THIS year has been one of planning, planning and even more planning.

At Bradford 2025 we are excited to be developing a phenomenal UK City of Culture, taking our history, people and places, and sharing how truly brilliant Bradford is.

So, whilst we’ve got our sights set on 2025 and the magical, game-changing year we’re aiming to deliver, right now we’re working together behind the scenes to put all the building blocks in place - creating a solid foundation from which to launch a transformational cultural programme that will create legacy for the district.

We aim to ensure that people from all corners of our district feel represented.

Inclusivity is at the core of what we’re trying to achieve, and both our team and our programme will reflect the diversity of Bradford’s many cultures and communities.

2023 has been full of new opportunities and I have loved seeing how our artists and communities have joined us on the journey so far.

Highlights of the year have included the Mini Seed Commissions, where local artists participated in workshops as part of our research to develop ideas for 2025; the launch of the £3 million Cultural Capital Grants which saw 21 local venues receive funding to bring new life to their spaces; the funding of local creatives to visit the Venice Biennale as part of our international artists exchange; and call outs for disabled artists to start working on commissions in partnership with Unlimited Theatre.

We have even begun building the Beacon, our touring venue that will travel the district in 2025 to present a range of events for everyone to enjoy. Communities will be involved in the making of it, so watch this space!

Most recently, we announced our Youth Panel, a unique opportunity for Bradford’s young people aged 15-20 to be part of shaping the direction of Bradford 2025.

In the most recent census, Bradford was revealed to be the UK’s youngest city, so we want to ensure the voices of our young people - who were instrumental in helping the district to secure the UK City of Culture title - continue to be part of the Bradford 2025 story.

We want them to be proud of where they come from and to be right at the heart of the decisions we make.

The successful candidates will also have the chance to join the Bradford 2025 Board of Trustees - who support the work we do and ensure that our goals are met.

This is an exciting chance for young people across Bradford to gain valuable skills and have a distinct and special connection to the work that we are doing.

In addition, we have been working hard to share Bradford’s story to the world.

In the bid period we were clear about wanting Bradford to be on everyone’s lips for the right reasons and we’re well on our way to achieving that vision.

The spotlight is now on us, and there have been dozens of positive stories in local, regional and national media across the UK - and that will only increase as we countdown to 2025.

It’s important that we share our ambitions and narrative with people not just in Bradford, but all over the UK and beyond. We have so much to shout about and I’m proud to be a spokesperson for our city and district.

We are full steam ahead to build an incredible, inspirational programme of events for 2025 and open up more opportunities for Bradford’s creative arts sector.

Looking forward to 2024, we will be making some exciting announcements early next year as we mark our ‘one year to go’ countdown.

There has been so much going on behind the scenes in 2023, but next year is when we really begin to shine a light on what our Year of Culture will deliver - and I can’t wait to share it with you all.

* Shanaz Gulzar is the Creative Director of Bradford 2025.