As the end of the year approaches, I’d just like to thank all members and friends of Bradford Civic Society for their continued support, enthusiasm and passion for the good work going on to make our city a better place.
That passion and enthusiasm really shone through during one of the darkest, bleakest days in February, when around 70+ people braved blizzards to join our public debate on the role of ‘brutalist’ architecture in Bradford. The debate attracted some brilliant, high-profile speakers to town and has led to some interesting conversations about the future of one of Bradford’s most divisive modern buildings – High Point. Whether you love the building or hate it, the fact that its future can pack a room out on a freezing February evening in Bradford shows that people really do care about their city, and we hope to encourage more of these debates in the new year.
Bradfordians have also continued to care for the city’s beloved former Odeon building, and I was so proud to see one of our own members – Normal Littlewood – pop up on the recent Channel 5 documentary about the history of this Bradford landmark. Norman turned 90 this year, and it’s thanks to his tireless campaigning (and that of many others) that the building has a bright future as a 4,000 capacity live music venue. Bradford Live – the team who are redeveloping the building – have enjoyed a year of great triumphs for the project… securing £4 million of funding from the government; lining up The NEC Group to operate the venue on a 30-year lease; and just this month submitting a full planning application for the full redevelopment. With contractors now on site, we have a tremendous amount to look forward to in 2019.
Elsewhere, the city continues to provide other reasons for great encouragement. We have a new Business Improvement District in place with millions of pounds to spend improving the look and feel of the city centre. Bradford has also been successful in securing a huge lottery grant to help redevelop the ‘top of town’ area. And a rejuvenated St George’s Hall – one of the finest and oldest concert halls in the UK – is ready to open its doors again early next year.
There are challenges too, and that’s why it’s important to have an active and passionate Civic Society in a place like Bradford. This year we have seen exciting plans for both a vast new food market to replace the Oastler Centre and the first glimpses of what a new Northern Powerhouse railway station might look like on Hall Ings. These are important projects for Bradford that need proper consultation and scrutiny, and we’ll look forward to hosting yet more events and debates for everyone as we go forward.
Finally, I am grateful to all the great people and groups we’ve worked with this year. We’ve collaborated with Bradford Central Mosque, the Peace Museum, the Police Museum, BCB Radio, the Mechanics’ Institute, Bradford BID and many more.
On a sadder note, I would like to pay a personal tribute to some of those who we’ve lost this year. John Hansen, a long-serving member of the Civic Society, was a true Bradford gentleman and I’ll be eternally grateful for his support and encouragement. We also lost one of Bradford’s finest public servants – Councillor Ian Greenwood – who passed away suddenly in November. His wisdom, passion and dedication to his home city of Bradford will be sorely missed by us all. And on a personal level, my own uncle – Tony Cunningham – passed away suddenly earlier this month. He was well known and well loved among the Bradford City family, and was a great supporter of both the Civic Society and the wider city of Bradford as well as a very dear friend of mine.
Please, keep the families and friends of these great Bradfordians in your thoughts over the Christmas period.
I look forward to seeing everyone again in the new year, and our first meeting of 2019 is scheduled for Tuesday 15 January from 7pm at the Mechanics’ Institute. But for now, thank you once again for all your support in 2018, and I wish you a very happy and peaceful Christmas break. I hope you will join me in being optimistic for what 2019 might bring.