BRADFORD will bid to be the UK City of Culture 2025, it is announced today.

The bid, backed by Bradford Council, will be driven by a newly-formed Cultural Place Partnership which includes the University of Bradford, Bradford College, Arts Council England and National Lottery Heritage Fund.

If Bradford wins the title it will mean millions of pounds of UK investment. As a catalyst for culture-led regeneration, it would potentially reap significant cultural, social and economic benefits, as it did for Hull, the 2017 City of Culture.

The bid will also form part of the Council’s plans for a new Cultural Strategy for 2020 to 2030, to be announced later this year. Bradford will compete with several cities and areas for City of Culture, including Luton, Lancashire, Southampton and Tees Valley.

Nearly 20 years ago Bradford was bidding to be European Capital of Culture 2008, which went to Liverpool. Since then Bradford has become the world’s first UNESCO City of Film; has established a nationally renowned literature festival; and the city centre has undergone a significant transformation, with developments such as City Park, the £9.5m restoration of St George’s Hall and plans to open the former Odeon as music venue Bradford Live.

This is the time to build on such developments and “show Bradford off to the world” says Councillor Susan Hinchcliffe, who is chairing the Cultural Place Partnership. The Council leader said the City of Culture bid would “benefit every corner of the district”.

“Culture plays a vital social and economic contribution to the city. It promotes us to the nation and the world as a vibrant, creative, confident place to visit, live and work in,” she said. “I’m also a great believer in culture and art as a means of personal transformation - it raises aspirations, enables us to explore skills and connects us with others.

“We’re a big city, in the heart of the North. If you want to make a statement about the future of this country, Bradford is the place to invest in. We have global diversity, fantastic landscapes and a cultural offer that has grown enormously in recent years. Bradford Literature Festival is the biggest Arts Council-funded literature festival in the UK. Bradford is in its 10th year as City of Film. A Bradford consortium led by Theatre in the Mill is one of two national pilots for the Arts Council England’s Producing Hub; receiving £1.5m to develop local talent and new work, which is a significant investment in the arts here.

“The time is right take all that to the next level. This bid is the opportunity to show Bradford off and present a confident image to the rest of the world.”

While Bradford has a rich cultural heritage, some 60per cent cent of the population live in the poorest 20per cent of wards in England and Wales. The Cultural Place Partnership believes winning City of Culture would “accelerate regeneration and bring major social and economic benefits to the city”, helping to change perceptions of it and rekindle pride in those who live here. The bidding process is seen as a way of bringing the district together as part of a longer-term cultural strategy.

Bradford is the UK’s sixth largest city and the youngest in Europe (29per cent of its population under 20 and nearly a quarter under 16), yet the district has some of the lowest engagement figures for the arts nationally. In response, work has been underway to put in place new structures to strengthen arts capacity and establish a new voice for artists and independent cultural groups. Home-grown arts organisations such as Mind the Gap, England’s largest learning disability theatre company; Bradford Literature Festival; intercultural arts hub Kala Sangam and Bradford Community Broadcasting represent an emerging new generation engaging new audiences.

Alex Croft, creative director of Kala Sangam, says this has played a significant role in transforming Bradford’s image. “Go back 10 years and people were quite dismissive of Bradford. Now, engagement with arts organisations and support to create art and present it in new and exciting ways is opening up the district. This bid can build on these foundation blocks,” he said. “People may say: ‘Why Bradford?’ Why not Bradford? It’s a big city, and one of the richest cities in terms of culture and diversity. It’s the perfect time for us to be doing this.

“I was in Hull, working for the Arts Council, when it was City of Culture and I saw its transformative effect, not just in terms of arts infrastructure but across the economic landscape. Bradford is twice the size of Hull. The benefits of this bid would be life-changing for people in Bradford.”

Bradford-based arts company The Brick Box is a member of the Cultural Place Partnership driving the bid forward.

The Brick Box is co-ordinating Bradford Cultural Voice, a forum for the city’s independent cultural sector, funded by a grant from West Yorkshire Business Rates Fund via Bradford Council. Brick Box Director Rosie Freeman said:“We relocated to Bradford from London because we were drawn here by the unique creativity of the city and its people. Bradford is the most exciting city in the UK right now so going for UK City of Culture 2025 is a no-brainer! This will be a perfect opportunity to galvanise and showcase our city’s incredible talents.”

Bradford's bid will be official launched in September. Final bids will be submitted in 2021. The winner will be announced in December 2021. To back the Bradford bid, people attending cultural events districtwide over coming months are urged to post their experience on social media, tagging in @Bradford2025 with #Bradford2025.

* The UK City of Culture title is awarded every four years by the Government. The previous winners were Londonderry (2013), Hull (2017) and Coventry 2021.

* The title gave Hull a £300 million projected value of tourism, at least, for 2017; a 346per cent increase in successful applications to Arts Council England; one in four businesses taking on new staff in 2017; increased turnover at over 50per cent of businesses; average hotel occupancy up 10.5per cent; and over 60 new business start-ups in the city centre.

* The competition is run by the Department of Culture Media and Sport and an independent judging panel is chaired by producer and screenwriter Phil Redmond, creator of TV’s Grange Hill, Brookside and Hollyoaks.

* A Bradford Culture Trust, involving the creative sector and community voices, will be set up to manage the bid and deliver the year, if successful. Similar structures were put in place in Hull and Coventry, where the trust secured significant external funding even before the title was awarded.

* Interim chair of the bid is Mary Dowson, director of Bradford Community Broadcasting. The Cultural Place Partnership will appoint a bid director and set up a trust to manage the project. Visit

Legacy of Bradford's 2008 European Capital of Culture bid:

BACK in 2002, Bradford was one of 12 cities bidding to be the European Capital of Culture 2008.

But late that year it was revealed that Bradford hadn’t made the shortlist. Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Newcastle/Gateshead, Oxford and Liverpool (which went on to win) were announced as front-runners for the coveted title. “We were robbed,” said Council leader Margaret Eaton at the time; echoing the bitter disappointment of a bid team that had worked tirelessly on a lively, innovative campaign. The title would have brought millions of pounds of European funding to Bradford.

Despite the result, the bid united Bradford - with everyone from schoolchildren to cabbies getting on board the campaign - and its legacy lived on in a wide range of cultural projects. A big focus of the 2008 bid was the role of culture in community cohesion, local economy and regeneration. As Bradford Chamber of Commerce said at the time, the bid gave the district a focus on planning and regeneration strategies” and “acted as a primer for future projects”.

Bradford Council developed a cultural strategy, continuing the bid team’s work, and the 12 Cities Partnership, comprising the cities bidding for the Capital of Culture title, produced a rolling programme of cultural events and projects.

Capital of Culture legacies included the Impressions Gallery and Illuminate, a five key Yorkshire cities £3.5m cultural programme, led by Bradford 2005-2006.

Bradford’s Capital of Culture experience netted a £1.75 million windfall for the arts across Yorkshire in 2004. The city led a winning bid for lottery money from the Arts Council England and the Millennium Commission. Funding chiefs said despite Bradford losing the 2008 culture bid, its efforts were starting to pay off.

The £19.5 million Urban Cultural Programme fund was set up on the back of the European Capital of Culture competition and the Bradford-led ‘five cities’ bid of Leeds, Sheffield, Hull and York won nearly 10 per cent of the pot.