I love living in Bradford. When I tell people that, often I get a quizzical look, a pitying look or eyes rolled up as they struggle to recall the Bradford I’m talking about because it can’t be that Bradford that they’re thinking of. That’s fine. If you read my posts on Am I Kulchad Yet? and most of the posts here thus far, you’ll see that there’s loads going on, that there are tons of positives and that you don’t have to look too hard to find something fun, interesting and lively to do. Of course, the vast majority of the people are proper Yorkshire folk: kind, friendly and welcoming.
However, the more I’ve tried to speak up for Bradford, even sell it, the more disappointed I’ve become with the people in charge, the movers & shakers, the people who should be driving our city forward rather than over it. A great example of this is what I saw today: A Tale of Two Cities.
The first city I saw today was great. Africa Express, a musical collective, turned up with very little notice, split into groups and simultaneously played to audiences across the city. I was in the wonderful CityPark. It was alive with fountains, fun, laughter, dancing and music. It was alive. I loved being so lucky that I had the day off and could go down and experience it.
The second city was dying. From the station to CityPark and back again, I walked past countless closed shops, unloved buildings, examples of stalled regeneration and pawn shops, pound shops & pay day loan shops. It was awful! The city centre away from CityPark and the West End is slowly falling back into the ground.
What’s most distressing is that this hasn’t happened because of the recent economic turmoil: Bradford hasn’t suffered from this recession… because economists agree we haven’t got over the last one yet. I’m a big fan of Bill Bryson who certainly isn’t a fan of Bradford. In Notes from a Small Island, he talked about the empty shops, the dead city centre, the depressing depression. He wrote that in 1995. Things haven’t got better since.
I also read the Ouseley Report, put out as Bradford 2020, and created to understand the reasons behind the 2001 Bradford Riots and ensure lessons were learnt so that it doesn’t happen again. A couple of snippets:
• The overall public image of Bradford is a poor one and negative media headlines reinforce stereotyping.
• Institutions are not communicating effectively. There is a need for a community-wide newspaper. Not enough use is made of communicating through local and specialist radio that can reach different cultural and faith communities.
• Bradford District is divided. Inner City Bradford is seen as Muslim dominant and the rest of the District does not see itself as being part of the Bradford identity.
2.5.8 Deprivation and competition
• Regeneration processes force communities and neighbourhoods to bid against each other for scarce resources and this creates divisions and resentments.
• Regeneration processes require communities and neighbourhoods to compete on “deprivation – deficit models” which, in effect, means that to succeed requires arguing that your area is more deprived and dreadful than the next. This is regarded as negative and reinforces low esteem.
• Regeneration may be happening but “we can’t see the benefits”.
2.5.11 Racial discrimination and the labour market
• High unemployment levels and racial discrimination in the labour market contribute to many of the problems facing young people of all backgrounds.
2.5.12 Local economy
• City pride and civic leadership are pre-requisites for the regeneration of the Bradford District. Pride left when the wealth left and Bradford’s town planners do not go out of their way to help businesses and job creators. Lack of civic pride is reflected in litter-strewn streets and laybys.
• The town centre is deemed unfashionable and has insufficient attractions for those outside the City and many young people go elsewhere.
• City Hall bureaucracy is frightening away potential investors.
• Transport is a huge handicap as there is no central gateway route into the City. Litterstrewn roads and dirty streets discourage potential investors
Remember, this was written in 2001 after the Bradford Riots. How much has changed since then?
In 1995, Bill Bryson said shops are closed, the city centre is dead… and nothing has changed. In 2001, Lord Ouesely said there was little regeneration, high unemployment, poorly skilled young people and a lack of civic pride… and nothing has changed.
I can’t do a lot. What I can do is try to make sure that the people who need to be reminded of this are reminded of it. I’ve already tried to take George Galloway, MP for Bradford West, to task on his record for getting Bradford into the media. I got a lot of people reading my blog and got many people talking about Bradford. I hope that Mr Galloway and the Respect Party in Bradford have thought a little more about Bradford since that. I’m going to keep on at them, reminding our MPs, councillors and governments that we really need help. There are loads of people in Bradford doing great things in Bradford, but they can’t do it alone and they need City Hall, Parliament, Whitehall and lots of other people to do something too. I don’t want to pick on Bradford, to do anything more to talk it down. I want to make Bradford better and I really don’t know how to do it except for asking awkward questions of the right people. I’ll be using a different, more negative, Twitterfeed to try and engage people – Angry from Bradford or @BD_Angry. Please follow if you’d like to keep up to date and send me any messages.
Bradford gets forgotten by the wider world. I want to remind the people who control our destiny that we’re here and we’re not getting a fair crack of the whip.