A Bradford councillor joined a dozen women from Peel Park Primary School walking group for a discussion on what can be done to improve the area this morning.
Every Friday during term time, mums from the school meet for an hour to walk around Peel Park after they’ve dropped their children off in the morning.
The walking group was formed over three months ago to create a safe space for women to voice their concerns with the school and the local area as well as boost mental wellbeing and fitness.
The walking group was created by Sabina Anwar, the parental involvement worker for the primary school and Fiz Ahmed, a retired police officer who volunteers her time every week.
An ex-journalist working in London for over a decade, Cllr Cunningham returned to his roots in Bradford in 2017 and was elected in May of this year to represent Bolton and Undercliffe.
Four years ago, Cllr Cunningham was elected as the chair for Bradford Civic Society, making him the youngest civic society leader in England at just thirty years old.
The group gives local women a space to talk openly about issues that are affecting them. Speaking about the walk this morning, lead volunteer of the group, Mrs Ahmed, said: “Today was about women having the confidence to speak about issues that affect their lives, and the lives of their families.
“The group gives them the confidence to speak to a councillor in the park where they spend their leisure time. So, it makes perfect sense for them to address their issues and concerns and going forward about being proactive with the support of the Cllr to make their lives better.
“We started in September and even the weather hasn’t put people off. The women are coming in good numbers, double figures, and it is increasing through word of mouth. Wellbeing, health, and exercise is very much top of people’s agendas, and it is very important as we are still in a situation with the pandemic, so it is important we have this community unity.”
Cllr Cunningham accepted the invite to the normally mums-only group to get an insight on what issues affect women and families locally. He said: “We’ve had a lovely morning. It is such a good idea to get these mums together from Peel Park Primary to hit the streets weekly. It is very important for me, as a councillor, to come out and hear first-hand from the community about the issues that are important to them.
“I think sharing information about what councillors do for the community is also important. We’ve had some interesting conversations today. What comes across is that the mums are proud of where they live and are proud of Bradford but wish it could be a little bit better.
“We heard ways in which they could improve their community, whether it is coming to me as a councillor or getting together as we’ve seen on the walk.”
Cllr Cunningham added: “I absolutely love being a councillor. It is very rewarding; it can be challenging at times, as you can imagine in Bradford. I am from this neck of the woods, so it is a real honour to look after these places.
“I started my first few months doing activities like this walk and other things that are important to people, just getting out and about hearing people’s concerns. I think the area is very good but there are ways we can make it better which is what my focus is for the next few years at city hall.
Ms Anwar added: “We started this group back in September for parents to use the park, gain exercise and be a safe environment for them to express any concerns.
“It is quite successful in the fact that we are increasing numbers every week, local issues have been brought to the surface, we have Fiz on board, and like today, we’ve got Cllr Simon coming to join us which has benefited the parents not only because they can speak to him about issues going on in the park but personal problems as well.
“We really need to support our parents; we are here to support them through other things as well. It is important that they do things outside of the school for their mental health.”