Bradford 2019 – my cultural year

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In 2019, Bradford announced its bid to become the UK City of Culture 2025. The news was met with much enthusiasm by some as an opportunity to promote the city, celebrate its creativity and boost the local economy. Hull, City of Culture in 2017, has given us a fantastic example of what can be achieved with huge increases in visitor numbers and a doubling of the number of residents taking part in events across the city.

However, by others, it was at best met with indifference or with a resigned assumption that the bid wouldn’t be successful and if it was it wouldn’t make that much difference to Bradford’s fortunes. In a moment of weakness, I foolishly read the comments attached to a Telegraph & Argus article launching the bid. The two comments that annoyed me the most, were:

“This is a waste of money. We should spend the money on children’s services instead.”

“Bradford has no culture.”

Taking point one, yes we should spend more money on children’s services. Bradford Council’s budget has been slashed over the past decade by successive Conservative governments. I really hope that the people who were advocating for more money for children’s services voted Labour in the General Election if that was their primary concern, rather than for the party that has caused such devastation. Maybe they did, because Bradford returned all three Labour MPs to Parliament. We wait with bated breath to see whether the ‘new’ government will make good its commitment to invest in the north. The City of Culture is expected to generate major investment in jobs and regeneration.

In the meantime, we need to focus on the local and turning to point two – “Bradford has no culture”. We Bradfordians do have a somewhat negative perception of ourselves and our city. No one can put Bradford down better than we can ourselves. And while I enjoy a good moan as much as anyone, there comes a point where it can just make us miserable, do nothing, sit at home, complaining bastards.

I’m not a fan of the word culture. It conjures up visions of something overly highbrow, out of reach, not for me. Instead of simply meaning what we see, hear, watch, read, eat. The music that we listen to, the films we watch, the songs we sing, the celebrations and traditions we participate in. Our way of life.

As it’s the start of a new year, I was looking back on my 2019 and thinking about the different events I’d been to. I wrote the list below and for a city without culture, there seems to have been a lot going on in Bradford last year. What sporting event, music, film, festival did you go to in 2019? Your list will be different to mine. Most of the events on my list were free, below £10, or pay as you feel.  I definitely need to watch more live music, I really want to go to the new monthly comedy club at Tapestry Arts Studio and finally get to the Dragon Boat Festival. I should do a park run.

In Bradford in 2019 I went to:

  • Tedx Bradford: a really inspiring series of “Radically Social” talks from good people doing good things. My friend got a new job out of it. Life changing.
  • City of Film 10th anniversary events including a film walking tour and a talk with Bradford born star Enzo Cilenti.
  • Vintage Fairs at Bradford Cathedral and at Victoria Hall in Saltaire.
  • Matilda, Mamma Mia, Kinky Boots and a pantomime at the beautiful Alhambra theatre.
  • Bradford Literature Festival events with Jeannette Winterson, Michael Rosen, Lisa Holdsworth and Paul Mason.
  • Bradford Civic Society’s blue plaque unveilings celebrating Bradford’s great and good.
  • Dry stone walling lesson at the Horton Community Farm.
  • Black Teeth and a Brilliant Smile play about the life of Andrea Dunbar at the Ambassador pub – one of the Observer’s best plays of 2019.
  • Launch of the Bradford Eat Drink Guide at Assembly Bradford on North Parade.
  • Edinburgh Fringe Preview at Theatre in the Mill featuring the fabulous Isma Almas.
  • Disability in the Media panel at Mind the Gap Studios with Emmerdale stars.
  • Science and Media Museum Lates. Free adults only event nights at the museum.
  • Start of the UCI world cycling championships in City Park.
  • Bradford Food festival – despite the torrential rain – I was there, were you?
  • Bowl Up Bradford cricket festival in Centenary Square.
  • I was on Bradford Community Broadcasting’s Roundtable Programme. Twice.
  • Bradford’s first Instameet photo tour with some of Bradford’s best photographers.
  • Celebrating Pioneering Bradford Lasses at a suffragettes day at St George’s Hall.
  • Bronte Festival of Women’s Writing in Haworth with Kit de Waal editor of the fantastic book Common People.
  • Social enterprise and humane tech talks at 30 Chapel Street.
  • Brenda’s Got a Baby play and comedy improv night as part of the Bradford Fringe Festival.
  • Outdoor cinema. 1930s Wuthering Heights on Haworth moor complete with Kate Bush dance re-enactment.
  • Bradford Stories Festival at Kala Sangam.
  • Bradford Classic car show in City Park.
  • Special screening of 100 Years of Bradford on Film at Bradford Cathedral.
  • I Have Met the Enemy theatre performance by Commonwealth Theatre in Holme Wood.
  • Saltaire Arts Trail. Houses and businesses open their doors as art galleries.
  • Bradford Worthies tour of Undercliffe Cemetery.
  • Bradford Print Fair at the beautiful Bradford Club.
  • Screening of the Selfish Giant filmed in Bradford with director Clio Barnard and stars of the film.
  • Halloween pumpkin carving with Sand In Your Eye at Bradford Broadway.
  • British Press Photographer’s Association Exhibition at Cartwright Hall.
  • Coffee tasting at Casa Espresso and tea tasting with Tea Mandala at Bread + Roses.
  • I’ve realised that I don’t go to any gigs unless I’m related to the band, but a particular highlight was watching Uncle Patrick and Cousin Christy headline the Bradford Festival in July.

I wrote this list to prove a point. These events (and the many, many I missed) are what makes up Bradford’s culture – the experiences that we share, take part in and talk about. Our culture is everything that goes on around us, what we grew up with and continue to live in. Bradford’s tapestry is particularly eclectic, diverse and down to earth. We should use that to our advantage.

Bradford’s 2025 City of Culture bid needs to be rooted in the city. It needs to hear your voice. The City of Culture bid is planning various events in the next few months, get involved. What would you like to see more of in the city? Bradford has so much to offer, don’t miss out.

People often tell me that they weren’t aware that these events were taking place. To keep up with what’s going on in the city, I write a monthly round up of the best events in Bradford. You can also join the Bradford Events Guide on Facebook which lists events on a daily basis.

I started a new podcast, Know Your Place Bradford about the people, places and history of Bradford. Look out for more episodes in the new year.

Please send me details on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram of any events and I’ll feature them in the list, or on the podcast.

Happy New Year Bradford – here’s to a very cultural 2020!


  1. Happy New year to you too!
    I am planning to go to Joseph at the Alhambra and Kipps(The Half a Sixpence musical) at St Georges Hall (Buttershaw St Pauls Amateur Operatic and dramatic society).But theatres do cost. Free of charge is
    Impressions gallery at city park -for art installations,talks and a tea and coffee session once a month.. And Bradford cathedral have regular organ recitals at lunchtimes and artworks on display. You are always made very welcome .


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s