So what’s Bradford doing in my Seasider Tour? Well, you have to get across country somehow and there’s no better stop-off than Bradford, meeting up with Gideon Seymour from FABRIC and Nigel Rice from Bradford MBC and then staying over with my colleague Hugh Rolo, DTA’s Head of Assets & Investment.
There’s good news and bad news. The good is the fantastic work that FABRIC is doing with meanwhile use of a never-before-let shop unit in Centenary Square, now a POP-UP arts and gallery space with the smallest cinema in the world out back. I love the way when we arrive someone is painting the wall a deep red colour. Gideon blanches and quietly points out that they’ll probably have to paint it white again when they leave – it will take more than 10 litres to cover it over, but it’s worth it to get vibrancy in our cities. That’s the meanwhile dynamic – seek forgiveness later!
Big good news is the creation of the Bradford Urban Garden which has reclaimed over 3 acres of the 10-acre hole created for the stalled Westfield retail development (see the Meanwhile Showcase at www.meanwhile.org.uk for lots more detail). The bad news, and it fills me with fear and loathing, is that the English Defence League are coming on Saturday for a ‘static demonstration’. Teresa May banned them from marching but then the lazy b*****ds never wanted to walk anyway, just to provoke. And now the police in their infinite wisdom have decided to put the EDL onto the Bradford Urban Garden, with the counter-demonstration just a short way away up Drake Street. Poor old Bradford, still licking old wounds from the last riots. Please don’t let it happen again. The new picket fencing and benches have been removed from the BUG (having only gone in a few weeks ago) in case they provide impromptu weapons. The wildflower beds are looking beautiful but fragile. I’m gladdened by the fabulously diverse mix of people making use of the pathways and the Asian man who stops to says “I’m a Bradfordian. This is my soil… we have to do right by it”. Last time I cam to Bradford, the kiosk in the pic below was tucked up next to a dead end wall – now it’s in a perfect location and surely someone will take it on – meanwhile, or otherwise.
We wander up to Little Germany – now opened up to the city centre by the BUG. What a great area – all golden sandstone, big square heritage buildings with great potential. On the main road is the ‘regenerated’ Eastbrook Hall. Beautifully refurbished and the residential above is let but the ground and first floor are empty commercial spaces. Gideon has a meeting with the landlords next week so fingers crossed for PopUp Eastbrook… Some have been converted to residential or offices but there’s a proliferation of To Let signs and there are still several key buildings not yet done. Gideon’s office is here and we start to talk about the potential for a Meanwhile Quarter where creative industry uses kick-start the longer-term regeneration but continue to benefit rather than being typically swept away in a wave of gentrification.