Dear X, what are you doing with Bradford?

Sometimes you don’t know what to do but you know you have to do something. That’s the place I’m in right now. I don’t know what to do about Bradford but I know I have to do something.

I sat and thought about it. What can a normal, everyday person actually do? What impact can a normal nobody have? I came up blank. I really don’t know what to do but, after walking through Bradford the other day and having such mixed, even diametrically opposed, views of the city, I know something must be done.

So, what power do I have? I have a computer. I have a blog. I have a vote.

In a fit of pique, I bashed off a letter to Bradford District’s MPs, my councillors, the council’s Executive, the Regeneration Committee, Tony Reeves (Chief Executive of Bradford Council). People will read it differently. I have. I read it as a polite request for information about Bradford’s past present and future; I read it as enough rope for a councillor to hang him/herself from; I read it as a sulky pillock putting pen to paper for the sake of it; I read it as someone trying to be clever. I also read it as someone who wants to do something doing the only thing they think they can. How you read it is up to you. Please, though, know this – I want Bradford to be better and that’s the overriding reason for my writing and sending it out.

I’ll be posting any replies I get in posts on here. I’ve already got one. It was quick, positive, referenced and made me feel a little ashamed of myself because the councillor in question’s been working hard making Bradfordians’ lives better whilst I’ve been pissing about at my keyboard. His reply will be first up – tonight, I hope.

Here’s the letter I sent:

Dear

I love living in Bradford! I think it’s great! We have culture, cuisine and a cornucopia of reasons to be rightly pleased. Unfortunately, we also have the flip side, with high unemployment, a low skilled youth and a stalled economy, and a lack of pride in our city and district.

Some currently in local and national government have been serving Bradford & District for a number of years; some are fairly new to Bradford. I’d like to give you some views of Bradford, each from outsiders.

The first: Bradford is a “depressing city” with “vacant shops… windows covered up with tattered posters… buildings covered in TO LET signs… one shop in three [is] empty and most of the rest seem[s] to be barely hanging on.”

The second: “The overall public image of Bradford is a poor one and negative headlines reinforce stereotyping… Bradford District is divided. Inner City Bradford is seen as Muslim dominated and the rest of the District does not see itself as being part of the Bradford identity… The town centre is deemed unfashionable and has insufficient attractions for those outside the City and many go elsewhere…”

The third: “Bradford is a city which “is still living with impact of past recessions; has high levels of poverty and disadvantage.”

Would you agree that they’ve got quite a decent handle on the state of Bradford City & District? Do you agree we have too many vacant shops, too few fashionable or higher end places to shop and eat, and too little to do in the city centre? Do you agree that those outside of the city centre don’t identify themselves as being part of Bradford’s shared identity? Yes, me too. The third visitor was the Joseph Rowntree Foundation last year. The terrible thing is that the second visitor was Lord Ouseley from his report into the Bradford Riots of 2001. That’s over a decade ago and Bradford is still suffering from the same old problems. The first visitor was Bill Bryson, who wrote that “Bradford’s role in life was to make every place else in the world look better in comparison” back in 1996; over 15 years later, is Bradford city centre’s chopping scene honestly any different?

I love living in Bradford, but sometimes I truly despair. I’m sure you’re frustrated at times, too. I’m not in a position to do anything but you, in government, can change our city, bring back community and civic pride, get the city centre to take off and draw in people from our three valleys and further afield, and make us all feel better about being Bradfordians. If you could take just a couple of minutes to answer the following questions, I’d be so grateful, because I want other people to know what you’re doing to make to Bradford better and tell them where we’re heading.

– What is your biggest success in making Bradford better?

– What are you working on now to make Bradford better?

– What’s something you’re planning to do in the future to make Bradford better?

I’m asking because I want to know what your vision for Bradford is and what you’re doing to help people feel, like I do, a pride in this city; I want to understand what politicians and civic leaders are doing for us.

I really look forward to hearing from you and your plans for Bradford’s future.

Yours sincerely,

John Atkinson

Is it ‘something, anything’? Yes. Will it achieve anything? I really don’t know.

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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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