‘Visiting because of film’ is the fourth City of Film theme that will be developed in the next ten years. DAVID BARNETT talks to Bradford’s Visitor Economy Manager Tricia Tillotson about how the district’s tourist appeal can be exploited

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Tricia Tillotson Tricia Tillotson

Getting Bradford behind the City of Film is only half the mission – the rest of the world needs to know about it, too.

To that end, a dual marketing slogan is being worked on, which is simplicity itself on the surface but cleverly speaks volumes about the double role of the tourism department in the endeavour.

Locally, people will be encouraged to “Think Bradford – Think Film”. Here at street level on home ground, film should be the one of the first things to come to mind when talking about Bradford.

And for those outside, simply reverse the ethos: “Think Film – Think Bradford”. The aim is that for anyone with an interest in movies, then their next thought should be “Bradford.”

Of course, it won’t happen overnight, which is where Tricia Tillotson comes in. As Visitor Economy Manager – in other words, tourism is her responsibility – in Bradford, she knows she’s playing the long game.

“City of Film isn’t just a one-off event that we’re building around, say like Capital of Culture. It’s something that will run for a long time and we need to build upon that.”

Tricia says tourism will play a significant role in the success of the City of Film, and will hopefully draw equally significant rewards. And Bradford is in a prime position to do that.

Don’t underestimate Bradford’s pulling power as it is – tourism is worth a whopping £600 million a year to Bradford already, thanks to such established honey-pots as Bronte country around Haworth.

Tricia says: “We’ve got a unique marketing tool in that Bradford now has two UNESCO honours – the City of Film and the heritage site at Saltaire. No-one else can say that.”

Bradford is also in the enviable position of being the only City of Film, so we’re not trying to do what some other city with perhaps more money and a bigger marketing reach can do better – London, Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool, Nottingham… none of them are City of Film. Only Bradford is.

So what can Bradford offer to the film fan? Aside from the jewel in the crown of the National Media Museum, which as you’d expect will form the centrepiece of any marketing drive as it’s already one of the most popular museum attractions in the country, the tourism department is planning to tap into the vast appetite for visiting film locations.

At the end of this week there’ll be a new Film Trail leaflet launched, pointing out sights of importance that have featured in big screen and television productions old and new.

Tricia says: “We’ve already got some well-known sites, the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway and Haworth, which have major movie links thanks to The Railway Children and the various films of Bronte books.”

As testament to the power of those sites alone, Tricia says that whenever The Railway Children gets a TV showing there is a spike in the number of visitors to the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway, and each new adaptation of a Bronte novel brings a flood of interest in Haworth.

Colin Philpott, head of the National Media Museum, is obviously keenly aware from his position that there is a huge appetite for film-related tourism.

He says: “Very simply, people do like going to look at locations. As an industry it could be said to be a bit of an underdeveloped opportunity locally, and we do believe there’s the chance to make more of it.

“Obvious examples include the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway, but there’s still growth even in that.

“If packaged up right it could bring people in.”

Working with Welcome To Yorkshire, the region’s tourism body, Tricia and her team are working hard to promote Bradford to the outside world. She is expecting any day now the results of a consultation exercise in what can be done to improve Bradford’s reach.

As signs and banners start to go up around the district proclaiming the City of Film status, there will soon follow a concerted, co-ordinated effort to drive home the message that Bradford is the destination for anyone interested in film.

Local hotels are already vastly keen on the idea, says Tricia, and the hope is that families, tour groups and individuals will be brought in with the draw of special events throughout the year, showings on outdoor screens, specialist programming at the National Media Museum, and organised tours around some of the district’s film locations.

She says: “It’s a very exciting time, and if everyone pulls together to make it work, we’ll be leading the way with a unique selling point for the district.”

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