Bradford went on parade to celebrate St George’s Day.

St George himself got yesterday’s celebrations off to a chivalrous start leading the procession, cheered by on-lookers.

A plane trailing the England flag circled high above the city centre as musicians played and the parade wove its way down from the Oastler Centre to Centenary Square.

The Lord Mayor of Bradford, Councillor John Godward, rode in a red and white ribboned carriage pulled by horses from the city’s Industrial Museum, followed by council officials, standard bearers from military organisations and flag-waving schoolchildren.

Police on foot, horseback and bikes patroled the parade and at one point quizzed a handful of shaven-headed men. But they reported no trouble on a day of fun and national pride.

In 2008 a planned parade that would have gone near scenes of the race riots of 2001 was cancelled following police advice for ‘health and safety’ reasons.

But, as this year’s joyful and upbeat parade worked its way through the city centre, more and more people lined the streets, shopworkers came out to see what was happening and workers on their lunch breaks were quick to join in the St George’s Day spirit.

Among the crowd was Walter Metcalfe, 83, from Shipley, who was proudly waving his banner flag.

He said: “This is lovely. There used to be lots of parades like this in Bradford. We should have them more often!”

For some shoppers the parade seemed to come as an unexpected but very pleasant surprise.

Charlene Radcliffe, from Leeds Road, Bradford, said: “I knew it was St George’s Day but I had no idea all this was happening.”

And not-so-distressed damsel Louise Coleman also got a surprise when the armour-clad St George stopped the parade to kiss her hand.

She said: “Now that was a surprise. I never expected that when I came into Bradford today!”

Pals Doreen Luciw, 80, Elaine Sheard, 61, and Veronica Quantrill all from Bradford’s Royal Marines Association, dressed up in red, white and blue for the occasion.

Doreen, who was also wearing a Help For Heroes T-shirt, said: “We read about the parade in the Telegraph & Argus and wanted to come down to show our support. We’re also here to think about our soldiers fighting away from home and about those who come back wounded.”

When the parade finally snaked its way to its end destination in Centenary Square it was time for speeches.

The Lord Mayor thanked everyone for turning up and “making the effort”.

He told the crowds: “It’s absolutely marvellous. There’s so many people I’m surprised. This is something that should be repeated year after year.”

And the crowd shouted back “Hear, hear!”

He added: “It’s a chance for everyone across the city and the whole district, in all the towns and villages, to join together to celebrate England’s national day. The emphasis is on having lots of fun.”

A voice in the crowd cried: “Let’s have a Bank Holiday then!”

Coun Godward said: “It’s a great opportunity for children to get involved. I encourage everyone to join in the celebration. Bradford is a great place and the home of strong communities. Today is also a celebration of that.”

He ended his speech by calling for three cheers for St George’s Day and the crowd obliged loudly.

It was then the turn of the Bishop of Bradford, the Rt Rev David James, who took the opportunity to speak against racism and poverty and urged Bradfordians not to be selfish when voting in the General Election.

He told the crowd that St George was the patron saint of many other countries, not just England, including Spain, Portugal, Greece, Ethiopia and Lithuania.

He said: “What was it about St George that made him a hero for so many people?

“He killed a dragon? But what are the dragons today? Racism is one of the dragons we have to fight, poverty is another.

“Next month we will be voting in the election. If we are going to take St George as our hero when we vote, we are not going to choose just what’s good for me or for people like me. St George championed people who were persecuted and did not have a voice.

“I hope we all vote for a party and a government that will do this – especially for the children. It’s their future we care about. We want an England where they can grow and flourish.

“Children, we will vote for you at the next election.”