Meet the woman at the heart of Bradford's bid to be UK City of Culture in 2025

The new chairwoman of Bradford’s attempt to emerge as one of the UK’s leading cultural locations has pledged to place the arts at the heart of a major regeneration of the city.

Shanaz Gulzar announced as Chair of Bradford 2025 - a major step forward as the city prepares to bid for UK City of Culture title. Photo credit: Tim Smith

Shanaz Gulzar was yesterday named as the chairwoman of Bradford’s bid to become the UK City of Culture in 2025, following in the wake of Hull which secured the title three years ago.

Research by the University of Hull projected that the 2017 title saw tourism contribute in excess of £300m to the economy.

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Ms Gulzar, who has succeeded Bradford 2025’s interim chairwoman Mary Dowson, pledged to ensure that the cultural sector will form the bedrock of the city’s regeneration plans.

Pictured, Shanaz Gulzar. Photo by Tim Smith.

She said: “I am thrilled to be taking on the role of chair of Bradford 2025, following the fantastic groundwork laid by Mary Dowson. I’ve seen the cultural sector in the district evolve and mature to the creative city and district with attitude that it is today.

“I know that the only difference between successful artists and everyone else is opportunity and I’m proud that Bradford has put culture at the heart of its regeneration.

“As well as winning the title, I want the competition to fulfil the ambition of all local people.

“I’m looking forward to helping the whole district to make the most of this opportunity and to open doors to the fantastic young talent in the city. In fact, I have a duty to remove the doors completely.”

An ambitious plan to regenerate Bradford has already seen a £1.75m revamp of the Cartwright Hall Art Gallery, and the city’s historic St George’s Hall re-opened last year following a £9.5m restoration project.

The former Bradford Odeon cinema is currently being transformed into a major music venue, which is expected to open in two years.

As the newly-appointed chairwoman, Ms Gulzar will lead the board and the organisation throughout the bidding process, as well as helping to develop a strategic vision.

She will be a key ambassador for the city, championing Bradford at cultural events, press briefings and business seminars nationally in the run-up to the announcement of the winning city.

Other contenders include Medway in Kent, Gloucester, the Tees Valley and Lancashire.

The outgoing interim chairwoman of Bradford 2025, Ms Dowson said: “I’m delighted to be handing over the reins to Shanaz as the campaign begins to ramp up.

“A huge amount of work has been done in the year since Bradford committed to the City of Culture competition and I’m excited to see what her perspective as an artist will bring to the role.”

Four more appointments to the Bradford 2025 board have also been announced.

The new appointments include Adeeba Malik, the deputy chief executive of the QED Foundation which aims to improve social and economic opportunities for disadvantaged communities, and the Airedale NHS Foundation Trust’s chief executive, Brendan Brown.

Yorkshire Water’s director of corporate affairs, Richard Emmott, and BBC Look North’s communities reporter Sabbiyah Pervez have also been appointed to the board.

More on Shanaz Gulzar

Born and raised in Keighley in West Yorkshire, Shanaz Gulzar’s career spans film, theatre, public art and media.

Established nationally as an artist, Ms Gulzar is also a producer at the Manchester International Festival.

Last year, she brought a contemporary artist’s perspective to the Yorkshire landscape for the BBC television programme, Yorkshire Walks.

She also presented the BBC documentary, Hidden Histories: The Lost Portraits of Bradford.

Ms Gulzar has worked across Yorkshire, including for the Bite the Mango Film Festival and the Illuminate arts project, which brought illuminations to five of the region’s cities.

She has also been involved with Bradford City Parks, the Yorkshire Film Archive and is an ambassador for the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust.

Her work further afield includes projects for Enchanted Parks Gateshead, the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry and as associate artist for the National Theatre Wales.


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James Mitchinson