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City of Film director PEG ALEXANDER tells why she wants Bradford’s proud UNESCO status to touch all aspects of life
You might expect the world’s first UNESCO City of Film to be LA, London, Mumbai or Cannes. You’d be wrong.
Welcome to our Bradford, home to a fabulous film heritage, world-class festivals, stunning locations and film’s national museum at its heart. And since June 2009, the world’s first official UNESCO City of Film.
The designation ‘City of Film’ is one of seven within the UNESCO Creative Cities Network. This network is based on the belief that culture can play an important role in how a city or area develops itself.
I came on board in August 2009 as the initiative director and was given the task of figuring out, what next?
Our designation as the world’s first City of Film is just that – it’s a status or, if you like, a tag. How we make the most of this, and how we use it to support the development and regeneration of the Bradford district, is our challenge. But what an exciting challenge this is!
Over the last few months the main City of Film partners (the National Media Museum, Bradford Council, Screen Yorkshire, Bradford University, Pace plc, Bradford Community Broadcasting and Fabric, among others) and me have been working hard to come up with a new vision for the district; that by 2020 Bradford will have film at the heart of its development, identity and day-to-day life.
We want there to be a buzz about film which touches all aspects of life in Bradford; local people, our institutions, employers, businesses, voluntary and community organisations and visitors. Famous nationally and internationally, no-one will live, work or visit Bradford without knowing they are in the world’s first City of Film.
Guiding us will be some really important values:
* Aspirational and ambitious.
* Creative, colourful and can-do.
* Fun and exciting.
* Inclusive and about everyone.
* Proud of Bradford.
To make it more real we have decided that over the next ten years we will do this by improving what happens within Bradford in four different areas:
* Enjoying film.
* Learning about, learning through film and expressing yourself with film.
* Making film.
* Visiting because of film.
When you think of it that way, what this status might mean for Bradford starts to become very real indeed. How the status can help us create and protect existing and new jobs, what the business opportunities might be, how it can support development of Bradford city centre and the other towns in the district.
It starts to help us see how it can help people gain new skills and increased confidence, how we can use it to improve the physical elements of the district, and giving us an excuse, if we needed one, to shout even more loudly about our pride in this district.
The four themes help us see how we can use film to help to get to know and understand each other better, how we can share our district with visitors and those who make films. And, how wonderfully, that we can do all this and more and have some fun along the way!
To help us get there we have been working on a realistic development plan that takes account of the current economic climate.
The vision for the future may be bold, big and ambitious, but the development plan is achievable. We won’t get there overnight, but if we aren’t ambitious and brave then we might miss out on some of the opportunities that this status can bring.
The City of Film development plan outlines the structures we will create and actions we will take over the next 18 months to help us set the foundation to meet our long-term aspirations for this great district’s future.
At its core is that Bradford City of Film is a concept, to be owned and delivered by every major institution, business, voluntary and community group, and employer. In effect, film will become embedded into every area of Bradford life, simply as the way we do things. So that when people think Bradford, they think film.
Our sights do not, however, start and stop with the Bradford district. The status also needs to be owned by the UK film industry, seen as a status for the region and whole UK as well as something for Bradford.
So the development plan outlines how we will work towards our vision that when people think film, they then think Bradford.
In these early stages, much of the work will be through and by the organisations that currently provide the film, skills and tourism-related activity in the district.
But City of Film is not just about those organisations. It’s about us all and how we can all make film part of our future.
On our website we outline how people can be part of making film the Bradford way. For example, we are encouraging businesses to promote the fact they are in the world’s first City of Film and to think about how they can put film in their development plans.
This launch weekend is where this starts, and I hope that as many people as possible will take part in some film activity over the weekend and during the rest of the Bradford International Film Festival, which goes on until March 28.
Our status as the world’s first official City of Film gives Bradford a unique selling point on which we can build future development. For me, personally, it’s the most enormous privilege to have a job like this in the city where I live.
And I hope that everyone else who lives or works in Bradford also feels honoured that our city and district has been recognised with this wonderful status. The opportunity is there for all of us to grasp with both hands. Step forward, Bradford, for a fabulous film-filled future.