Bradford or Beirut?

Where do I live? Bradford or Beirut with a Post Office? This question came to me when I saw a tweet by Richard Horsman, “former wireless hack [in Bradford], now Journalism Teaching Fellow @LeedsTrinity”, saying that one of his students was “apprehensive” about working in Bradford City Centre and “doesn’t feel safe”.


It’s weird how a tweet can shock you.

The response was swift and varied, from “Stop being so bloody soft” and “Tell em Bradford is a fantastic, friendly, intelligent city with a wholly undeserved reputation” to one, just one, agreeing that on a Saturday night it can be rough. My response was to invite the trainee journalist out round my city, to show them the sights of my town, to show off what my home’s got to offer – and, wonderfully, others did too.

But mine came with, I suppose, a caveat – “Ironically, it’s the media that’s made them think this way about #Bradford – an important lesson for a trainee journo” because, it seems to me, Bradford gets two types of press: bad and none. Actually, fuck all and shite.

@leedsjourno Ironically, it’s the media that’s made them think this way about #Bradford – an important lesson for trainee journo.

— Angry of Bradford (@BD_Angry) October 29, 2012

This year, when George Galloway set up an anti-drone demonstration in CityPark, viewers of local TV were treated to scenes of book burnings (from 1989). And then there’s the paper’s friend the Ripper (1980) who never stops tearing us to shreds. And there’s our riots (2001), hawked up and spat out whenever the press needs a pic of a northern brown kid with an angry face and a brick in his hand. They come to Make Bradford British, and stay long enough to paint us, somehow, as multi-cultural xenophobes. And when anyone talks of Bradford, there’s Leeds, Leeds, Leeds, stuffed down our throats and regurgitated, believe me, ad nauseum.

We get two types of press in Bradford – and neither of em’s good.

When I tell people, proudly, that I’m from Bradford, I get asked if it’s as bad as the papers say, if it’s really a safe place to live, if it’s crumbling like the news shows. And I love living here – and I hate feeling that I ought to be ashamed of my home.

We get two types of press in Bradford – and neither of em’s good.

The trainee journalist who was scared to visit Bradford, I hope, will see the other side, and write it and publish it and share it far wide. I hope they’ll take up the offer, mine or someone else’s, of touring Bradford, seeing its beauty and its darkness, its treasures and its dumps, and, most of all, meeting its people, like me and you, who make this city what it is.

You see, we’re proud. We’re Bradford and we’re Yorkshire and we’re proud. We’re angry about the crap governments have given us, and the treasures they’ve kept away. We’re angry about the jobs that’ve gone and never been replaced. And we’re angry that, with 4000 years of history behind us, the founding of the Industrial Age and the building of an Empire behind us, the decadent riches of capitalism and the foundations of socialism behind us, the media picks our scabs and makes us bleed again and again and again… and it hurts… because how can we be reborn if those who will, one day soon, be shaping the mind of the populous daren’t walk our streets?

We get two types of press in Bradford – and I’d like a third.

If you want to see my Bradford, you can read about its wonders, its cultureand about its shameful state in parts. Be inspired by Emily Keicic at Bettakultcha or make do with me. But, I implore you, never fear my city because she’s more precious than you can imagine – even if she’s a tad scuffed and worn these days.

This started as a blogpost and ended up a rant. I’m sorry. If you’re in the media, I’m sorry. I’ve lain too much at your feet and I’m sorry. If you’re the student who asked your lecturer about your safety, I’m sorry. I don’t want you to feel bad or worried – less so nervous or scared. If you’re that student, I want to meet you and show you my city and maybe, just maybe, you’ll come to love her like I do – and then you’ll go away and tell it like it really is: warts, beauty spots and all.


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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3 Responses to Bradford or Beirut?

  1. A most excellent blog!!


  2. June Russell says:

    I’ve been hearing this a lot recently. I thought at first it was just timid, elderly types from out Shipley way who feared to walk the streets of the INNER CITY, but then came one or two younger folk, who (would you believe?) often went drinking in Leeds and Wakefield. Bradford is a quiet village in comparison!

    I’ve been considering a couple of possiblilties:

    1. ‘Deadbeats’ are frequently mentioned as a problem. Whatever that means (beggars, drunks, etc.) there are as many or more of these in ‘successful’ cities, but they are swallowed by hordes of shoppers and ‘normal’ drunken revelers to the point that they are virtually invisible. Do we really need a maelstrom of masking activity to make us feel that all is well?

    2. The elephant in the room. Since the city centre has been abandoned by shoppers and ‘normal’ revelers, it has been enjoyed much more freely by our South Asian population, especially the vibrant younger generation. Restaurants, sweet centres and coffee bars are doing fine, thank you very much. Scary, eh? Fabulous, more like!

    I am female and walk alone often in Bradford. It’s a pussycat. Join me, if you’re hard enough.


  3. Damien says:

    A heartfelt piece again. The more positive coverage and comments Bradford gets, the better. We need to dispel once and for all these skewed perceptions of our city, its environs and its potential.
    Keep up the good work! D


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