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Monday, June 27, 2022

Volunteers get heart of the community pumping again as Bradford Moor Park sees transformation

Returned to its former glory, Bradford Moor Park has become a safe space for women to meet and children to play with a new toddler play area and outdoor gym officially unveiled this weekend.

The new toddler play area and outdoor gym at Bradford Moor Park was officially opened with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Saturday, 20 November.

The launch was organised by volunteer group Friends of Bradford Moor Park, with MP for Bradford East, Imran Hussain in attendance, as well chief executive for Bradford Council, Kersten England.

Najm Khalid, A volunteer from the walking group for women gave a speech on the benefits of clean air on mental and physical wellbeing, and a local woman Safeena Khan told her story on why the park is special to her and her family following the loss of her mum.

Nas Kosar is the chair of Friends of Bradford Moor Park and is the driving force behind the park’s development.

The new play area which cost £50,000 was funded by Better Place Bradford, a project in partnership with Better Start Bradford and Groundwork, to get local people to develop safer and healthier places for expectant parents and families with children under the age of 4, increase their access to outdoor spaces.

Kitted out with only some waders, gloves, and a lot of bin bags, the volunteers at Friends of Bradford Moor Park cleaned out the pond themselves, with the help of Yorkshire Magneteers. During the various clean-up sessions, they found old knives, shotgun barrels and even a rifle that is dated from 1985 to 1957.

The pond is so clean now that birds have returned to it, and boats sailed the water for the first time in 20 years during the opening event on Saturday.

Chair of Friends of Bradford Moor Park, Naz Kosar, spoke first at the event. She said: “I want to start by saying thank you. Thank you to everyone who has taken part in helping start this dream. It is not over yet, we have a long way to go, but the most important part is the communities coming together.

Najm Khalid takes part in the Friends of Bradford Moor walking group.

“Look around you today. Look at all the different ages, all the different people from different walks of life. This is what I wanted to achieve – I want to bring everyone in the Bradford Moor community and beyond together to have one passion, our park, our pride.

“It doesn’t matter what your journey in life has been. It doesn’t matter where you come from, what your nationality, race, gender, or sexuality is.

“I grew up in this area and this park was the beauty of everyone’s childhood. Many years of laughter, playing, being naughty, being called in, being grounded most of the time in my case, because we weren’t home in time to help our mothers in the kitchen.”

Ms Kosar said she began her journey with Friends of Bradford Moor Park after visiting the park in 2019 with her nephews. She added, “Instead of developing, the park was underdeveloped. It was the forgotten park.

“A lot of time and effort has gone into the planning. We are nowhere near our goal, but I have a vision of five years. In five years, I am hoping, with all your help, we are going to have a community garden and children playing, smiling, and being naughty like I was.”

Najm Khalid, who is part of the walking group in the park said: “It is all about having a safe space for women to come together for mindfulness, mutual support, exercise, and wellbeing in a safe and beautiful space.

“Mindfulness breathing helps anchor ourselves in the present moment which is soothing and calming in a frantically busy world. Another way we fill our lungs with lovely Bradford air at the Gupshup group is through chilled out and supportive exercise.

Safeena Khan talked openly about the importance of looking after your mental health.

“Sometimes we stroll around the pond, chatting to the swans and geese. I personally find the swans are more talkative and the geese are more suspicious. Other times, like Kate Bush, an 80s reference for anyone from that era, we are running up that tiny hill over the hill over there with no problems.

“Through exercise and singing Kate Bush songs, we aim to forget our anxieties and oxygenate ourselves, resulting in better mental and physical health”.

Mrs Khalid added: “On a more serious note, there is a desperate need for more outdoor spaces where women can meet for support.”

Safeena Khan and her family live near the park in Barkerend. She spoke at the event about her journey following the death of her beloved mum. She said “words are hard to find” but the people who have supported her along the way has given her the courage to speak openly about her experience.

Her first point of call was her children’s primary school who gave her support and guidance about her loss, and how to talk to her children. “I want to thank the school for all the opportunities and what they have done for my family.

“My dad and siblings have been supportive of each other. We have tried to overcome this deep sadness and tried to keep our mum’s memory alive during birthdays, family events, and Eid. She is with us in her spirit.”

MP for Bradford East Imran Hussain spoke about the importance of green spaces in inner-city communities.

One of the family’s favourite places to go was Bradford Moor Park. Mrs Khan said: “She used to bring us to the park as children. We grew up in this area and I also bring my children to this park.

“My children enjoy the new sandpit; we like to use the gym equipment. We have really good family memories.”

Ms Khan added: “I want people of the community to understand how mental health issues affect people in different ways and that it is an invisible illness. There are services that you can you use. I asked for help, and I received it.

“Speak to your neighbours, speak to your doctors, speak to anybody in the community and try and get some help and let us all try and support each other.”

Friends of Bradford Moor Park helped plant a tree in memory of Mrs Khan’s mother.

MP for Bradford East Imran Hussain said: “The last 18 months have been testing for most of us. We have lost people very close to us, we had a period as a community we have not been able to see each other.

Kersten England’s children learned to walk in this park and now she takes her grandson to play.

“Those who spoke before me are absolutely right. The lives we have lost, the friends we have lost, the community spirit we have lost. The impact on mental health will transpire. One of the biggest tragedies we have today is in areas like this, heavily populated inner-city areas, where health inequalities is the rifest it has ever been.

“If you live here, you are likely to less a decade less than people living in a leafy suburb. We need to address these issues and the very few that we do have, we need to do everything together, to improve them.”

Kersten England said: “I am chief executive of the Council, but this space is special to me, personally, as when I first came to live in Bradford over thirty years ago, I lived in BD3 for seven years.

“My children learned to walk in this park. I, like many, have seen the different phases that it has gone through, and I am so pleased to see it coming back to its former glory, full of people, full of young people, and full of the energy and spirit that makes Bradford great.”

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