how Bradford won City of Culture 2025

“THE winner of the UK City of Culture 2025 is Bradford!” Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries surprised us by not pausing between “east” and “Bradford” when she made the announcement last week. Nor was there a pause between those words and the roar that greeted the news of the crowd gathered, heart in mouth, to receive it.

I don’t remember being hugged by so many people, because together I realized that our trajectory as a city and district had just changed. It was as if we had paddled our canoe down a river and were now caught in a new fast current.

“In the well-being of the city you will find your well-being,” Jeremiah wrote to the exiled people of God in Babylon. During the application process, and now, as we prepare for 2025 and beyond, we ask, as faith communities and more specifically as a Church, what this well-being means to us. Bradford’s offering follows four invitational themes.

city ​​of the world

Bradford is where Yorkshire meets over 170 cultural heritages from around the world. City of Culture will tell stories of individual and community journeys that have contributed to Bradford’s history. Historical and contemporary, these are stories of commerce and empire, of crushing poverty and spectacular wealth, of severing old identities and forging new ones.

Part of this world heritage concerns religious faith. Bradford is a city where “we do God” (and is therefore a great place to be a bishop). I am privileged to have a place on the district leadership team alongside the chairman of the Council of Mosques and colleagues from the council, health, education, police and fire, businesses and the voluntary sector.

Over the past four years as Chair of the Stronger Communities Partnership in Bradford, I have worked with many others to encourage ‘cross-cultural’ (rather than ‘multi-cultural’) spaces and opportunities for people and communities not only to live side by side, but to engage in each other’s life and history.

We would not have won the bid had it not been for the Bradford Literature Festival, chaired, until recently, by our Diocesan Bishop, Nick Baines. This festival likes to explore faith, and its culminating celebration next month will be a sharing of religious music at the cathedral.

It was a joy for me to volunteer and be invited to speak at our “Big Iftar” outdoor event, hosted by Muslim friends offering food and friendship to hundreds of faiths different and none. One of our downtown churches has hired an “intercultural worker” to help the congregation engage with its diversity of languages ​​and heritages.

Come of age

The age of Bradford’s population was another factor in earning us the 2025 title. The city is full of powerless and voiceless young people, whose stories are rarely told. City of Culture is less about getting them to visit an art gallery and more about bringing accessible circuses of music and food to the middle of the neighborhoods they live in, celebrating and reflecting the stories they want to tell.

At best, churches are spaces where young people find themselves loved and valued. One of the best parts of my job is to look young people in the eye at a confirmation service and say, “God called you by name. He made you his. But our churches are not always the best at listening to young people’s passion for justice, equity and change.

Everything is connected

Born in Bradford is one of the most ambitious longitudinal studies in the world, covering 13,500 families over the past ten years. We know as a district that only by bringing together data on health, housing, law enforcement, business and the voluntary sector can we solve the complex and persistent problems that we are facing.

City of Culture, lead judge Phil Redmond says, is about the well-being of the city and the neighborhood. Art and culture are closely related to science, which is related to business and technology. The impact of the Cité de la culture is designed to be economic, social, reputational and trustworthy.

The Church of England has invested millions of pounds in the town, partly in and through parish churches, and partly by planting a resource church in what was a former nightclub (News, July 19, 2019 , April 29). Like much-needed dental care contributing to a smile, Fountains Church, Bradford, shines in the city center alongside the National Media Museum, the Alhambra Theater and the old Odeon, soon to be resurrected as ‘Bradford Live’ .

“Welcome Home, Sexy”

The fourth theme takes up this piece of graffiti that greets train passengers slamming into Bradford Interchange. As Richard Shaw, who led Bradford’s bid team, said of the scribble: “It’s cheeky, powerful, Yorkshire. It talks about family, food, friendship, hospitality. The bid team didn’t write it; it’s there on the wall. With the prodigal’s parable in our back pocket, we’re right at home with this one.

Dr Toby Howarth is the Regional Bishop of Bradford in the Diocese of Leeds.

About James K. Bonnette

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