THE head of Arts Council England has praised Bradford’s "nationally significant” cultural venues which he says will lead the way in helping to re-build the district’s future in the post-pandemic world.

Chief Executive Darren Henley said it had been an “incredibly tough year” for those working in the arts, museums and libraries.

He writes: “In Bradford, labouring under tough and changing Covid restrictions, theatres, galleries, museums and music venues have had to close or restrict admission for long periods since March. Such measures, while necessary, have been devastating with ticket sales hit hard.

At Arts Council England, we’re doing our best to make sure that Bradford’s brilliant cultural organisations are in the best possible position to welcome visitors again. In times like these it can be hard to imagine what might be possible in future, but Bradford’s artists, cultural organisations and the people who live, work and study here are busy using their creative ingenuity to ensure the city is among the top contenders to become UK City of Culture 2025.

The £1.57billion Government’s Culture Recovery Fund represents the biggest single investment in culture this country has ever seen. So far 19 grants totalling more than £2.3m have been awarded to organisations in the Bradford area, distributed by Arts Council England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund, including Bradford Theatres which received £894,423 to sustain its four venues, the mighty Alhambra, the fabulously refurbished St George’s Hall, The Studio and, in Ilkley, the festival-friendly King’s Hall and Winter Garden. These venues aren’t just important locally, they’re nationally significant too. They host more than 350 shows a year and even though their doors are shut at the moment, this new investment means they can continue vital work with young people and community groups.

Bradford Museums and Galleries, whose portfolio includes Cartwright Hall with its displays of British and South Asian art and craft and the extraordinary Cliffe Castle Museum in Keighley, received £208,536. The Brontë Parsonage Museum in Haworth will benefit from an emergency grant of £119,200. It comes as the Brontë Society, gearing up to mark the bicentenary of Anne Bronte’s birth in 2020, was forced to close the museum for the longest period in its 92-year history. Missing the income from its usual 70,000-plus worldwide visitors, this famous attraction will now be secure through winter, serving audiences through digital activity. Then there’s the Black Dyke Band, ambassadors for Bradford around the world, awarded £76,080 to invest in three projects to ensure financial stability through winter.

Rich in history, architecturally imposing and with a deserved reputation for innovation and creativity in fields such as textiles, music and film, Bradford is very much a city of the future. It has a diverse and youthful population whose energy has been harnessed to drive the development of that City of Culture bid. You sense it in the activities of Kala Sangam, whose grant of £123,000 has secured jobs and enabled freelance artists to continue to be hired. You see it too at the wonderful Mind the Gap theatre company, which is receiving £150,000 to invest in projects that will benefit learning-disabled artists.

The Government’s Culture Recovery Fund will make a real difference to people’s lives in Bradford. Yorkshire-born Poet Laureate Simon Armitage has just the right words to describe this: ‘The arts are the nation’s soul - they make us a people, not just a population.’

It’s still going to be tough at the start of 2021, but the roll-out of the vaccine means that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Our artists, arts organisations, museums and libraries will lead the way in helping us to rebuild and reset our future here in Bradford in the post-pandemic world. And, at the Arts Council, we will be here to support them every step of the way.”