Arts Council England announced last week that Bradford Literature Festival (BLF) had been awarded funding of over £1 million per year till 2026, making it the largest diverse-led culture organisation in the North of England and the second largest in the country.
The festival first ran as a weekend of 24 events in 2014. In the space of eight years BLF has grown to a 10-day celebration delivering over 500 live, in-person events, attracting up to 70,000 visitors each year.
In recent years the festival has worked with artists ranging from Caitlin Moran and Kate Bush to Alastair Campbell and Shashi Tharoor, transforming the Yorkshire city into a hive of creativity and shared culture.
The festival brings together artists from a range of disciplines and backgrounds to host discussions on themes of both global and local relevance. This combined with our free Literature Unlocked: Family Fun Days and Ethical Ticketing Policy makes the festival accessible to everyone has meant that BLF attracts audiences from across ages, and ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds making it the most diverse literature festival in the UK with a 49% diverse audience in 2022.
Due to the pioneering Ethical Ticketing Policy, BLF was also able to offer 69% of tickets free to individuals and families from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds in 2022.
The festival, which played a key role in Bradford securing UK City of Culture 2025, has outlined an ambitious plan of growth over the next three years to cement our place as an international destination festival, and a jewel in the crown of the UK’s international arts offer, as the city moves towards this exciting highlight in the UK’s cultural calendar.
Ambitious plans for the festival’s tenth birthday celebrations in 2024, and throughout Bradford’s City of Culture year in 2025, are already underway. Plans include creating an international partnership network of 10 of the world’s most innovative festivals, each bringing their unique approach to BLF2025. All Roads Lead to Bradford will make BLF the largest destination literature festival in the UK and a truly international cultural hub.
Sir Richard Lambert, Chair of BLF’s Board, said: “This investment is testament to our vision to be the UK’s foremost Literature Festival, an international driving force behind raising literacy levels, and a springboard to economic success for Bradford and the many international communities that call the city home.”
Syima Aslam MBE, founder and artistic director, said, “I am hugely grateful to Arts Council England for their tremendous faith in BLF’s vision, scope and the ambition of the organisation which will enable us to cement our position as a leading international festival.
I am also extremely proud that while we have an international focus, we are also leading the way in social inclusion, accessibility, and representation. This work has been made possible by support from Arts Council England and all our funding partners, over the last eight years. This award, and the work we curate, is testament to our brilliant artists and wonderful audiences. I am grateful to each and every individual.”