With ‘Make Bradford British’, Channel 4 put a spotlight on Bradford and the whole country watched. Many people have given their opinions, and all the ones I’ve read have been more thoughtful, interesting and eloquent than mine. So, I won’t bother. What I will do, though, is ask: What’s next?
Channel 4 held up a mirror to Bradford and we looked. Did you like what you saw? Did you see yourself? Are you happy just to let it carry on? I’m not.
The council said there was ‘fury’ but, from most people I’ve spoken to, there was ‘Umm, yeah. That’s about right’. The first part of ‘Make Bradford British’ painted quite a true picture of what I see Bradford as being. There was a lack of understanding between different cultures; more striking was the lack of understanding between different ages, social classes and geographical areas. There was a lack of mixing between cultures and a lack of mixing between geographical areas and social classes. However, there was a desire to make things better, to understand and to try to do something: that’s the Bradford I know. That’s the Bradford that can come out after Channel 4 has gone and taken with it the gaze of a nation.
The problem is, I’m nobody. I’m not an elected official, a multi-millionaire, a community leader or a gifted writer. I’m just an ordinary Bradfordian, probably just like you. So, what can I do?
Twitter – #MakeBradfordBritish
The first thing I will try is to sell the city I love whilst we’re in the spotlight. During the second part, I’ll be trying to get people’s attention through Twitter. I’m going to use my twitterfeed to post pictures, stories and positive remarks about Bradford. And there’ll be people who scoff and people who make rude remarks, but I’ll ignore them. Why? Because I know how lucky I am to live here, to be here, to experience Bradford every day. I’ve got a great house at a great price with great neighbours; I’ve got top class sport, first class museums & galleries, and culture coming out of my ears; I can be in the middle of it all, in the middle of nowhere or the middle of a World Heritage site within minutes; I’ve got art, architecture and cuisine that’d make a hedonist blanche; I can be in the vibrant city in 5 minutes, in the beautiful country in 10 and, if I want, on a plane to another country in 20. And I already tell the world about it.
When the country gathers around the TV’s warming glow, and turns on its twitterfeed to create a written record of its inner monologue, it’ll find me, tapping away, pushing pictures and positive messages into its face, each one celebrating the city I love.
Word of Mouth
I’m ready: whenever I’m asked in the future, which I will be, to comment on the programme and how bad Bradford is, I’m ready to tell them how foolish they are to believe everything they see on TV. I’ll tell them of visits to the theatres, of the night-life, of the restaurants and wildlife, and all the things that other cities would give their right arms for. Will I convince them? Some, maybe, but I won’t let them walk away without me telling them exactly what I think of their ideas and how they’ve formed them based solely on bad jokes, purposefully bad shot selection by the media, and bad recollections of TV news of a riot that’s now a decade dead.
When people ask me where I’m from, I’ll tell them: I’m from Bradford and I love it! I’ll tell them of places, people and experiences they’ve never had and never will have if they sit slumped in their sleepy cities. I’ll tell them why I love my city. I’ll get ‘em telt!
I wrote a post the other week about how I was impressed by Bradford’s people and organisations who were taking the bull by the horns and changing Bradford for the better. You can read it here. They’re the ones who are changing Bradford and are building it in to the city we all deserve. They’re the ones who’ll bring back the people from Bingley and Keighley to the city centre, who’ll attract people from Leeds and Manchester to the district, and people from all over to our little but lovely corner of the world. I’m going to support them, through spreading their messages, going to their events and giving them thanks & encouragement for their efforts. I don’t have their imagination, creativity or flair, so I can’t be one of them… but I can make sure that I let everyone I know that they are great, they are wonderful and they are Bradford.
I might be nobody, but I am Bradford. Bradford’s made up of people just like me and if I can change me, just a little bit, maybe others will too. I can make Bradford a little better, and so can you, and so can all of us. If we all change, just a little bit, the whole city, the whole district will change for the better.
I’m going to make sure I don’t shy away from meeting new people with a different heritage, culture or geography to mine. I’m going to ask them about them, and get to know the people with whom I share a home a little better. I’ll not assume that we have little to give each other because we wear different clothes, speak with different accents or in different languages, eat different foods, live in different places and live different lives. I’ll look for the similarities rather than the differences. I’ll make sure that I don’t choose to be segregated and that I do enjoy the company of others.
Channel 4 held up a mirror and, in some ways, I saw myself. I certainly saw my city in the reflection. I could’ve got angry and I could’ve got upset but where would that have left me? Unhappy and angry and in the same place I was a couple of weeks ago. I’d rather try something different and change the city I love, just a little bit, just a tiny bit, so it’ll get even better, even greater. I’ll change people’s perceptions of Bradford, whether they’re from Ilkley, Islington or Iceland, one person at a time, impressing upon them what a culturally rich, socially vibrant city it is. I’ll change me. I’ll make sure I’m a better neighbour and I’ll listen to the people who share my city, and I’ll share myself with them.
If you, me and everyone in Bradford changes just a little, imagine what a city we could be… together.
If you’d like to join me in changing, just a bit, to make Bradford better, just a bit, please leave a comment below and maybe a few more of us will follow your example.