EVERY day thousands of people pass through Bradford Interchange, making their way from A to B and often pausing for a while along the way.

Each of those people - commuters, day trippers, bus drivers, shop assistants, platform guards, toilet attendants and back-packers - has their own life story. Some are private and some become interwoven in the daily comings and going of the place where rail and road routes unite.

Some of these lives and stories have inspired a new play, Brief Encounters at Bradford Interchange, which will be performed at the station next week.

Based on observations and interviews at the Interchange, the production is comprised of five stories unfolding simultaneously around the premises, with audiences following the action around. In groups of 12, they will be taken through familiar and hidden parts of the train, bus and coach station, and a "surprise element" involving the audience is planned.

From a cleaner making a shocking discovery to an elderly woman confronting her past, the play focuses on people who use and work at the Interchange, with each story celebrating the city’s "warmth, welcome, humour and grit".


Supported by the Arts Council and Bradford Council, the production is by Freedom Studios, an inter-cultural theatre company based in Little Germany which connects people and communities through storytelling and promenade theatre.

Previous productions include The Mill - City of Dreams, in which the audience followed actors around disused Drummonds Mill, bringing its post-war industrial past to life.

Brief Encounters is the debut play by playwright Rav Sanghera, who spent two weeks absorbing comings and goings at the Interchange, interviewing passengers and staff in the stations and shops.

As well as public areas, the action takes place in private spaces and in locations such as a stationery bus and the women's toilets.

"They've been remarkably generous about allowing us the space," said director Tom Wright. "We've been rehearsing in the Interchange, which is of course always busy so there have been some strange looks!"

Rav came up with the idea when Freedom Studios challenged new writers on its Street Voices playwriting course to explore what happens when different communities meet up in one collective place. The intention was to stage it somewhere for people who don't necessarily go to the theatre.

"Rav said: 'Why not the Interchange?' and it seemed so obvious," said Tom. "Rav used the information he gathered to come up with five stories, not verbatim but an artistic way of capturing the truth. These are powerful stories where cultures collide and connect, love blooms in different places and everyday people interact, meet, work, start and end journeys. They're about the brief encounters that come and go every day in the Interchange; it's as if we're eavesdropping on conversations."

In one story, a businessman has an altercation with an asylum seeker, while in another a young Polish boy meets a Jewish woman from Germany who fled the Nazis during the war. Another story is about the divide between two Bradford schoolfriends when one moves to Leeds, and how they try to re-connect, another focuses on a bus driver mentoring a new recruit, and the remaining story is about a customer service operator who, on cleaning the toilets, discovers someone has locked themselves in a cubicle in distress.

To research the play, Rav also talked to organisations supporting people new to the city, and to people about their experiences of arriving in Bradford.

“When I started out as Freedom Studios’ Associate Director three years ago I encountered Bradford for the first time, as an outsider," said Tom.

"As I met people from across Bradford's many different communities, they all told me they were fiercely proud of being part of such a diverse city, a city which embraced difference. Here they could live in little communities, but also as part of a bigger whole.

"The Interchange is the meeting point of trains, buses, taxis, rental bikes and pedestrians, and the potential meeting point of people from dozens of different backgrounds. This was the perfect location to stage a theatrical celebration of the city."

* Brief Encounters at Bradford Interchange runs from October 6 to 10. Tickets are available on 03336 663366 or freedomstudios.co.uk