ON Monday Bradford’s quest to be UK City of Culture 2025 becomes official.

The 2025 team will submit an Expression of Interest to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, then in September the Government will announce a long-list of six places. Each will be invited to submit their bid by January 2022.

Three places will then be selected for a shortlist, to be announced in March 2022, and a panel of judges, headed by TV producer and screenwriter Sir Phil Redmond, will visit each of the shortlisted cities. The winner will be announced in May 2022, at the end of Coventry’s year as UK City of Culture.

The competition has widened substantially. 15 places, including Wakefield, expressing interest. “We welcome anyone who attempts to pull this off. It’s a great thing for any area or city to do,” says Bradford 2025 bid director Richard Shaw. “Even the act of bidding can do some amazing things, so it’s worthwhile going for it.”

While he’s diplomatic about the other contenders, he believes passionately that Bradford is well positioned for the title - “much more so than any of the other places”.

“This title is not a crown. It’s a regeneration project, and you have to look at where investment can be put to the best possible use,” says Richard. “Bradford’s challenges and need for this investment is a very strong argument. But it’s not only economic results, it’s also about social results, and the confidence this can bring to a city so often misrepresented on a national stage.

“Bradford frequently carries the burden of half truths and cliches. I’ve lived here for over a year now and can tell you that those kind of national headlines don’t ring true to me. We have some amazing assets in Bradford that should be recognised nationally. Winning will be a huge boost to the whole district - and this is very much a districtwide bid.”

Richard has been impressed with the creative way that organisations and individuals across the district have responded to the pandemic. Bradford Council’s Recovery Project has funded a range of creative projects, and the 2025 team has engaged people in various mediums. Next week sees the premiere at the National Science and Media Museum of six short films from MAKE:FILM., a Bradford Council project, supported by Bradford 2025 and Bradford City of Film, showcasing contemporary film-makers in the district. Grants have been awarded for 37 films and documentaries that challenge perceptions of and show life in Bradford.

“Bradford’s response to Covid, culturally and in voluntary projects, has been astonishing and a real tribute to the district,” says Richard. “People have found a way of working through the restrictions. They haven’t lost heart in terms of creative ambitions.

“Our youth ambassadors have been out and about, talking to over 1,500 young people - it’s fantastic. They’re shouting about the bid on social media and getting young people on board with projects like the Fountains mural and Bradford: The Game.”

Bradford 2025’s team of youth ambassadors are playing an integral role in the bid; organising creative consultations and projects engaging other young people. The resulting enthusiasm is embodied in a colourful mural outside Fountains Church at Glydegate, by 16-year-old Leena Duong, winner of a street art competition.

Working with Bradford-based Impact Gamers, the youth team is also giving youngsters chance to design their own vision of Bradford, in a new online game. Schools and youth groups have been involved in the development of the recently launched Bradford: The Game, with continuing input from young gamers.

Business support has swelled too. Today’s announcement that Morrisons is the latest founding partner for Bradford 2025 follows news of other bid partners including The Broadway Bradford, Emerald Publishing, Arup, Bradford BID, Bradford City Football Club, CityFibre, Exa Networks, Muse Developments, My Lahore, Schofield Sweeney and Welcome to Yorkshire.

“Private sector support is vital for any successful bid campaign, and to have such a breadth of businesses on board, who understand the game-changing impact the title could have in terms of boosting the economy and driving regeneration, is fantastic,” says Richard. “This business support demonstrates to the Government a strong message that we’re taking this very seriously.”

City of Culture status has had a huge impact on previous host cities, not least 2017 title holder Hull, securing millions in investment. Winning the title, says Richard, is much more than a year of celebrating - it’s about creating a legacy of cultural and economic benefits. “The longterm vision is to grow fulltime jobs in cultural and creative industries to 10,000 jobs, and 4,000 for those who are part-time or freelance,” he says.

Spin-off benefits of the City of Culture year also have longterm potential. “We are anticipating a 1.1 addition in visitors during the year itself,” says Richard. “Visitors go to Cities of Culture, with obvious spill-over benefits for hotels, restaurants, bars, shops etc. The longer term implication is that people see what ‘s here, and elsewhere in the district, and they return.”

As Bradford prepares for Monday, Richard and the team are heartened by the public support. “The enthusiasm and support at this level of the process, which is still quite early, is really encouraging,” he says.