Susan Hinchcliffe: Why Bradford is perfect place to stage Great Exhibition of North

Susan Hinchliffe, left, at the launch of Bradford's Great Exhibition bid.
Susan Hinchliffe, left, at the launch of Bradford's Great Exhibition bid.
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AS a city, Bradford can show the way for the future of Britain.

Built on the universal values of hard work, enterprise and compassion, it has a proud, illustrious past and a confident, ambitious future.

Like many places in the North of England, Bradford has its fair share of challenges.

But if you consider the successes of recent years, such as the outstanding regeneration of our city centre, the explosion of new business start-ups and our energetic arts scene, you should feel truly inspired.

This is why Bradford is seizing the moment and bidding to 
host the Great Exhibition of the North

The exhibition is the Government’s idea to promote the great creative and cultural sectors to help boost the economy across the Northern region.

There’s a cultural, social and economic energy about Bradford. A political one too, judging 
by how switched on and 
engaged many of our younger voters are.

A team is hard at work developing our proposal ahead of the June 30 deadline. It will include mass participatory events, both physical and digital, that everyone will want to be part of.

Our exhibition will be exciting, imaginative and showcase innovations in creativity and culture that the North is world famous for.

Bradford’s bid promises to be thought provoking, transformative, life affirming, populist and, above all, fun.

Our city is the ideal place to illustrate the enormous potential that is awakening across the North.

Bradford has a young, diverse and dynamic population, exemplified by singer Zayn Malik and magician Dynamo, superstars both.

Nearly a quarter of the city’s 530,000 residents are aged under 16. This means that our future will be defined by the boundless energy and free-ranging ideas of youth.

Like London, one of the world’s greatest cities, Bradford has a strong history of migrant communities creating prosperous and wealthy lives here.

There is strength in our resulting diversity and with 
more than 150 different languages spoken we are well connected nationally and internationally.

A recent survey showed that Bradford has the highest export rate of any city in the UK, with 86 per cent of our SMEs trading internationally.

Bradford people are also highly enterprising. I met an entrepreneur last week who started his working life on a building site.

He took evening classes in housing, worked for the council for a while and left to start his own construction company. A few years on, he has nearly 20 employees and takes on apprentices because he wants to create opportunities for 
others.

Perhaps one day he will sit astride a business empire as successful as those created in Bradford by Sir Titus Salt, Antonio Fattorini, Sir Ken Morrison, Jack Tordoff, David Hood or Amjad Pervez.

As well as being home to large corporates such as Morrisons and Provident Financial and a rock solid manufacturing base, Bradford has an enviously high proportion of self-employment and new business start-ups.

The city has about 900 tech companies, many of which were created in the last two or three years and inspired no doubt by some of the fastest broadband in the country.

The growth in the number of start-ups in Bradford is a sign of something special happening in our city, following the morale-boosting completion of the multi-million pound Broadway and City Park developments and the independent retailer-led revival of North Parade.

Talented artists, performers and musicians defining the vibrant cultural scene in Bradford, much in the same way as happened in the East End of London, before the capital priced them out.

Regular visitors will know Bradford already has a network of first-class cultural venues, places like the National 
Media Museum, Alhambra Theatre, St George’s Hall and the David Hockney gallery at Salts Mill.

This combination of edgy and established came together in fine effect at last month’s Bradford Literature Festival, led by Syima Aslam and Irna Qureshi, which featured 200 events and world-renowned speakers and attracted more than 30,000 visitors.

We are great at putting on events in Bradford. We know just how to make people feel at home. We know how to challenge. We are ambitious.

We have what it takes to stage something like this.

The Government sees the Great Exhibition of the North as a fantastic opportunity to promote the very best of northern art, culture and design.

We can do all of that and then some, with a nod to our past, a celebration of our present and an inspiring vision for our future.

With the right infrastructure investment, the North has huge potential.

In Bradford we are geographically, economically and culturally at the very heart of that northern opportunity and therefore, we believe, the perfect place to stage the Great Exhibition of the North.

Susan Hinchliffe is the leader of Bradford Council.