BRADFORD is one step nearer to becoming UK City of Culture 2025, after making the final stage of the competition.

Bradford has been announced as one of four shortlisted places approved by Secretary of State for the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Nadine Dorries, selected from eight longlisted locations across the UK.

Bradford is now competing with County Durham, Southampton and Wrexham County Borough for the coveted title.

The shortlist approval was made following advice by a panel of experts, led by TV producer Sir Phil Redmond. The finalists were whittled down from a record 20 bids, all asked to explain how they would use culture to grow and strengthen their area and recover from the pandemic. The eight longlisted bidders received, for the first time, a £40,000 grant to develop their applications.

Arts Minister Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay said: “I’m delighted that Bradford is on the shortlist. This has been a tough competition, so this accolade is a real tribute to the quality of creativity on display in the city. I look forward to seeing what Bradford’s bid has in store next!”

Shanaz Gulzar, Chair of Bradford 2025 said: “This is fantastic news! We’d like to thank the thousands of people, community organisations, businesses and the creative community across the Bradford district who have thrown their support behind the campaign and helped us shape what we believe is a winning bid. We’re keeping details of our entry tightly under wraps for now, as the competition heats up, but I can say that our bid is rooted in the heritage and character of the Bradford district, and will reveal the magic of its people, ambition, and above all its potential.

“We’re representing Yorkshire, as the only bidding city from the region left in the contest, and we can be proof of the major role culture can play in levelling up. The title is within touching distance, we look forward to welcoming the judges when they visit the shortlisted places in May. We’re ready to write a new chapter in the story of this young, diverse district. This really is our time.”

West Yorkshire Mayor Tracy Brabin said: “Being shortlisted for UK City of Culture 2025 is a powerful recognition of Bradford’s vibrant, diverse cultural and creative sector. I hope being shortlisted will encourage more people to get involved and will be an opportunity to show the best of the Bradford district to the rest of the UK and beyond.”

Bradford Council leader Cllr Susan Hinchcliffe added: “I’m delighted Bradford’s bid has made the shortlist. This is a testament to the hard work and dedication of the team. We have always been a creative, innovative district, full of interesting and inspiring people drawn here from across the globe and Bradford 2025 bid has highlighted this. It’s an exciting time, with lots of cultural and creative events and activities for people to get involved in as we emerge from a tough two years.”

Winning the City of Culture title would bring long-term benefits including increased employment, new investment, enhanced skills, renewed pride and greater cultural capacity. Earlier this year, Bradford was named by an independent report as the area with the most to benefit from the levelling up agenda. Winning the prestigious title would attract millions of pounds in investment to help boost regeneration, and would mean a year in the cultural spotlight and growth for local tourism.

Coventry - UK City of Culture 2021 - has seen more than £172 million invested in funding concerts, public art displays, the UK’s first permanent immersive digital art gallery, a children’s play area in the city centre, the new Telegraph Hotel and improvements to public transport. A further £500 million has been ploughed into the city’s regeneration since it was confirmed UK City of Culture.

More than £150 million of public and private sector investment was invested into 2013 winner Derry-Londonderry, while 2017 winner Hull saw a 10 per cent increase in visitor numbers during its tenure.

Professor Udy Archibong, Director of Centre for Inclusion and Diversity at the University of Bradford, a Strategic Partner of the bid, said: “The district is ready for this. Progressive social reform has been a consistent theme for the district’s development for many decades. Culturally we couldn’t be richer and it’s time for us to show the rest of the world what makes this young, diverse place so special.”

Bradford West MP Naz Shah said: “I am delighted to hear that Bradford has been shortlisted for the next stage of the UK City of Culture 2025 competition, and I am pleased to have played my part in this process both locally and in Parliament.

“The city of Bradford not only played an important role in shaping and contributing to our nation’s history, but it also continues to play an important role in arts, culture, diversity and so much more which will help shape our nation’s future. Over 120 languages are spoken in Bradford, we are the youngest city in Europe and a City of Sanctuary - there is still a great deal to this remarkable city we all call home. For now, let’s celebrate this win, and I hope we can succeed with the 2025 bid.”

Shipley MP Philip Davies said: “I am delighted that the government have shortlisted Bradford. Robbie Moore and I have spent a great deal of time lobbying Ministers about how important it is for Bradford to win this title. They have always given us a sympathetic hearing and I am very pleased they listened to the case we made. I congratulate the bid team for the hard work they have put in to get to this stage.”

Bradford East MP Imran Hussain said: “Bradford has always been a city of rich, deep and fascinating culture, and I am absolutely delighted that after the efforts of the Bradford 2025 team who put together a brilliant bid, we have been shortlisted, beating some very tough competition.

“There can be no doubt that winning this bid and hosting the UK City of Culture 2025 would be truly transformative for Bradford, allowing us to showcase the very best of the district and what we have to offer to the rest of the country who so often overlook us, and putting Bradford back on the map as the place to be.

“The next stage is to carry on making a very strong case and setting out just what this will mean for Bradford to the DMCS who oversee the process, and I am looking forward to supporting the bid in my debate in Parliament this coming Wednesday.”

Keighley MP Robbie Moore said: “This is fantastic news. I met with Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries on Tuesday to continue to push the case for our area to be the 2025 District of Culture, so I am delighted that she has put it on the final shortlist. Across Keighley, Ilkley, Craven and the Worth Valley, we have a fantastic cultural offering, including some of the country’s best tourist spots like the Bronte Parsonage Museum and Keighley and Worth Valley Railway. Being District of Culture would also deliver a huge boost for local hospitality businesses. Now that we our shortlisted, I am looking forward to continuing banging the drum for our area, so we can drive both economic and cultural prosperity, and setting out the case as to why our bid should be the winning one.”

Syima Aslam, CEO and Artistic Director of Bradford Literature Festival said: “Being shortlisted is fantastic news for Bradford. It is a testament to the hard work and dedication of the amazing BD2025 team, as well as partner organisations. Bradford Literature Festival is extremely proud to be a key bid partner. The change in Bradford’s cultural landscape since BLF began in 2014 is amazing, and the work BD2025 has already done in galvanising Bradford’s cultural sector is truly incredible. I believe that being awarded the next UK City of Culture will be transformational for Bradford, more so than for any other part of the UK.“

David Wilson, director of Bradford City of Film, said: “It’s fantastic news and a genuine team effort from many partners, businesses and individuals across the Bradford district. It’s news we will be sharing with our UNESCO partners right across the world who know Bradford well as a UNESCO City of Film. It makes me especially proud as someone who was born in the city and went to school and to university here.”

Mike Cartwright from Bradford Chamber of Commerce said: "Well done to the bid team on ensuring that we made it onto the short list.They’ve done a great job so far. We’re now holding our breath again until we get across the finish line in this game-changer of a competition.”

More than 35 partners from the business community have come on board as official supporters of the bid, including Bradford Bulls, Emerald Group Publishing, Group Alfa, Jinnah Group, Morrisons, Rushbond PLC, The Broadway and Yorkshire Building Society. The campaign also has seen collaboration between University of Bradford and Bradford Council.

John Heaps, Chairman of Yorkshire Building Society, said: “Yorkshire Building Society is a proud partner of the district’s bid, it is fantastic news that it is one of the shortlisted places. The impact that winning could have on the whole district cannot be overstated, particularly with regard to driving inward investment, supporting the levelling up of the local economy and creating a myriad of incredible opportunities for our young people to enhance skills. Our diverse district can act as a real economic driver for the region. This is one of the reasons why we are proud to support what we hope will be a successful bid come May.”

* The City of Culture Expert Advisory Panel, chaired by Sir Phil Redmond, will visit the four shortlisted places in May before making their final recommendation at the end of May. The winner will be announced this year in Coventry.

The panel includes representatives from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The unsuccessful areas will each receive detailed feedback and ministers will engage with them on how to maintain momentum.

Sir Phil Redmond said: “Culture can act as a catalyst for community engagement, civic cohesion and a driver for economic and social change as previously seen not just in Derry-Londonderry, Hull and Coventry, but all those other places who went on a journey to develop their own cultural strategy. Simply taking part has proved a catalyst in itself. We’ve had a great longlist to select from, which made the shortlisting difficult. I'm now looking forward to visiting each of the shortlisted places with the panel to witness culture’s catalytic effect in action.”

Martin Sutherland, Chief Executive, Coventry City of Culture Trust, said: “Holding the title in Coventry has made a considerable impact already on the city and its citizens. We can’t wait to see what comes next for those who’ve used the bidding process to truly consider the value of culture - all will have inspired the next generation of artists, organisations, funders and supporters.”

* BRADFORD’S bid campaign has offered a glimpse into what its City of Culture year could look like. Events so far have included a public art programme; Summer Unblocked season of cultural events; Bradford is LIT, a light festival visited by over 20,000 people; and The Mills Are Alive in Manningham projection show illuminating the Lister Mills chimney. This month Bradford Council’s Youth Service, with Bradford 2025, arranged for 100 young people aged 15-20 from the district to visit Coventry, the current UK City of Culture, as part of its commitment to putting young people at the heart of the bid. Zahabia Mukhtar from Bradford 2025 Engagement & Inclusion Reference Group said: “Lots of young people of all backgrounds have been involved in the bid. We have a very young population, if we win it will create amazing opportunities for the youth of Bradford.”

Preparations for Bradford 2025 have generated a new confidence in the creative sector, which has secured £2 million for The Leap, the city’s Creative People and Places programme, and £1.5 million for Bradford Producing Hub. This week saw the launch of The Unit, a new resource for film-makers backed by Channel 4. The city centre facility is the first milestone in a 10-year vision for developing the screen sector locally, set out in Bradford Council’s As Seen on Screen strategy.