BRADFORD is on the final shortlist in the competition to be UK City of Culture 2025, and in May a panel of judges will visit to find out more about our bid.

It is the rich heritage of Bradford that makes it special and uniquely qualified to become the next UK City of Culture. Bradford has been graced by several major figures in the arts, born and bred in the area. In the 19th century the hill village of Haworth witnessed the amazing contribution of the Bronte sisters - Charlotte, Emily and Anne, born in Thornton.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Bronte Parsonage Museum in Haworth Bronte Parsonage Museum in Haworth

Within 21 months all three published classic novels that left a lasting legacy in English literature, yet they all died before the age of 40. Their brother Branwell who also died young was no writer but left as his legacy the only painting of the three sisters. Their inspirational father, Patrick, curate at the village church, survived them all, campaigning to remove the poor sanitation that led to the premature death of his talented family.

The two dominant personalities in terms of cultural influence in the 20th century are JB Priestley and David Hockney - men of culture and creativity who, born 45 years apart, left Bradford as young men and built international reputations in their fields, but never forgot their roots. Both were awarded the Order of Merit, having both turned down the more political honours of knighthoods. Priestley’s skill was the word and Hockney’s skill is the visual image. Their gifts were multi-faceted and their output prolific well into their 80s. Priestley is remembered by a statue just in front of the National Science and Media Museum, as befitted his personality, larger than life, coat blowing in the wind, looking out over the city centre.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: JB Priestley statue in Bradford JB Priestley statue in Bradford

Hockney is honoured by a striking and innovative piece of giant public art depicting him in Little Germany - the world’s first sculpture made out of painted nails.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: David Hockney trained as an artist in his home town of Bradford. Picture: John Stillwell/PA WireDavid Hockney trained as an artist in his home town of Bradford. Picture: John Stillwell/PA Wire

One of Bradford’s most significant developments in the 20th century has been the regeneration of Saltaire, culminating in becoming a UNESC0 World Heritage site in 2001. It reflects the vision of two men - Sir Titus Salt, the original owner in 1853, and Jonathan Silver, the new owner in 1987. Salt had the vision of a workers’ village where all who worked at the mill could live well in adjacent housing as part of a community which met their needs. Silver had the vision to regenerate the mill in a sustainable way -were it to remain empty and unused, that community would gradually die. It symbolises the regeneration of the city’s industrial heritage that then created a new cultural chapter in our history.

The major cultural achievement in 20th century Bradford has been the development of the film industry that led to becoming the world’s first UNESCO City of Film because of its national museum, its rich film heritage, its movie locations and its movie people. From the 1890s when pioneers brought back the first newsreel of an outside event for same day public showing in Bradford (Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee procession in London) to the 1980s when it opened the first IMAX cinema in Europe, the city has been at the forefront of the technology of film. Film locations in the district include Undercliffe Cemetery (Billy Liar), Keighley & Worth Valley Railway (The Railway Children), the Alhambra (The Dresser), and much local talent flourished such as director Tony Richardson, actors Billie Whitelaw and Bernard Hepton, screenwriter Simon Beaufoy and producer Steve Abbott.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Gentleman Jack was partly filmed in Saltaire and Little Germany Gentleman Jack was partly filmed in Saltaire and Little Germany

Music, theatre, art, literature and film, all these cultural assets of the city are underpinned by the enterprise of the people of Bradford who have achieved much in all walks of life. The city has seen many extraordinary pioneers - the first Temperance Society, the first Pullman train in operation, the oldest funicular railway, the first local authority secondary school, the only municipally owned railway, the first school meals service, the first trolley-bus service (also the last one to close), the first municipal hospital; in Europe the first IMAX cinema and the oldest live concert venue, and the first Professor of Peace Studies in the world. It was the home of the ‘Bradford system’ and the ‘Bradford sling’, both notable innovations in the different fields of libraries and medicine. It was also the first place outside Liverpool to experience Beatlemania.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Bradford's IMAX screen was the first in Europe Bradford's IMAX screen was the first in Europe

One Bradford astronomer invented the ‘Greenwich pips’ and another coined the term ‘Big bang’ theory. The ‘King of Pantomime’, Francis Laidler, built his reputation in Bradford, the first TV Personality of the Year, Sir Mortimer Wheeler, grew up in Bradford, as did the first cricketing TV Sports Personality of the Year, Jim Laker.

The city has inspired adventurers. One ordinary mum soon after giving birth to triplets embarked on an amazing journey that turned her into the first woman to reach the South Pole and the North Pole (Ann Daniels). A World War One hero had a crazy idea of flying to Nepal then becoming the first to climb Everest, but died in the attempt (Maurice Wilson). The first woman to walk 1,000 miles in 1,000 hours (Emma Sharp), the fastest man to swim the Channel - a record for 17 years (Barry Watson) and the Cottingley beck fairy hoax by two young girls, Elsie Wright and Frances Griffith.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Expedition leader Ann Daniels in the Arctic ahead of her 500km trek in 2010. Picture: Martin Hartley/PA Wire Expedition leader Ann Daniels in the Arctic ahead of her 500km trek in 2010. Picture: Martin Hartley/PA Wire

l In his next article Martin looks at how the character of the city has been shaped by immigration at different periods of its history.

l Martin Greenwood’s book Every Day Bradford, providing a story for each day of the year about people, places and events from Bradford’s history, is available online and in bookshops including Waterstones and Salts Mill.