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Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Bradford: 2021 in review

Covid-19 dominated global news, but Bradford’s South Asian community showed strength and resilience.

As the year draws to an end, Asian Standard reflects on the biggest news stories of the year from the community in Bradford.

Like 2020, Covid-19 dominated the year, but the South Asian community is strong and resilient in Bradford.

People came together to help each other and enrich the community, from volunteers cleaning a pond in BD3 with nothing but waders and a binbag to two graduates setting up their own publishing company to give a platform to South Asian writers in the North.

Here are a dozen things that happened in the community in Bradford over the past twelve months.

  1. Covid-19

The NHS rolled out its Covid-19 vaccination programme this year.

Covid-19 was inescapable again in 2021. At the beginning of the year, we saw the vaccine rollout, where the most vulnerable and their carers received the vaccines first, going down the list by age.

Pop-up clinics were set up in mosques and community centres across Bradford and Keighley to encourage people to do their bit to stop the spread of the virus.

We emerged from the winter lockdown and entered Boris Johnson’s spring and summer roadmap plan which allowed us to meet with friends again, worship together, and for some, go on holiday abroad for the first time in over a year.

As the youngest city in Britain, the Khidmat Centres released their Young in Covid documentary, spearheaded by Sofia Buncy, the national coordinator of the centres, that told the hidden stories of young people in Bradford living through the pandemic.

With the Omicron variant hitting British soils, a promising summer with declining cases and falling hospitalisations and deaths has turned into an unfavourable winter, with people, yet again, unsure about their Christmas plans and whether children will return to physical classrooms or go back to digital learning.

  1. A lot of park openings

After most of us were cooped up at home, enjoying parks and outdoor areas become increasingly important to the people of Bradford.

Bradford Moor PASS received the highest award for voluntary service in the UK.

Bradford Moor’s Play and Support Service (PASS) in Attock Park received the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service from the Lord-Lieutenant of West Yorkshire, Ed Anderson on behalf of the Queen for their work with young people in the community.

In August, Kashmir Park in Toller was opened, named after the region where many of the residents in the area hail from.

In November, Bradford Moor Park returned to its former glory with a new toddler park and outside gym area opened and boats returning to the park’s pond for the first time in over twenty years.

After months of organising, the Friends of Lister Park group officially launched, with over 60 people attending their first clean up session at the beginning of December.

  1. Food banks

From a driving instructor in Keighley creating his own weekly soup kitchen, to a woman setting up a food bank in her living room, the use of food banks has soared in Bradford.

More people used food banks in 2021 than in other years.

Job losses, the end of furlough, and the cut to Universal Credit has meant that a lot of people in Bradford have struggled to put food on the table this year.

In Bradford, there are at least two dozen ‘official’ food banks with generous charities, businesses, and community groups setting up independent food banks for people in need.

The family and friends of Rajveer ‘Keeks’ Kaur Bhatti, a 32-year-old woman from BD2, donated £610 to Bradford Central Foodbank on behalf of their daughter and sister who passed away in September from Covid-19.

  1. The first female Pakistani train driver in the UK

    Tahira qualified as the UK’s first female Pakistani train driver in September.

In September, Tahira Bibi, a 49-year-old woman from Bradford passed her final exams with Northern making her the first female Pakistani train driver in the UK.

A career where less than 7% of the drivers are female, and less than 9% of all drivers are from an ethnic minority, Ms Bibi made the history books.

  1. Fuel shortages

An issue up and down the UK, the fuel shortage in September and October dominated the news.

Fuel shortages across Bradford and most of England was a problem in September.

The combination of Brexit, the pandemic, a burst pipe in France, and panic buying, created the perfect recipe for a shortage in petrol and diesel.

Petrol stations across Bradford run dry after thousands of drivers’ panics bought fuel fearing the worst. Thankfully, tankers were brought into the district and the shortage only lasted eight days, meaning that most people with a full tank weren’t caught out.

  1. Businesses and innovation

It was not all doom and gloom this year, the lockdowns of 2020 and into early 2021 gave people time to work on business ideas and easing restrictions in the spring and summer provided the perfect opportunity for people to launch their new ventures.

Ronnie Dutt launched his own business in 2021.

Ronnie Dutt left his secure job at the bank to become an independent mortgage broker, and two Bradford graduates, Habiba Desai and Sara Razzaq launched their own publishing company specifically for South Asian writers, after five years in the making.

After years of saving, a mechanic and his client decided to launch Bradford’s only minigolf place in the centre of town without loans or funding.

  1. Sports clubs and exercise

Grassroots sports clubs and exercise and wellbeing groups were big this year. After restrictions on mingling and sports clubs and youth events were temporarily put on hold, the community in Bradford jumped at the chance to socialise again when restrictions eased.

Bradford Hindu Council’s first football tournament was a success.

Young people from Al-Mustafa Centre’s youth club were allowed to play football together as a team and Bradford Hindu Council created their first football tournament for the South Asian community in Bradford.

Work on BEAP Community Partnership’s million-pound sports complex began this year. When the centre is finished, it will provide men, women, boys and girls from Manningham and across the district, the chance to exercise and come together as a community.

Women and children from the Inspirational Women Foundation went to watch Bradford City play Northampton Town at the Bantams ground, a first for many of the women.

  1. Climate change

The Clean Air Zone was announced by Bradford Council at the beginning of the year. Image: Ernest Ojeh.

In late February, Bradford Council passed a motion to help reduce carbon emissions in the district. From January 2022 the most polluting commercial vehicles will receive a daily charge of up to £50 when driving in the Bradford-Shipley corridor.

The Council also offered generous grants to taxi drivers to make the switch from traditional petrol- or diesel-powered engines to electric vehicles.

  1. Mental health

Men Reaching Out launched in September.

The impact that the pandemic had on people’s mental health in the community cannot be understated. Being in the second year of a global pandemic played a massive toll on people’s wellbeing, resulting in many feeling isolated.

Breaking the Silence, a charity for South Asian men and BEAP Community Partnership’s male domestic abuse hotline have done a lot for reducing the impact.

Safeena Khan, a brave 33-year-old woman from Barkerend, spoke openly with Asian Standard about the struggles she faced and how she overcame them by accessing help from the NHS.

  1. Women’s safety

Zarghona Khan, a 23-year-old optometry student at the University of Bradford.

Following the death of Sabina Nessa, a school teacher from London who was killed on her way to meet a friend at the pub, two women from Bradford, a poet, Shareena Lee Satti, and community worker Uzma Kazi, organised a vigil to mark the tragic murder of Sabina Nessa and all women who have experienced violence.

A ‘Reclaim the Night’ March was organised by the University of Bradford in December following an increase of abuse towards female students and staff members on their way to university.

  1. RF Media & Publishing turns 10!

RF Media & Publishing turned 10 in August.

2021 was a big year for us at Asian Standard. RF Media & Publishing, the company our editor, Fatima Patel, set up in 2011, turned a decade old at the end of August.

A mother and daughter business, RF Media & Publishing is the only media outlet in the UK with multiple Asian publications that is solely owned by women.

In 2015 Asian Sunday was revamped to an online portal and Asian Standard, a weekly print newspaper with Asian Style Mag, as the supplement lifestyle issue, was created.

Asian Standard is now available in four regions, Bradford, Kirklees, Leeds, and North East was with plans to launch Manchester in the new year and a further six titles by 2025.

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