Ta for a brilliant 2019, Bradford!

A message from our Chairperson, Si Cunningham… 

On behalf of Bradford Civic Society I would like to wish all members, supporters, friends and Bradfordians a very merry Christmas.

This has been a very proud year for the Civic Society, as we formally launched Bradford’s new blue plaque scheme with installations all across the city. The newly refurbished St George’s Hall was the site of 2019’s first blue plaque unveiling, and we have since been delighted to honour some great Bradfordians including Malachi Whitaker, Barbara Jane Harrison and Felix Marsh Rimmington. As we end the year, we’ve secured funding for plaques for Julia Varley and Florence Moser, with details of their locations and unveilings to come very soon.

Of the 7 new plaques we commissioned in 2019, 5 are for women with no other significant heritage marker in the city – helping to redress the gender balance when it comes to permanent memorials in Bradford. We have also secured funding from Bradford BID to commission plaques for some landmark Bradford buildings, with the world-famous Alhambra Theatre the first flagship building to get a new blue plaque in January.

Elsewhere, 2019 has seen the launch of Bradford Civic Society’s new Place Panel – a new sub-group of the society dedicated to matters of planning and placemaking. The Place Panel brings together members with a professional background or significant interest in sectors such as architecture, urban studies, markets, culture and more. The Place Panel has already hosted a design critique with the development team behind the new Bradford Market, and will continue to serve as a ‘critical friend’ to both council and developers as the group’s role evolves.

Our events calendar has been busy and varied, and this year saw our AGM take place at the National Science and Media Museum for the first time – a fitting venue given the museum’s commendable efforts to forge better relationships with its host city in 2019. Our autumn exhibition – 4,000 Miles to Home – was exceptionally well supported, and was a true celebration of Bradford’s status as a welcoming world city. The exhibition – hosted at the Mechanics’ Institute on Kirkgate – was curated by Gurj Kang, and told the fascinating story of his father’s journey from the Punjab to Bradford in the late 1950s. We were very grateful to our neighbours at Leeds Civic Trust for their help in bringing this special photographic exhibition to life, and I look forward to working with them again in the near future.

I’m extremely optimistic for Bradford’s fortunes in 2020. This optimism isn’t because of blind loyalty, but is a testament to the tremendous work I’ve witnessed from a whole host of dedicated groups and individuals over the last 12 months….

The Bradford BID team continue to deliver enormous physical improvements to the city centre – making it feel cleaner, safer and more vibrant than it’s felt in a very long time.

Bradford Council is ploughing ahead with its ambitious plans for a new market on Darley Street, and has recently unveiled plans for a flagship Grade A office development in City Park. A contractor has also been appointed to transform Forster Square railway station into a transport hub fit for the future.

Historic St George’s Hall is thriving once again after a multi-million pound restoration, and Bradford Live have completed internal clearance work in preparation for the former Odeon building’s transformation into a 4,000+ capacity live entertainment venue.

Our exciting bid to be the UK’s City of Culture for 2025 was launched earlier this year, and has already done a great job of bringing different groups and individuals together in the spirit of creating a coherent bid that the whole district can get behind.

And perhaps most encouragingly, proposals have just been unveiled for the most radical transformation of Bradford city centre’s streets in a generation. The plans – part of a bid to the government’s Transforming Cities fund – include creating a new landmark entrance to Bradford Interchange adjacent to City Hall; pedestrianising vast swathes of the city centre; removing thousands of cars from central Bradford; introducing new cycling and public transport routes; and creating pleasant new green spaces for all to enjoy.

I know Bradford has its challenges, and it would be remiss to ignore the continued decline of our traditional high streets and the potential threats to our unique conservation areas… Places such as Little Germany continue to be a personal source of frustration as the huge potential for regeneration has yet to be realised, and big flagship sites such as the former Royal Mail sorting office at Forster Square remain mothballed and devoid of any imaginative solutions. We’ll continue to lobby for the city centre next year, and will always push for the highest standards of design and development wherever we can.

Finally, I have a couple of ideas for events in 2020 that I hope will excite people and stimulate a bit of healthy debate. In spring, we’ll be debating the role city architect Stanley Wardley played in the post-war development of Bradford at a special event, and in autumn we’ll be hosting the inaugural Bradford Design awards. We’ll also continue to roll out several new blue plaques for Bradford, and will have our usual programme of member meetings, exhibitions and social events.

Thank you for your support in 2019. I’ve loved everything we’ve done this year, and I look forward to continuing sanding up for Bradford in 2020.

Merry Christmas,

Si Cunningham, Chairperson

xx