What Winning the UK City of Culture Will Do for Bradford

Bradford has been crowned the UK City of Culture after seeing off competition from County Durham, Wrexham and Southampton. Now what?


Bradford has been crowned the UK City of Culture after seeing off competition from County Durham, Wrexham and Southampton. Now what?

With cultural assets that include the Brontë Parsonage, Saltaire Unesco world heritage site and the National Science and Media Museum, Bradford will take up the mantle from Coventry, following months of stiff competition.

The jubilance of winning is one thing. What the accolade will do for Bradford, though, is create tangible benefits for the city. Coventry, for instance, received £172m in grants and investments during its year as city of culture – and if you’ve had a chance to check out the city, which now boasts the UK’s first permanent immersive digital art gallery, you’ll see the brilliance of just what this can help build.

Those behind Bradford’s bid now estimate that the overall benefit to the city’s economy will yield some £700 million for the area and create around 3,000 jobs.

The artist Shanaz Gulzar, who led the charge for Bradford’s bid, was keenly aware of the opportunities the title of being the UK’s premier cultural hub will now create, describing the award as a “huge opportunity”. “Bradford has been overlooked and underestimated for too long,” she added. “It’s now our time to shine.”

To begin with, the city will receive £275,000 in initial seed funding to help develop its plans for 2025. Much of this is about unlocking the city’s potential – something which convinced the judges to ultimately select Bradford.

Sir Phil Redmond, chair of the competition’s independent advisory panel, explained: “The selection is never about whether one bid is better than another, it is more that one bid has the potential to make a bigger and deliverable impact… I am looking forward to seeing how far the cultural bar can be raised in [2025].”

Bradford is thought to be the UK’s youngest city with around a quarter of its 528,000 population being under the age of 16. The hope now is that by winning the UK City of Culture, this will engage this young community with their area in new and creative ways, with at least 1,000 performances set to take place and over 365 artist commissions.

Bradford City of Culture

Whilst the money is no doubt the key to helping this occur – and chimes with the government’s somewhat spurious “levelling-up” agenda – it’s also about a sense of pride of place that will help create new opportunities from now, in 2025, and beyond. 

On the whole, if people feel a sense of appreciation for their environment, they tend to try and keep it that way. We’ll see just what that means, artistically, in the near future.

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