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Bradford 2025 City of Culture bid will be a ‘game changer’ according to University chiefs


Illuminate Bradford. Credit: Visit Bradford

Bradford University to play major role in city’s bid for culture crown

Bradford’s bid to become UK City of Culture 2025 has received a big boost with the unveiling of a major new partnership between the bid team and the University of Bradford.

University of Bradford Vice Chancellor Professor Shirley Congdon has hailed the potential for “millions of pounds of investment” to breathe new life into the city, and the University’s Chief Finance Officer, Stuart McKinnon-Evans, has described City of Culture status as being a “game changer” for the Bradford district.

Stuart McKinnon-Evans – who has also joined the Bradford 2025 board – was commenting as preparations for the bid continue, with several senior figures from the University of Bradford also lending their world-class academic expertise.

Alongside Stuart McKinnon-Evans, Professor Marcus Rattray is leading the bid’s Research Advisory Group, while Eleanor Clyde-Evans – Associate Director for Engagement, Alumni and Development – is part of the steering group. Hannah Ward from the University Engagement and Partnerships team has joined the Bradford 2025 Engagement and Inclusion Reference Group and Rich Warburton from the University's internationally acclaimed Theatre in the Mill is working on programme design and creative collaborations for the bid.

Game changer

Mr McKinnon-Evans said: “Bradford winning this bid would be a complete game changer for the district. When you look at what major cultural designations have done for other cities, such as Liverpool and Hull, where it kickstarted a huge renaissance and a boost in confidence and imagination among its people, I think it could be transformational for us.

“However, even just the process of preparing for the bid will have a tremendously positive effect. Bradford has such a diverse offering in terms of its history, food and art, a wider cultural offering including theatre, TV, film, museums and music, not to mention a geography which includes everything from its industrial centres to the Yorkshire Dales. 

“In terms of identity, therefore, what I think we can expect to see from Bradford is not one distinct identity but lots of separate ones, which join together through a common heritage.”

Showcasing the city

Winning the bid could result in millions of pounds of investment, something which would breathe new life into the city, says University Vice Chancellor Professor Shirley Congdon.

“The University of Bradford is playing a key role in the 2025 City of Culture bid, supporting the team to grow and enhance the cultural sector, the regional economy, wellbeing and to build on the city’s strong entrepreneurial spirit. The University will share its expertise and experience and use its convening power to bring organisations together.

“Ultimately this is about showing what Bradford has to offer, on so many different levels and to get employers interested in locating here. The bid will also give a voice to all manner of other community groups and social enterprises and it will shine a light on projects across the city.”

Shanaz Gulzar, Chair of Bradford 2025, added: “We want the bid from Bradford to stretch across the district, to be something everyone is proud to support and be part of. Working with the University helps us to engage with some of our emerging talent, discovering the Bradford they want to live and work in and working with them to make it happen. As the youngest city in Europe we have a duty to our young people who will, after all, be the legacy for our bid.”

‘Bradford is ready for this’

Professor Udy Archibong, Director of Centre for Inclusion and Diversity (CfID) at the University of Bradford, says: “Bradford is ready for this. Progressive social reform has been a consistent theme for Bradford’s development for many decades. I’m excited at the potential to work together across all sectors, in every district, to tackle the challenges and inequalities and to hear the voices of everyone who lives here. Culturally we couldn’t be richer and it’s time for us to show the rest of the world what makes this young, diverse district so special.”

The cultural heritage of Bradford includes world-famous artists, writers and musicians: the Brontës, Frederick Delius, AA Dhand, Andrea Dunbar, David Hockney, Tasmin Little, Zayn Malik and JB Priestley amongst many others. The city recently celebrated the 10th anniversary of being named the first UNESCO City of Film. The bid will be managed by Bradford Culture Company in partnership with the City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council and strategic bid partner the University of Bradford.