Bradford’s Mutineers – Putting Bradford Back on the Cultural Map

Is Bradford turning a corner? Is it on its way up and away? Is Bradford changing and growing and becoming what’s been promised for too long? I believe so. Together, we can change people’s views of Bradford, we can change what people think of our city, and we can change Bradford into what we want and what we deserve our city to be.

The Bad

Ages ago I wrote how disappointed, angry and upset I was with Bradford, particularly the council (see Bradford – A Rudderless Ship Stuck in a Mire of Bad Publicity). A Joseph Rowntree Foundation report had just lambasted Bradford… particularly the council. The council’s response was uninspiring tosh, basically blaming the researchers for researching and publishing their findings. Crap! But I did what too many of us do, be we British, English or, especially, Bradfordian: I moaned. Did I have a right to? Yes. Did I offer solutions? Modestly, if at all. Well, I hope this might redress the balance, and it’s my fervent hope that you’ll go away after reading this post and do something, no matter how small, to support Bradford and the Bradfordians who are supporting our city. I want you to cheer for the mutineers, the pirates, who have taken over the ship and are turning it against the tide and towards a bright and sunny island.

Perhaps our biggest problem is getting people in the district to look closer to home. Bradford city centre has problems. Despite the wonderful City Park (which I shamefully rubbished – it is beautiful!) and attempts to enliven it with street performers and Fabric’s artists’ shop, people of Keighley, Bingley, Ilkley and the like could spend only slightly more money and time on the train to get to Leeds. And, let’s face it, why wouldn’t they? Particularly at the higher end, Leeds offers greater choice and better facilities, and we must act to stop people choosing Leeds over Bradford. Telling people how great Bradford is when we’re on holiday is one thing, but we also need to do it whilst at work and play, making sure we sell the city to our neighbours and friends who haven’t come into town for years.

The Ugly

I’ve admitted that what I said may have been justified but it wasn’t helpful. But I’m not the only one, and I’m by no means the worst. I’m tired and thoroughly sick of people talking Bradford down, and it hurts most when Bradfordians do it. Chieftains of these are the commenters on the Telegraph & Argus website: the blinkered, bigoted, pessimistic shit they shovel never ceases to amaze and disappoint; the swiftness with which they can turn a story on any subject, no matter how sanguine, into a diatribe on the contemptible state of my city never ceases to astound and dismay. Distressingly, I’m so angered I can’t even pity the sad fools who spend day after day, hour after hour, sat alone tippy-tapping, whinging and whining about a city they can’t love, won’t visit and shouldn’t be allowed to discuss. I could repeat their vile diatribes; I could repeat their invectives ad nauseum; I could, but I won’t. I refuse! I’ll do it my way and kill them with kindness by making sure, from now on, I comment on the T&A’s positive stories with positive reactions and, if you join me, we’ll be on our ship and sailing away whilst we leave them buggers to drown.

The Good

Maybe I’m just finding people who are and always have been pro-Bradford, but I believe there are more and more of us about… and, unlike me, they’re doing something tangible about it. In my search for culture, I’ve come across more and more and more of these people: they are the movers, the shakers and, above all, the do-ers of Bradford. They are here, they are wonderful, and they deserve our support.

Here’s a small selection of people you should seek out, pat on the back and say, ‘Thank you!’ My list is not exhaustive by any means, and if you or someone you know should be on here, then please – PLEASE – let me know and I’ll add them and get to know them and do what little I can to publicise the great work they’re doing for our city.

@HiddenBradford and #hiddenBD – For tweeters, this list and this account are must follows. “Sharing the hidden gems of the city and district”, @HiddenBradford share events, photos and stories which bathe our city in a warm, nourishing light. They began the #hiddenBD hashtag to allow others to tweet and retweet the jewels in our city’s crown to the world. If you do anything I suggest, please do this: pick one thing, one photo, one story which shows your love for our Bradford and share it using #hiddenBD.

Fabric – Fast becoming Bradford’s cultural engine room: they list events, provide courses, give artists a leg up and seek out new and exciting talent… and much, much more. Make sure you take a look at what’s on offer! If you want to make, see or experience art in Bradford, Fabric must be your first call!

Theatre in the Mill, Paper Zoo and Bradford TheatresTheatre in the Mill is part of University of Bradford, and offers a huge and diverse range of performances with a more avant-garde bent. The performances they put on are exciting and unusual, but that shouldn’t put you off – visit their What’s On Guide and try something different for a change. I know you’ll find something you’ll be so glad you saw you’ll come back again and again. Paper Zoo theatre company was born and bred inBradford. Created by alumni ofBradfordCollege’s Acting BTEC back in 2005, they’ve gone from strength to strength. Now putting on up to three productions a year, and giving young actors their first taste of performing and touring, they were commissioned by the National Media Museum to stage Orwell’s 1984, and tempted John Hurt, who played Winston Smith on the big screen, to be Big Brother himself. Whilst I haven’t been to a production, a quick question to those who have reveal that Paper Zoo is a brilliantBradfordinstitution… and I’ll be seeing them this year! Bradford Theatres website brings together the council owned and run theatres in Bradford city centre: The Alhambra, St George’s Hall and The Studio. There’s loads on offer, from comedians and bands to plays and ballet. Don’t think you have to go far to see household names or up-and-coming talent: it’s right here on your doorstep.

How Do and Bradford Buzz – Both these titles are new and exciting. How Do is both paper and online, and is an exciting mix of forthcoming events, reviews and places to go in and around the city, with a smattering of poetry and the written word to delight readers. Bradford Buzz is online and brings together Bradford’s increasing number of bloggers, reviewers and thought-sharers who tell you just what they think of what’s going on in Bradford.

Positive Bradford – A collective of businesses, artists, web-aficionados and everyday lovers of Bradford who want to showcase and show off Bradford’s best. Their motto, “We know the real Bradford and we are proud of it,” resonates with those of us who love this city and want it to thrive. They organised 2011’s hugely successful Positive Bradford Day, and I’m sure 2012’s PDD will be even better.

National Media Museum – The most popular museum outside London and with a cornucopia of great reasons. The number of Bradfordians I’ve spoken to who have been to NMM – on a school trip decades ago and never since – is unbelievable. They haven’t stood still, you know! NMM is exciting, fascinating and enthralling in equal measure, and it needs our support lest we lose it to another city. And it’s not just the museum: the films they show range from current blockbusters (in very plush surroundings) to the greatest cinematic treats since Chaplain was a little boy. I’m not a great lover of going t’flicks, but seeing Batman and Harry Potter 3D in the IMAX just about changed my mind. The cost of a seat’s less than a multiplex and is ploughed straight back into improving, developing and enriching the museum.

Bradford Music Collective and Bradford Gig Listings – Music is the form of culture most people find most accessible, and the Bradford Music Collective brings together many of the city’s live music venues to showcase their wares and advertise their events. Bradford Gig Listings is a one-stop-shop of all the district’s live music events – if you want to hear a band, from a cappella to ZZ Top tribute, BGL’s the place to look.

Bradfordia and Bradford 365Bradfordia is a new blog solely commenting on Bradford city centre, especially retail, footfall and its look. If you are want to know how the city centre’s developing, what’s happening, and what should be done, Bradfordia’s the place to find out. Bradford 365 gives you reasons to love our city, mixing tales from the past, current events and photos of in and around Bradford. Showing Bradford’s best in 365 ways… and more.

The Council – OK, I may have suggested they couldn’t distinguish their arses from their elbows with a map, a diagram and a torch, but they do get some things right. The City Park is shaping up to be great and looks fantastic. As the memory of those months with a torn up city receding, it only gets better. And there’s more. The Council provides guided walks around our beautiful, exasperating scenery and the district’s bandstandsare in use all over the summer, with brass, classical and jazz singing out in the summer months. A highlight of last year was Jazz & Curry at Robert’s Park, and I hope I’ll see you there this year. There are also a cornucopia of museums and galleries in the district, each of which contains a vast number of treasures, and each one is free. Check out the Museums & Galleries page for what’s here and special events around the district.

100 Objects Bradford – a great project which shares some of the most special items in the University of Bradford’s Special Collections. If we’re to know where we’re going, we need to know from where we’ve come; 100 Objects Bradford is bringing Bradford’s past to the world, and working with special collections and archivists from around the world to improve the ways in which we look after and highlight the past. Follow their blog to catch up on their 100 Objects.

Bradford Eye and Loosely BoundBradford Eye brings together the most fantastic photos of our district, both contemporary and from yesteryear. A wonderful site which showcases Bradford and Bradfordians. Loosely Bound is a new, exciting collective on zine makers. Coming from all over Yorkshire, but based in Bradford, Loosely Bound formed at, and continue to work with, Fabric, and create personal, photographic, craft and visual arts zines. I’m excited about Loosely Bound’s Zine Extravaganza at Fabric’s art space on 24th March. Will I see you there?

If I’ve missed you or someone you think should be here, please leave me a comment and I’ll add them. It’s not a slight but an oversight which I’m very, very happy to correct.

I hope that I’ve inspired you to do something, to go somewhere and to see what’s on offer but, most of all, I hope I’ve inspired you to tell people from near and far that there’s more to Bradford than they think, that it’s beautiful and interesting and culturally rich, and that you love it!


About jatkinson1977

I'm in my 30s and married to Sharon, the beautiful woman who keeps me in check. We live in Shipley, just outside Bradford, with our black lab, Nipper. I'm an English teacher in secondary school and, after working as a Teaching & Learning Consultant with the local authority, have returned to the classroom to become a Lead Professional in English at a large comp in Bradford. I'm also trying to become a little more cultured, especially by seeing what culture's right here on my doorstep in Bradford and West Yorkshire (please see my blog, 'Am I Kulchad Yet?'). I've got a third and final blog which is filled with things that, essentially, don't fit into the other two but are interesting enough to share (please see my blog, 'Things That Occur To Me').
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5 Responses to Bradford’s Mutineers – Putting Bradford Back on the Cultural Map

  1. Bonebabe says:

    Thanks for pointing me in the direction of some interesting-sounding reads. I’m an incomer but I love my adopted city and hope to see it thrive. Reading the comments on the t&a does give the impression that no-one has a good word to say about bradford, and I do attempt to offer a positive opinion from time to time, but I find most of the commenters far more threatening than the city centre at night! Maybe it’s time to orchestrate a campaign of positivity on the t&a??


  2. Damien says:

    Great post, John, erudite and passionate as ever. This is exactly the kind of support the City needs. Your recommendations are sound and I wholeheartedly endorse them.
    If I may be so bold, I should like to tip a hat to our small-scale theatre company Paper Zoo. Formed over six years ago in Bradford to support emerging talent and bring accessible, affordable theatre to Bradford and beyond. In our time we have given over twenty young people their first professional experience of performing and touring. We are totally self funded and aim to produce three full-scale productions a year. In 2009 we were commissioned by the NMM to stage Orwell’s 1984 and secured John Hurt to play our on-screen Big Brother. He did so because we asked him and he saw what we were trying to do in the City. We are fiercely proud of our Bradford roots and continue to promote the City whenever and wherever we can. More info on the website. Thanks for your excellent blog. Best wishes. D


  3. Jimi Lund says:

    Have a look at MAD Bradford. Had it’s 2nd event last night.
    Is a free event trying to bring the Media and Digital (MAD) folks of Bradford in the hope that people will meet, collaborate and start something from their positivity.


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