Culture and the arts placed at the heart of new 10-year strategy for the Bradford district

An ambitious vision to develop the arts and cultural scene across the Bradford district throughout the next decade has been unveiled to help bring a multi-million pound economic boost and open the sector to a far wider audience.

The 10-year project, called Culture Is Our Plan, was launched yesterday to promote culture across the West Yorkshire district following a 12-month consultation involving hundreds of organisations and individuals.

An action plan overseen by Bradford Council has set out targets to be met by 2031 with a cultural renaissance at the heart of the decade-long programme, which aims to harness the youthful diversity and entrepreneurial strengths of the district.

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Arts Council England’s chief executive officer, Darren Henley, said: “Bradford is a district and a city I have been to many, many, times, and the thing that always strikes me about the Bradford district is the assets you’ve got - a fantastic place and fantastic people. For me, it’s the real definition of opportunity.

Bradford Council's leader, Coun Susan Hinchcliffe, and actor and producer Tanya Vital are pictured at the South Square Arts and Heritage Centre in Thornton at the launch of a 10-year cultural strategy for the Bradford district. (Picture Tony Johnson)

“It’s an exciting place, a young place, and I think it’s the sort of place where you can do things differently and for the first time.

“What I want to see over the next 10 years is us continuing to work in partnership with people across the Bradford district.

“It is really far-sighted that the council has got this 10-year plan as not many places around the country have that - it’s a real credit to you all.”

The Bradford district is already home to renowned theatre companies such as Mind the Gap and leading venues including the Kala Sangam arts centre, St George’s Hall and The Alhambra.

The moors above Haworth inspired the Brontës to write novels such as Wuthering Heights, while Saltaire’s industrial heritage village was named a UNESCO World Heritage site 20 years ago. The only other World Heritage site in the region is at Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal in North Yorkshire.

Bradford itself was named as the world’s first UNESCO City of Film in 2009, and the city is home to the Science and Media Museum.

The former Odeon Cinema in Bradford is currently undergoing a multi-million pound transformation into a 4,500-capacity venue, which will become Bradford Live in 2022.

However, the new strategy aims to open up the arts and culture to a far more diverse audience, building momentum for Bradford’s bid to be named as the UK City of Culture in 2025.

The initiative is hoping to create 3,000 jobs through boosting the cultural sector, with a far more diverse workforce from communities that are under-represented in creative industries.

It is hoped that 70 per cent of people in the district will be regularly engaging in arts and heritage by 2031, and 250,000 residents from the area’s most deprived wards will also be given the chance to get involved in cultural activities.

Bradford Council has approved the new strategy to replace the district’s previous cultural vision and is supporting the plan, including the relaunch of its arts, culture and heritage grant programmes with an annual value of £516,500.

The council’s leader and the chairwoman of the Bradford Cultural Place Partnership, Coun Susan Hinchcliffe, said: “I am delighted to see the fruition of Culture Is Our Plan, which has been made with the people of our district.

“The plan doesn’t pretend to have all the answers. But it offers a 10-year vision, 10 ambitions and 10 targets to help us on a journey of culture-led recovery and regeneration.”

The National Lottery Heritage Fund has provided £207,400 to support the delivery of an action plan to build skills and capacity among community groups to develop a more diverse grassroots-led heritage.

The fund’s director for the North of England, David Renwick, said: “With a proud industrial heritage, the Bradford district is at the heart of the Northern Powerhouse and is teeming with young, enterprising and creative people.

“By placing heritage in a powerful position to deliver positive outcomes, this project is a catalyst for greater activity.

“It will bring real change to the people of the Bradford district, empowering communities from all backgrounds to engage with their culture and heritage and utilising heritage as a positive force for change.”

During yesterday’s launch at the South Square arts and community centre in the village of Thornton, a programme of 24 projects was unveiled for this summer, featuring an eclectic range of activities and installations across the district including one-off events, performances, hip hop sessions and acrobatic displays.

The new 10-year cultural strategy aims to capitalise on the area’s diverse communities.

The Bradford district is the fifth biggest local authority area in England and the youngest local authority in Europe.

More than 30 per cent of the district’s population are currently under the age of 20, and the area is renowned for its diverse communities.

By 2025, more than half the Bradford district’s population will have links to South Asian, Eastern European, African, Caribbean and Arab heritage.