teachers’ pay and conditions should be resisted because we need the best people to teach our kids. If we are going to attract the best people to teach our children, we can’t pay the least. I don’t want the MPs’ ludicrously high 32%, but I do believe a good wage will attract the best the people into the profession and mean they can stay there and thrive. Something in line with inflation, so I can buy the same as I could last year, will do me this year.

I mentioned I’m already a bit better off than you: I got 1% and you got 0.6% so I’m doing better than you – sorry about that. Honestly, I am. I think we both deserve more, but in this time of austerity, we’re all in this together. Except, we’re not. Whilst our wages have increased slightly, and by much less than inflation, there are some who are doing much better – £10,000s better. The government gave millionaires a huge tax cut this year, and said it would trickle down to the rest of us, making us all richer. What’s actually happened over the last decade is that the bottom 90% of us (including me and, probably, you) have had virtually no increase in average income; the top 10% have seen an increase of £5k; the top 5% have seen an increase of £7k; whilst the top 1% have seen their average incomes double, an increase of £150k per year. All this at a time when tax for the top is dropping and every week the richest amongst us are being outed for using divisive and elaborate tax avoidance techniques – tax which would pay for the services your council is having to cut, pay for the cuts the government are making, and pay for the cuts to your child’s education, including new buildings, new equipment, new qualified teachers and, yes, my pay.

The truth is, though, that we are in a time of austerity, we have to be careful with money, and we have to make sure every penny is spent wisely – except if you’re in charge of the Department for Education. Michael Gove has said that your child’s education is too expensive, that your child isn’t worth the money we spend on him or her, that the future, the next generation, isn’t worth the money we spend on it – except if it’s one of his pet projects. In a time of austerity, his department has over spent by £1bn on academies and free schools. That’s £ 1,000,000,000 or 43,668 new teachers.

Furthermore, the government’s plans for the curriculum are wrong. I disagree with the government’s plans for what our children should be taught, how they should be taught it and how it’s being brought in. We’re the sixth best education system in the world – and that’s not good enough. I want us to be the best, and I want us to keep improving when we get there. I want our system to be amazing and wonderful; I want people to talk and talk about how good education is in this country until all superlatives have been exhausted… and then I want it to get even better. Michael Gove’s plans won’t do that; Michael Gove’s plans will send us backwards. Just about every one of his edicts has been shot down in flames because they have been ill conceived, ill thought through, or poorly implemented. Even when huge bodies of evidence have been put before him, he’s ignored them, and just last week, even his own advisors, experts he’d appointed and employs as consultants, told him, in no uncertain terms, that his changes would damage education, damage employment and damage children… and he’s ignored them and done what he thinks is best. I want to teach children the right things in the right way; Mr Gove wants to teach children the wrong things in the wrong way – just ask his experts.

Finally, I don’t have a choice but to strike. My union has asked Mr Gove to talk about these issues and a whole raft more. He agreed – and offered them one hour. One hour to talk about all my issues listed above and the dozens more teachers have with the direction the government’s taking education. One hour to discuss pay & pensions; one hour to discuss class sizes & teacher shortages; one hour to discuss teacher training & the use of unqualified staff in classrooms. One hour, in total, to discuss all that. If you had a problem at work, wouldn’t you expect more than hour of your boss’ time? If your child had a problem at school, would you expect me or one of my colleagues to limit you to an hour?

Michael Gove will not take my union’s request for a meeting seriously – so what choice do I have?

Thank you for reading this far. With all the rhetoric from the government, it’s hard to get our message across so I really do appreciate it. Today, I’ll be called lazy and workshy, greedy and a parasite, so it’s good to know at least you’ve listened. I hate being off school and I hate hurting you and your children today – and I’m sorry that I have to. I don’t take strike action lightly – I think my union’s only ever been on strike once before and this is the first time I’ve voted for and taken strike action – but I believe it’s the only way that the government will listen to my deep concerns about our children’s futures.

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Interesting take on HS2, Bradford and the answer to David Ward’s question on 6th February.

Originally posted on beleben:

On 6 February, Bradford East MP David Ward (Liberal Democrat) asked the government about economic benefits for Bradford from HS2, and received a boilerplate soundbite answer.

Mr Ward: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what steps he is taking to ensure that Bradford and Leeds-Bradford airport receive the maximum potential economic benefit from Phase 2 of High Speed 2.

Mr Simon Burns: Phase Two of High Speed 2 will transform journey times, capacity and connectivity between major cities of the north, Midlands and London, enabling northern regions to fulfil their economic potential.

HS2 will also free up space on the existing rail network for additional commuter, regional and freight services, offering more opportunity for services to meet local needs. Latest estimates published in August 2012 suggest HS2 will deliver net benefits of £64 billion including over £15 billion in wider economic impacts. If local areas seize the opportunity…

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“We Will Neither Forget Nor Forgive” – George Galloway and the Tour de France

George Galloway is angry. Events last week caused him to fume, rage, shake his hoary locks and take, with vehemence, with ire, with a passion normally reserved for the US Senate, to Twitter.

“I represent Bradford West. The City. We have been cheated by this. We will neither forget nor forgive”

What on Earth could’ve appalled the usually unflappable and unshakeable Mr Galloway?  Was it the cap on benefits which will affect hundreds in his constituency? As a socialist lion, defender of the poor and the weak; as MP for Bradford West, an area with one of the highest rates of unemployment in the country; as vanquisher of Tories, berating them for “supporting the attack on the poorest members of society who [subsidise] the rich”, bellowing the call to arms: “A caring society has a duty to protect and support the most vulnerable members”, one would assume so. But, no – Mr Galloway was unable to make the five hour debate and subsequent vote as he was in Egypt (I believe).

Mr Galloway, angered and enraged, berated and vilified the route of the Tour de France (TdF).

An anger – a white hot ball of fury which burns and builds and rises and pulsates within me now as I write; superior to and surpassing Mr Galloway’s own ire in size and strength and intensity – exploded in the pit of my stomach as he told the world that “We”, citizens of Bradford, would “neither forget nor forgive” the TdF for not entering our city’s walls.

“How dare this man..?” I thought; “How dare this man..?” I think now. “How dare this man say that, think that, spread that? How dare that man presume to speak for me?” I scream inside, my maniacal inner monologue reverberating around my head like banshee in a box.

And then I have to walk away from Twitter, lay down in a darkened room and place a moistened flannel across my brow.

“Why?” you may ask. Well, as I see it, there are three reasons for Mr Galloway’s mephitic musings to enrage me so.

Divisive and Ignorant

Firstly, these remarks are divisive. “Bradford West” abhors TdF’s decision to visit up the valley; “The City” is appalled by le Tour in Keighley, Ilkley, Haworth and more. Mr Galloway’s comments drive a wedge between ‘us’ and ‘them’, and when they are more than our neighbours, more like our flatmates, such a contentious position can only cause harm in a District with its fair share of fissures.

Not content with deriding the decision, he calls foul on the payment which Bradford METROPLOITAN Council put into the pot, saying that those people – our friends and family and workmates in Airedale and Wharfedale – have “robbed” the city, as it’s Bradford West which will pay the lion’s share.

I was embarrassed by this. Embarrassed and ashamed. I go to The Alhambra, St George’s Hall, and The Industrial Museum – does he think people in Keighley and Ilkley don’t pay for this? His constituency got a £30m City Park – is he offering for us to pay back BMDC tax payers, because I certainly don’t have £30m kicking around and I don’t think anyone else round here does either. Bradford gets little but ignored from the government, and I know many people in Keighley and Bingley believe what little comes is spent and used in the city. The relationship is viewed by many in much the same was as that of Bradford and Leeds’, with Keighley being the Cinderella to the overbearing, greedy ugly sister. So, for ‘us’ to tell ‘them’ that ‘we’ will neither forgive nor forget their success caused my blood to boil. Vile, rude, obnoxious, short-sighted and ignorant, his divisive comments made me incandescent with rage.

Unrealistic and Unhelpful

Secondly, his desires were unrealistic. People more knowledgeable than me have said that TdF rarely visits cities in the middle of the route (though I did see it in Angoulemme a few years back) due to the logistics of blocking of a city centre for hours on end with no fixed timescale (although, of course, this happens at the finish line). Also, the route planners want speed, with wide, open shots of flying cyclists careering down roads at eye-watering velocity, allowing for big, expansive shots to justify the big, expensive TV helicopter – you can’t have that in a city.

What galled me most, though, was his lack of knowledge and understanding of just how ignored we have been. We are massive, yet unknown; we are huge, yet ignored. When a little money seeps out of Whitehall, it is lapped up voraciously by Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and what droplets are left are sucked up greedily Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds. I fully expected to see a route which absolutely, consciously, unequivocally avoided Bradford – because that’s what happens to us. But no, we get something. Hell, we get two days of TdF passing through our lands. We should be overjoyed because, finally, after decades of underinvestment, feeding off scraps sent north which roll from time to time from Leeds’ table, we got something – we got something big.

And Mr Galloway’s comments must make the people of Welcome to Yorkshire wonder why the hell they threw us a bone because they just got it chucked back at their heads.

Destructive and Damaging

Bradford – the city – is not on the route. I understand this. But does that mean we can’t make hay while the TdF sun shines?

Ilkley, Keighley, Haworth, Silsden are all in Bradford – and we have to make sure that Bradford is mentioned often on TV and in the news.

And where’s better than Bradford to stay for le Tour? Tons of hotel rooms, relatively cheap, excellent road, rail and air links from Europe, the North and the whole country to a number of astonishingly scenic locations which will be visited on both days. If we’re being marketers here, we’ve a sedate nightlife which will titillate on demand but isn’t loud enough to intrude once your personal partying’s done. Apres le Tour, we have museums, gardens, a World Heritage Site,  and we’re the City of Film – we are the perfect place for the TdF day tripper, the long weekend visitor or the touring holidaymaker to make a base.

And George Galloway came out enraged, making out the Tour’s coming nowhere near us, that we have nothing to do with it, and we are as remote from the Tour as London Stanstead is to Bow Bells. People will come, far and wide, to se le Tour – we should all be welcoming them, attracting them, inviting them to stay in Bradford. They should stay in Ilkley and Haworth and Keighley and Silsden – because that’s where the Tour’s going. But there’ll be many, many more who will come and wonder where to stay and those places only have so many beds and restaurants and attractions, and many will want a city stay over one in a pleasant town.

If only there was a city nearby, within 15minutes’ drive or train ride where TdF trippers could lay their heads and fill their tums. There is – it just appears from Mr Galloway that it’s Leeds.

For his constituents, there are less tangible benefits, too. Forster Square and Frizinghall are 15minutes away from the action – get some kids on a train (or even better on a bike) and up to the action: let them see a world event on their doorstep. Youth unemployment is high, and what benefit a couple of days as Tour Maker could make to a kid’s CV. The Tour’s up the road, yes, but the cultural and entertainment extravaganza need not be confined there

So, why did he do it?

The answer is simple. He stated himself: “I’m trying to get us something”. And it was that tweet which made me question my bile. His heart, you see, is in the right place – but, f–k me, what an entirely wrong way to go about it.

George, what do you want and who do want it from? Do you want something from the people of Airedale who pay for your theatres; or the people of Wharfedale who subsidise your city centre’s Growth Zone; or from the tourist bosses based in Leeds who just threw Bradford a steak and got it slung back with a request for pepper sauce and a handjob; or from the Tour de France who, quite frankly, don’t give a shit what you want?

And that ball of anger suddenly recedes into a pip of anguish cocooned in a gossamer shawl of pity… for George… the little boy who doesn’t know what he wants or who he wants it from – he just wants something from someone and he doesn’t care who he hurts to get it.

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Bradford Question Time – #BDQT

Screen Shot 2012-12-26 at 17.28.42Bradford Question Time will give you the chance to question Bradford’s political, cultural, economic and social leaders via Twitter, see how they respond, and comment on their answers.

How does #BDQT work?
Each month, four guests will be invited to take one of the #BDQT Twitter accounts. They will answer and discuss your questions, which will be put them them by the moderator.

Screen Shot 2012-12-26 at 17.30.03At points, @BDQTMod may retweet some of the comments made by the audience following, asking for comments from the guests.

At least a portion of each #BDQT will be open, and questions asked can be about anything. However, some #BDQTs will be themed, with a good proportion of the time and questions being centred around one idea, story or aspect of Bradford life.

When is #BDQT?
Screen Shot 2012-12-26 at 17.30.58#BDQT is monthly, usually taking place at the very end or start of the month. It’s scheduled to coincide with #BradfordHour (Thursdays 8-9pm) to allow Bradford’s businesses and cultural outlets who use #BradfordHour the greatest exposure to Bradfordians online.

The very first #BDQT will be on Thursday 31st January 8-9pm.

Do make sure you join us.

Who will the guests be?
The guests will change from month to month, but will be drawn from the vast pools of eminent Bradfordians and those who drive and comment upon Bradford. Guests representing politics, business, the arts, society and more will be invited to take part.

To find out who the guests are and what the theme of the month is, follow @BDQTMod and keep an eye out during #BradfordHour (Thursdays 8-9pm) for updates and announcements.

How do I ask a question?
If you’ve got a question, tweet it to @BDQTMod using #BDQT.

Questions can be about anything you think deserves an answer. If it’s about Bradford & District, it’s for #BDQT.

You may choose to see what the theme is, or see who’s going to on, and if you’re question’s not chosen for the subsequent #BDQT, it may be used in future. Remember, a question doesn’t have to be on the theme of the event – it can be about anything Bradford.

What if I don’t have a Twitter account?
Screen Shot 2012-12-26 at 17.31.42The Titterfeed #BDQT will be picked up and published by the excellent Hidden Bradford website, and you can read the tweets, and even comment on them, there.

What do I need to do now?
Following the #BDQT Twitterfeeds would be a good start.

Most new information will come via @BDQTMod, so make sure you’re following that account. Any news released via the other feeds will be retweeted by @BDQTMod.

Screen Shot 2012-12-26 at 17.32.32Also follow the other the #BDQT accounts. These are the accounts from which our guests will tweet. They are @BDQTGuest1, @BDQTGuest2, @BDQTGuest3 and @BDQTGuest4.

Think up a question you’d like to put to our panel and tweet it to @BDQTMod, using #BDQT. If you’ve got a suggestion for someone to be on the panel, let us know.

Check for updates and announcements from @BDQTMod, usually during #BradfordHour (Thursdays 8-9pm).

Finally, and most importantly, make sure you join in with Bradford Question Time – without you, #BDQT’s nothing.

Posted in Bradford, Community, Council, Culture, Media, Politics, Social Media | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Bradford, Yorkshire & the North – We’re Massive so Act Like It!

I do a lot of complaining – I’m a Yorkshireman so it’s part of my cultural identity. I’ll get angry (through my aptly titled Angry of Bradford Twitterfeed) about how Bradford’s either ignored or vilified by the media; how governments preside over decline rather than drive us forward; how little has changed some of our lowest points were highlighted in 1990s and early 2000s. I whinge and I moan. I wonder how such a large city and district has been allowed to rot, falling further than virtually any other city during the 20th Century; how Bradfordians have been left behind; how we, once so rich, so opulent, so important, became so poor, so hidden, so ignored. I moan and I whinge. But why?

Below, I’ll have a whinge and a moan about my favourite topic, Bradford, but look wider at Yorkshire and wonder why we’re overlooked as a county, nay, the county of the country.

I’ve tried to never go down the route of pre-sheikh Manchester City fans who bleated about their “massive club” whilst in the shadow of the Red Devils – but perhaps I should have. I found figures which startled me. Bradford is England’s 5th largest and the UK’s 6th largest district. I really had no idea! How could it be that such a large and populous region is treated like this by governments and media?

Geography is the simple, but not sole, answer. We’re in the North, the provinces, the badlands, and far from the London-centric gaze, whose eyes focus intensely on the capital barring brief, fleeting glances at the South-East or the even less occasional peek at Gaelic matters, in which we do not figure. More than this, we’re in the shadow of Leeds – the centre of regional employment, culture, prosperity and importance. Were we more remote, further from the UK’s third city, maybe we’d get more investment, more media coverage, more, more, more. Maybe.

As it stands, much of Bradford’s money is spent in Leeds city centre or Meadowhall, because Bradford has nothing comparable. Much of our culture is found in Leeds, bizarrely as Bradford’s cultural bounty is comparable, and even finer in many respects. Much of our investment is scraps falling from Leeds’ table.

But what goes for Bradford goes for Yorkshire, including Leeds.

A look at the the table linked above shows just how big we are, and yet are ignored.

Screen Shot 2012-12-23 at 17.45.38
Leeds (3), Sheffield (5) and Bradford (6) appear in the top 10, with Kirklees (11), Wakefield (15) and the East Riding (19) in the top 20. Nowhere, not the South-East, not the Midlands, not Scotland nor Wales nor Northern Ireland have such coverage, so why are we allowing ourselves to be dictated to, mismanaged and ignored?

Tha can allus tell a Yorkshireman but tha can’t tell ‘im much goes the saying. So what is it about us that makes us take this crap from soft Southern Nancys? Perhaps the pride, the outward bravado, the hubris of the Yorkshireman hides an inner lack of self-confidence and self-belief. Hard to imagine, I know, but what else could explain our ability to be kept down?

Is Yorkshire’s geography a problem, similar to Bradford’s problem? Yes. We’re in the North, so we’re forgotten. Politically, Labour has us sewn up so, as is shown by Bradford’s decline, we are ignored or treated with contempt by the Tories, and Labour takes us for granted. Culturally, we’re an irrelevance – we’re flat caps and whippets and nowt else, despite Hockney and Brontes and Priestley and, and, and… In sports, we’re an oddity, with Yorkshire famously being the heart and soul of Britain’s summer Olympics haul (finishing 12th in the medals table), the most famous county cricket club and its rugby league clubs always leading the way; yet we are without a Premiership team in union or football.

We’ve more people than Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland, and we’re larger than Northern Ireland, but we don’t have the jingoism and identity of nationhood to draw on. We have a deep, rich culture, and have furthered the Arts in line, at least, with our size and status, yet it’s Livercool and Madchester and Cool Britannia (for which can be read London) which take the plaudits.

Yorkshire Backward or Yorkshire Forward?
So what can we do, as Bradfordians, Leodensians, Sheffielders, Yorkists, et al, to have our voices heard, to have our culture recognised, to take our place near the top of the nation rather than at its feet?

Culturally, Yorkshire and Bradford need to step up. We have everything anyone could want, yet we choose to keep quiet about it. We have scenery and countryside far superior to anywhere in the land, and far easier to reach for most than the hills of Scotland and the lakes of Cumbria – so let’s sell the Dales and the Moors and the Peak District as well as the dales and the moors and the peaks we have on our doorsteps. Let’s tell the world of the literature of Haworth and Bradford and Huddersfield and Scarborough.

In the media, we are ignored or vilified. Bradford District, 500,000 people strong, will soon lose the full-time presence of the national media when the BBC leave the National Media Museum. Our reputation is so low, media students are scared to walk our streets. And with West Yorkshire having such a huge population, low cost housing, fantastic road, rail & air links, the UNESCO City of Film, the National Media Museum, and much, much, more, why did the BBC choose Salford / Manchester? Why are BBC jobs going to Manchester when we, in Yorkshire, have got more and better to offer? Why are BBC flagship programmes, like Dr Who, made in Wales? Yorkshire could be the hub of new technologies, with Leeds and Bradford selling themselves as super-connected cities. Building on UNESCO City of Film and making the BBC give us something in return for its abandonment of Bradford, with the benefits listed above, why can’t we get some investment, some interest, some love from the media?

Politically, it’s time to take on the political parties, and challenge them to do something for us for a change. I voted for George Galloway’s Respect Party and am angry I got more of the same. I want someone to talk about Bradford and Yorkshire and the North, not brush us under a carpet. I want the Tories to understand that there’s a world outside the Home Counties and see what their policies are doing to us – and stop and listen and think… and change. I want Labour to stop trying to be the Tories and stop taking us for granted and, for God’s sake, stop sending empty shirts to their heartlands – we need candidates with warm blood and fire in their bellies who will argue and fight for us – I want a candidate with Galloway’s zeal for publicity who will put us on the map. I want Respect to do what it promised and put us in the national media, for reasons other than gaffes by its figurehead. We have millions of votes, so why do the main parties ignore us, then vilify us when we pick minor, especially extreme, ones who ostensibly talk to us but really prey on our fears and the main parties’ ineffectualness? Tell the Tories, Labour, Lib-Dems, Respect that they’re doing nothing for us so we won’t vote for them. Tell Labour to remember where their heart is and send us some living, breathing candidates; tell the Tories they owe us for killing us in the 1980s; tell Respect they promised to put us on the map. And tell them all to F-off until they do.

Educationally, we should be outraged at what we’ve been subjected to. Bradford languishes at the bottom of league tables year after year. I asked the local government what they were doing after the District’s schools were once again lambasted and had dropped to second worst in the country (according to OfSTED); they said that schools are improving and that league tables don’t tell the whole story. I asked the national government what they were doing specifically for Bradford; they are doing nothing… except they want all our schools to be turned into academies. When London’s schools were awful, it was described as an “emergency” by Tony Blair and they got The London Challenge with experts and inter-agency working and money, money, money. Bradford, a District of over 500k people and the city with youngest demographic in the country, gets platitudes and ignored. In the wider country, 8/10 of the worst performing Local Authorities are in the North (and now none are in London). And what do we get? Moves to bring our teachers’ pay down; an end to Building Schools for the Future (when the South and London’s projects went ahead earlier and with less trouble); ignored. Demand better! Demand that your governments, local and national, invest in our children’s futures. Demand change! In Bradford, doing what everyone else is doing isn’t working – so let’s not do that. ‘One size doesn’t fit all’ is a mantra for teachers, because every child is an individual – so why are Bradford and many other places in the North following a path which leads them nowhere. If it’s broken, fix it; if it can’t be fixed, throw it away and get something new. We need a revolution in education and if we don’t get it, we’ll always sink to the bottom.

Employment in the North is appalling. Bradford West’s unemployment is one of the highest in the country… and rising. Across the North, in the last recession, for every job lost in the South, 10 were lost in the North. Bradford is believed to be one of the least affected areas in the country this time around… because we haven’t got over the last one yet. When we get it right with kids, there aren’t the places to employ them. Every year, Bradford sends children to some of the best universities in the country, but where do they go afterwards? They rarely return, with the District’s Oxbridge students choosing the university towns or London, using their brains and spending their money elsewhere. Investment in making West Yorkshire a bastion of new technologies, our low rents (far more attractive than the high prices of London) will start drawing in start-ups, and if we educate our children to take advantage of this, we can become British Silicone Valley, with other industries rising on their tide. If this isn’t an option, what is? We need something to replace the manufacturing jobs lost; we need a plan.

The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea
To be noticed, though, the cities of Yorkshire might have to bite the bullet. If we’re not to keep the status quo, cities and towns with deep seated identities may have to lose some of that individuality, at least to outsiders, and work with the giant of the neighbourhood, trusting them to work in their interests and the greater interest of the region – something difficult for a Bradfordian to stomach. Bradford, Wakefield, Huddersfield, even York, may have to embrace their role as a minor player in Leeds City Region, working with the Loiners to ensure they get their fair share; Barnsley, Rotherham, Doncaster, can you trust the Dee-Dars to do your bidding?

It’ll be a tightrope act to ensure that the lesser boroughs get the investment and money and support they need more than the main, named party. But, as much as I dislike the insidious title of Leeds City Region (why not Yorkshire Region, York City Region, York & West Yorkshire Region?), I believe we’ll get more scraps from Leeds’ dining table, and maybe even a square meal or two, than we do from Westminster’s.

So all this started with a table, a table which showed us, Bradford, and us, Yorkshire, as being bigger than the rest – and I already knew we were better. But now it’s time to act like it, and now it’s time to show it.

Posted in Bradford, Council, Culture, Education, Local Government, Media, Politics, Yorkshire | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Dear Rotherham & Croydon – do you want some Respect?

“Vote Respect” they told me. “Vote Respect and vote for change” is what they said. And Vote Respect I did. Well, for me, a Respect voter, there’s been a change. It’s not been good.

I wasn’t apathetic, knowing a bit about local and national politics, but it was always something for someone else, something for somebody, somewhere, to ‘do’ and for me to, like as not, complain about.

But then, along came George. He empowered me. He told me he’d stick up for me. He told me he’d sort out my city, its unemployment and its education. He told me I wasn’t just an individual, but I was part of the Bradford Spring. He told me he’d do something, he’d shout about my issues, and he’d fight against those three buttocks of the same arse. He told me he’d be my MP, working for me and my city.

Well, it’s not like that.

On the other side of the election, having a Respect MP is quite different.

In Bradford, we’ve become pretty disillusioned with Gorgeous George. I knew there’d be complaints about him. I mean, he’d stuck it to the man. The left, the right and the centre complained about him. I expected that, I mean, he was fighting ‘them’, wasn’t he?

But it quickly became clear that he was fighting, well, everyone, including his own constituents and his own party.

I liked having an MP I could contact at a moment’s notice. George knows the importance of social media. He credited Twitter with his landslide win. Maybe that’s why Lee Jasper has allegedly been using Tweet-bots to pretend he’s got more support than he has. A few times, I even used that outlet. I’d ask him about ‘this’, and he’d get back to me. I asked him about ‘that’, and he answered me. Then, I asked him about claims made in the Guardian about what Respect was up to in Bradford. Accusations had been made that Respect Party activists had been calling up rape victims in the middle of the night to ask them if they were supporting a speech against George’s “sexual etiquette” comments, intimidating them, taking photos of them and posting them on Facebook. I wanted it to be untrue. I asked him (just once; just one tweet) about these claims and those that said the women who’d be so instrumental in his victory were being hounded out, forcibly removed, overlooked, overshadowed. All this was a request to refute the Guardian’s claims.

His response? He blocked me.

I felt, well, outraged. You see, George says he blocks only racists, swearers, sectarians. It seems, increasingly, that he also blocks his constituents who disagree with him, ask him to do something for his adopted city, or request that he does more for Bradford.

I laughed it off, got my “Blocked by Galloway” twibbon, and moved on.

Today, though, I needed my MP’s help. Bradford is to lose its BBC production team, having them moved to Leeds. Radio Leeds and BBC Asian Network will, from March, no longer have a place in the wonderful National Media Museum, but will be relocated to an office block in Leeds. That hurt. It would leave the National Media Museum, a large city and the country’s fourth largest metropolitan district without the national broadcaster. I was distraught! I was angry!

I bashed off tweets and emails to the council, the Media Select Committee, the BBC, Lord Patten and Bradford’s MPs including my own, George Galloway.

George Galloway responded.

My MP’s advice:

  • Complain to those in power.
  • Complain to those with money.
  • Complain to those who can do something.
  • Complain to my MP (I kid you not).
  • Read up on British politics.

In a few tweets (which you’ll see on my work account (@atkiteach) – my personal one (BD_Angry) having been already blocked), he blamed Labour, he blamed the council, he blamed the Tories and the LibDems; he told me he had no power to do anything. Again, he told me to read up on British politics. (How could I, a constituent, expect him, my MP, to do anything about it?).

I felt belittled, patronised and rubbished. I felt that my concerns were not shared, considered or thought worthy of a moment’s notice by my MP.

And finally… he blocked me… again.

So, it seems, I’m a double, bigot, a double racist, a double swearer… or, maybe, a double Bradfordian – the latter a badge I’ll gladly wear with pride.

This week, as you go to the polls and consider voting for Lee Japser (Respect (George Galloway) Party) or Yvonne Ridley (Respect (George Galloway) Party), have a think about what you’ll get. I voted for George Galloway. I voted for Respect.

Today, I didn’t get George Galloway and I certainly got no respect.

Posted in Bradford, By-Election, George Galloway, Media, Politics, Respect | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments


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Originally posted on Am I Kulchad Yet?:

Music, acrobats, trapeze artists and death-defying stunts, all played out 200ft in the air… exactly the outlandish, outrageous performances we’ve come to expect in Bradford’s wonderful City Park. I knew this year’s Christmas lights Switch-On would be quite a show but, my word, I was left aghast, amazed and awestruck by Trans Express and the wonders they performed.

We joined the thousands already gathered just in time to hear a couple of songs belted out by a children’s choir who warmed the throng before Bradford Festival Choral Society got us all well into a yuletide mood with a wonderful repertoire of Christmas classics.

Then, suddenly, sprites, burning torches help aloft, whooped and hollered their way through the crowd, climbing on to small stages around City Park, lighting up beacons and faces as they went.

The sprites were supplanted by mythical jesters, their dress as garish as their make-up. They rang…

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