The Spice of Life – World Curry Festival in Bradford

Spices filled the warm autumn air. I drank them in. The spices mixed with drums and laughter, crashing water and joyful chatter. The air was alive. The city was alive. CityPark was alive and hosting The World Curry Festival. A feast for all the senses opened out in front of me. I dived right in.

There is no sincerer love than the love for food.
George Bernard Shaw

Bradford, the current UK Curry Capital, is hosting The World Curry Festival this weekend (21-23 September). I went down on the Saturday to sample the delights… and what delights I beheld.

If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.
JRR Tolkien

The CityPark is a wonderful place. The UK’s largest feature showers visitors with fountains which change according to its mood, making for a wonderful place to simply sit and enjoy the city, or to dive in and get wet – something I’ve never experienced in any other UK city to the same degree. It’s wonderful! And, being Bradford’s liquid beacon, there really couldn’t be a finer, more appropriate setting for a festival of curry, could there?

Why not take a look at Zaara’s / P13 Digital Media’s video of the Curry Festival on Friday night? Quieter by far than Saturday but CotyPark’s wonderful at night.

After a busy morning, we were starving when we got to CityPark, or so we thought, as after a quick circuit to see what delights were on offer, smelling the myriad of spices floating tantalizingly through the air, and seeing the fare being gleefully devoured by the throng, we could’ve eaten a scabby horse – highly spiced, of course. Thankfully, equine cicatrisation wasn’t on the menu; there was, however, a cornucopia of epicurean delights. Some of the finest Indian, Pakistani and South-East Asian restaurants took their fare to the streets of Bradford, and Bradford lapped it up – literally

I love spicy food.
Cynthia Nixon

Heavy of heart and empty of tum, we bypassed restaurants we know and love, promising our hunger and tongues we’d visit Zaara’s, Zouk, Prashad and other Bradford staples later, and plumped for Brighouse’s Street. We weren’t to be disappointed. Waiting in the queue was exquisite torture. We stood for about half an hour, which was an eternity with a rumbling belly, but it’s wonderful that Bradford can attract such a huge volume of visitors. It wasn’t just Street: all the stalls were packed with similar waiting times and similarly sated customers. For £5, we got a 3 course meal in a box: gram floured potato scallop, channa chaat spring roll, battered fish, seekh kebab, tanddori jerk chicken wings, chicken karahi, creamed daal, basmati rice, puri and falooda. Oh, the joy! We sat and gorged ourselves then smiled, pogged, and discussed how great the meal was.

We stayed around CityPark, digesting our fantastic food, the ambiance and the other offerings, such as street theatre from Fairly Fresh Fish Co, Comedy Chefs and Cake Ladies, as well as the music, and wandering past the other stalls selling all manner of Indian spices and foodstuffs. The crowds appreciated it all. Rushing now, with another cultural engagement at Multi Storey Shipley to get to, we popped into the shop under the Impressions Gallery which had been transformed into a Curry Festival shop. Sharon’s brother, a curry aficionado exiled in Oxford and jealous of our outing, was the main beneficiary. Unfortunately, they’d sold out of ‘Keep Calm and Curry On’ T-shirts in his size, but he’ll be overjoyed with a signed Prashad recipe book! We managed to take in a few minutes of Hardeep Singh Kohli’s cookery demonstration – just enough to make me even more disappointed that I’d miss his comedy and curry night – before we begrudgingly left.

A lot of food shows need only to tempt. Some food shows only need to inspire, to empower. And there are a lot of shows that do that.
Alton Brown

So, full to the brim and mouths still tingling, we tore ourselves away… happy. We were happy and so, I hope, were the organsiers. Curry had come home and was shown how much it means to this city – every Bradfordian is a curry connoisseur and each has their own favourite dish and place to eat it. Bradford showed what it means to have our city’s dish home and in our heart. The stalls’ tills were ringing all day, the visitors were entertained, and everyone must be really, really pleased. Could they tear themselves away next year? I hope not. And, on today’s evidence, why would they?

Finishing food is about the tiny touches. In the last seconds you can change everything.
Mario Batali

Today was brilliant, but as we talked about it afterwards, we still think it could be even better and even bigger. We compared it to the CityPark’s opening and other city events where there is a big do by the mirror pool, but nothing else goes on. Where are the fringe events, the bits and bobs around and about? At the moment, many tricks are being missed but, with days like this, they’ll come as more and more people hear of and try out events in CityPark. @CultureVultures, the Leeds-based cultural blog, came to town and tweeted “Millenium Square in Leeds suffers badly in comparison [to CityPark] as a ‘place’ to be convivial and imaginative.” – high praise from Leeds’ standard bearer and a Yorkshire cultural icon. Soon, I fervently hope, there’ll be too many people coming to events to allow just Centenary Square to hold the throng, and I can’t wait for that day when an event in City Park means colour and sound spreading out to Market St, the West End and, dare I say it, the Odeon. CityPark’s such a wonderful, joyous foundation – let’s build, build, build.


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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