BRADFORD paused to remember the 56 who lost their lives in the Valley Parade fire disaster - with many paying their respects online and some in person.

A total of 54 Bradford City and two Lincoln City fans died in the fire at Valley Parade on Saturday, May 11, 1985, with a further 265 people injured.

The traditional mass gathering, which usually attracts hundreds of people to Centenary Square in Bradford city centre, was postponed for a second successive year due to the pandemic, meaning the memorial service moved online.

However, a group of fans and dignitaries gathered at the memorial statue in Centenary Square this morning to pay their personal respects, leaving wreaths and Bantams scarves. All of the group adhered to the social distancing guidelines with some wearing claret and amber-coloured face masks.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: People gathered at the City Fire memorial in Centenary Square today People gathered at the City Fire memorial in Centenary Square today

The 30-minute online service featured video messages from a number of officials from both Bradford and Lincoln alongside prayers and other readings.

It opened and closed with renditions of Abide With Me by Lizzie Jones and the Bradford Cathedral Choir.

The speakers included Bishop of Bradford, The Right Reverend Toby Howarth, Dean of Bradford, The Very Reverend Jerry Lepine. The poignant service also featured a minute's silence.

The Lord Mayor of Bradford, Councillor Doreen Lee, who also laid a wreath in Centenary Square, said: "For the second year, we come together, not physically, but in spirit, to mark one of the most special days in the district's calendar.

"The city of Bradford will keep on remembering and commemorating in our own way."

Benjy Bush, of the West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service; Chief Superintendent Dan Greenwood of the Bradford District West Yorkshire Police and Jayne Whitehouse, of Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust, all spoke on behalf of the emergency services.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus:

Chf Supt Greenwood said: "The Bradford fire is etched into the memory of the city.

"It is incumbent on us all to remember them and the fate they suffered that day.

"Now this has been a year of suffering, of turbulence and of tragedy. But it is important to take a moment to stop and to reflect the fate of those who left to watch a game of football and who never returned home."

Players and staff from Bradford City also paid their own respects today at Valley Parade.

Professor Ajay Mahajan, of Bradford's Plastic Surgery and Burns Research Unit (PSBRU), spoke about the legacy of the unit which was created following the fire and the impact that the coronavirus crisis has had on Bradford and its medical services over the past year. He also thanked those who have raised funds for the unit.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus:

City's opponents that day were represented on the video memorial service by Lord Mayor of Lincoln, Cllr Sue Burke. She recalled attending the traditional memorial service in past years and hoped to be in Bradford in person next year.

Meanwhile, a host of dignitaries have laid wreaths at the Bradford City fire memorial in Centenary Square.

They have been laid privately by Ed Anderson, HM Lord-Lieutenant of West Yorkshire and on behalf of the club, by chief executive Ryan Sparks, Bradford Council and Lincoln City to mark the 36th anniversary of the Bradford City fire disaster at Valley Parade.

The Bradford City club flag is being flown on the City Hall roof at half-mast and smaller Bradford City flags are flown on the poles in Centenary Square at full mast.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus:

The bells of Bradford City Hall clock tower played Abide With Me and You’ll Never Walk Alone at 11am and the Clock Tower will be illuminated in claret and amber lights this evening as a tribute.

Lord Mayor of Bradford said: “This is an incredibly important day for the city and district and although the commemoration was once again online it was no less poignant. 

“We have taken a private moment to pay our respects and pay tribute to those who sadly lost their lives and the families affected by the tragedy to this day.”