Cultural institutions as varied as Billy Pearce, Shipley Clock Tower, Cannon Mills Market and Bradford’s working men’s clubs should all play a role in the district’s 2025 celebrations, councillors have argued.
The team behind Bradford’s City of Culture plans gave councillors an update on what they had up their sleeve at a meeting on Tuesday evening, assuring members that the year long celebration will appeal to as many Bradford residents as possible.
And this would even include the residents who delight in putting the district down.
The Council’s Regeneration and Environment Scrutiny Committee were told that Bradford’s year with the title will bring 24 festivals, 365 artist commissions and over 1,000 performances and events.
Although 2025 is almost two years away, there will be a “runway” of events leading up to the year, including a new annual food festival, with the inaugural event taking place this April.
Shanaz Gulzar, the Keighley woman who has been named Creative Director of Bradford 2025, told members that the year would embrace all sides of Bradford’s culture, especially those not normally considered high art.
This would be summed up by one strand of the celebration – “Welcome Home Sexy.” This is inspired by graffiti on Bradford Interchange, and Ms Gulzar said the cheeky message commuters see as they arrive at “the country’s ugliest rail station” shows how arts and culture can be found in unlikely places.
Referring to the comments about Bradford Interchange, Cllr Anna Watson (Green, Shipley) said: “We have Shipley Clock Tower, that is another marmite building – people love it or hate it.
“People have all these ideas – I hope you talk to the community and ask about what they’d like to see.”
Councillor Marcus Dearden (Lab, Bingley) highlighted how important it would be to get people from all areas of the District on board. He said: “A lot of people outside Bradford central detest Bradford Council, a lot of them remember the old urban District Councils. It is important these people are just as involved.”
He added: “Next year in Bingley is the 250th anniversary of the Five Rise Locks. Surely there has to be an event to celebrate that? There are so many great things outside Bradford central – I can’t stress enough how important it is to include everyone.”
Ms Gulzar said the team had already met with the Canal and River Trust, and the story of the Leeds Liverpool Canal would be included in any celebrations.
Cllr Nussrat Mohammed (Lab, Heaton) said asked what was being done to engage with people who may not be engaged with the arts.
She said: “When we’re sitting at this table everything sounds really exciting, but when I talk to my constituents they might not have any idea what’s happening.
“We need to take communities along with us. Everyone likes to look in the mirror and see a reflection of themselves. I want to see my community engaging and reflected in this.
“We have wonderful things like St George’s Hall, but I would like to see things like the Sunday Market (at Cannon Mills) in there, because given the choice I’d rather go to the Sunday market.”
Ms Gulzar replied saying it was vital that the year engages with people who “don’t think it’s for them.” She added: “We have to bring events to people’s streets. They don’t have to leave the area to see something.”
Councillor Brendan Stubbs (Lib Dem, Eccleshill) said: “In Bradford we have a lot of working men’s clubs and working class crafts.
“You have tens of thousands of people pay good money to go see Billy Pearce tell the same jokes at the Alhambra each year. I’ve not heard much about how this traditional type of entertainment will factor into the year.”
Cllr Stubbs added: “The problem with Bradford is that for every person living here who loves the city you’ll get another person saying ‘Leeds does it better.’ It is not like other places where people are very territorial, and if someone says anything against that area they are in trouble. We don’t want to lose the people who don’t care as much.”
Ms Gulzar replied: Places like working men’s clubs are all being included in the programme. There is going to be traditional and non-traditional arts venues included. There will be the art you expect to see in galleries, as well as the art you wouldn’t expect to see.”