Did you know that Bradford was the first ever UNESCO City of Film? Neither did I, until I saw a film event advertised in Rome and Bradford was listed as one of cities involved! Bradford! My home town, which along with Rome, Sydney, Galway, Santos, Yamagata and others has been designated a member of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network, which aims to raise the profile of each city’s culture and communities. 2019 sees the 10th anniversary of Bradford’s designation as a world City of Film.
Bradford won the accolade due to the city’s deep-rooted film heritage spanning over a hundred years. The former Odeon cinema was the largest outside London when it was built in 1930 and was the first cinema to be purpose built for the “talkies”. Bradford hosts Europe’s first IMAX screen. Its stunning countryside and architecture continue to provide the backdrop for many film locations, and the National Science and Media Museum holds a range of film festivals, with the big screen at City Park hosting family film days throughout the school holidays last year.
By 2020, Bradford City of Film ‘want film to be at the heart of Bradford’s development, identity and day-to-day life. No one will live, work or visit Bradford without the knowledge that they are in the world’s first City of Film’.
And Bradford is attracting more and more attention. A recent report on Bradford City Centre Regeneration stated that 35 film and television productions were based in the district in 2017, with enquiries rising by 35% in 2018. Local hotels and services are also seeing an increase in trade during filming. Television crews have been regular sights around City Hall and Little Germany shooting Peaky Blinders, Victoria, Poirot and most recently Gentleman Jack, Sally Wainwright’s new television series based on the life of Anne Lister of Shibden Hall. Much of this is thanks to the work of Bradford City of Film in promoting the city as a leading, internationally recognised film and television location.
Iconic films set in Bradford include: The Railway Children, Bill Liar and Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life filmed partly at Cartwright Hall. Even Bollywood is in on the act, with Gold filmed at locations across the city in 2017.
For a full list of films shot in Bradford have a look at the Bradford Film Heritage website, there are some real surprises. Some of my favourites include:
Rita Sue and Bob Too!
A must see for anyone who grew up in Bradford in the 1980s. Written by Andrea Dunbar and set in Buttershaw, (where I went to school – the school that’s in the film) it tells the story of two teenage friends and their affair with a married man. It’s both very funny and true. Andrea Dunbar said that she ‘wrote what’s said and you don’t lie. This is life.’
Filmed on location at Valley Parade, ID starred Reece Dinsdale as an undercover policeman investigating a group of football hooligans including Sean Pertwee and Warren Clarke. It was directed by Phillip Davis of Quadrophenia fame, who I seem to remember had trouble controlling the extras. I was one of them and definitely got a few bruises during filming. You can spot me in one of the crowd scenes, the only one grinning as a bloodied Reece Dinsdale pushes past. It’s quite bleak, but was good fun to be involved in.
The Selfish Giant
Directed by Otley born Clio Barnard, this is a modern retelling of Oscar Wilde’s The Selfish Giant filmed in and around Buttershaw and Holme Wood. The two main protagonists were local lads with no previous acting experience, critics were wowed by their performances. It won the Europa Cinema award at the Cannes Film Festival in 2013. I saw this film when I was living in Rome with Italian friends. A good film for people who think the UK is London.
The King’s Speech
I had no idea that The King’s Speech was partly filmed at Odsal stadium. It features prominently in the first thoroughly uncomfortable scene where Colin Firth’s Prince Bertie tries to give a speech to the assembled crowd. Colin Firth in Bradford, imagine that.
If you want to explore some of the locations mentioned, or find out more, take a look at the app created by Bradford City of Film and take an unusual local history tour: https://www.bradford-city-of-film.com/app/