Why Bradford is the strongest candidate for the title of UK's City of Culture 2025 - Professor Zahir Irani

Everyone has to start somewhere.

Many leading business figures have started their careers in Bradford
Many leading business figures have started their careers in Bradford

Sir Ken Morrison started his working life on the family’s egg-and-butter stall at Rawson Market in Bradford Sir Alex Ferguson began his career as an apprentice tool maker. JK Rowling wrote her first novel while living on benefits.

Ask any successful person and they will tell you they had a lucky break in life which helped to set them up.

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In Bradford, we are asking local employers to give a lucky break to disadvantaged young people and help turn their lives around. So far, more than 130 companies have signed up for the Kickstart scheme through our Bradford-based SkillsHouse partnership, to offer fully-funded work placements for 16 to 24-year-olds in receipt of Universal Credit.

We aim to provide more than 3,000 paid placements through the scheme and have already created roles in sales, accountancy, gardening, catering, lab technicians and youth work. Who knows where these first steps could lead?

In the immediate term, the Bradford Economic Partnership is being formed and will work with Bradford Council to develop and fund interventions identified through our ambitious plan to create learning opportunities, improve access to work, drive skills development in growth sectors, retrofit neighbourhoods with new amenities, build Bradford’s image, repurpose council-owned assets as cultural hubs and establish new health infrastructure.

The district is advancing plans for a sustainable food supply system, a supply chain for hydrogen-light goods vehicles, a circular economy demonstrator and making environmental improvements wherever possible. You cannot accuse Bradford of lacking in ambition – it cuts through our very being.

A sure sign of this ambition is our City of Culture 2025 bid, which will be submitted to government later this year. As one of the youngest and most diverse cities in Europe and the face of modern Britain, Bradford would be a fitting home for such a showcase, with culture making a vital contribution to life in our district.

Bradford’s new 10-year cultural strategy launched just weeks ago will get more people involved in cultural activities and give Bradford its long-deserved positive recognition on the national and international stage.

Bradford city centre is being transformed with major projects including the £23m Darley Street market development and the 56,000 sq ft One City Park office scheme.

Encouraging talks continue with ministers on this front. Having chaired the board responsible for developing the economic recovery plan, it is satisfying to see it swing into action with the support of our partners locally, regionally and nationally and I hope will prompt others into action as we gravitate around a national cause.

I have agreed to act as interim chair of the Bradford Economic Partnership to oversee these continued efforts. We have appointed head-hunters to search for a new chair to take up the mantle and are in the process of recruiting new board members from the public, private, voluntary and community sectors to help us achieve our ambitions.

Everyone has to start somewhere and most of us need a lucky break in life. Businesses in Bradford can give a helping hand to the next generation through the Kickstart scheme and create opportunities for young people to realise their potential and develop rewarding careers, benefiting everybody in the process.

By Professor Zahir Irani - Chairman of the Bradford Economic Partnership

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