WHEN Martin Greenwood set out to write a book on the people, places and events of Bradford, he decided to offer a story for every day of the year.

Every Day Bradford took two years to complete and is a fascinating profile of the district’s movers and shakers - from Samuel Cunliffe Lister to Dynamo - social reform, industry, immigration, sport, architecture, the arts, and much more.

Here is Manningham-born Martin’s account of creating his ambitious Bradford profile: When I wrote a biography of my grandfather, Percy Monkman, I did some research into Victorian Bradford to understand his early life. What interested me particularly was the gulf between the wealth of mill-owners and the poverty of workers. My great-great-grandmother died of cholera when 34, living off Manningham Lane, leaving eight children, her husband later having four more. This poor family lived a stone’s throw from elegant mansions with servants.

There are many Bradford books; general histories, specific themes, biographies. I didn’t want to attempt a conventional history. In 2018 I went to a talk by TV historian Dan Snow about his new book; a story for each day in the year about a significant event in world history. It struck me as unworkable! Why would anyone want to jump from ancient to modern history? I changed my mind when I heard Dan’s talk, and reading the book, I thought the structure worked very well. New topics for each day conveyed the diversity of world history and encouraged readers to learn more. It also worked for people like me who read at bedtime and fall asleep, not remembering where they’d reached. A calendar of stories makes it easier to put the book down without losing the thread. Read it from January 1 to December 31 or just dip in. I thought why not such a book about Bradford? I sometimes test family and friends with mini quizzes and the answer is always Bradford. Where was the FA Cup designed? Who won it first? Could I find a memorable story about each day in the year?

I started collecting dates. I visited Bradford’s Local Studies Library, local societies and Undercliffe Cemetery. On occasion I contacted people concerned, such as film producer Steve Abbott. A great help was my brother Adrian who has a good knowledge of Bradford history. Sometimes dates clashed and I had to prioritise or look for alternatives. I also had to allow for two stories on the same day and, in one case, three stories about Sir Titus Salt on different birthdays! It became important that each theme was properly represented within constraints of documents. And in covering the most important stories about Bradford I couldn’t avoid difficult topics such as squalor, race riots and serial murderers.

The format of a story for 366 days allows for a range of themes such as great lives, eg JB Priestley’s novels and plays, WW2 radio talks, CND campaigning; local stories with national interest, eg the Yorkshire Ripper; buildings, pioneering achievements, disasters and quirky stories like the Cottingley Fairies.

I finished writing it in May 2020. I kept an eye on what was happening in case history was being written. Two Bradfordians being part of England’s first-ever cricket World Cup victory in July 2019 was such event. As the pandemic hit, I looked for a Bradford angle. Captain Tom turned out to be from Keighley.

City buildings such as St George’s Hall, Wool Exchange and City Hall have special histories. Little Germany is well preserved but elsewhere much was destroyed in 1960s modernisation. Outside the city centre, regeneration of Salts Mill is compelling, thanks to Jonathan Silver and David Hockney.

A key point of Bradford’s history is the impact of immigration. Immigrants were often strong role models; Sir Jacob Behrens was a prime mover in Victorian Bradford. Second-generation German emigres like Frederick Delius left their mark too, and latterly Naz Shah, Adil Rashid and Zayn Malik.

I was amazed by the stories I unearthed; the notorious Humbug Billy case, the first man to break the bank at Monte Carlo, the Idle workhouse boy who became one of the world’s most prominent philologists, the gaiety girl-turned countess, the young mother of triplets who stumbled into polar exploration.

When I learned Bradford was bidding to be UK City of Culture 2025 I thought it was fantastic. The bid will be full of exciting plans, but people also need to understand that Bradford is a special place because of its history. Just think of its fascinating history of film, leading to it becoming the first UNESCO City of Film, built on many achievements documented in my book, going back to 1897 with the first public showing of same-day newsreel and, later, city locations in groundbreaking films like Room at the Top. Could I dare hope that my book might become a significant reference for the history of my home city in such an important year?

* Every Day Bradford: A Calendar of Stories That Shaped a City is available to order online. Hardback £22.50, paperback  £18.50, Kindle £9.99.