I’m getting my feet under table in Bradford, meeting loads of people and already feeling its warmth running through my bloodstream. I have been careful not to assume that because I was here as a student thrity years ago I still know the place. It has changed considerably – it would be weird if it hadn’t. But, given the reputation of the place both inside and outside, it might come as a bit of a shock to read the following ‘surprising facts’ (which I got from a briefing about the Positive Bradford campaign, driven by the community, supported by the Council, led by two priominent members of the business community here, and involving 150 Bradford organisations):

  • Bradford is Britain’s fifth biggest city and metropolitan district; 
  • It is home to more than half a million people, of whom over 300,000 are of working age;
  • Bradford has the UK’s  third youngest population outside London – nearly 23 per cent are under 16;
  • Its working age population of 311,000 is the largest of any major British city;
  • The district’s economy, the third largest in the Yorkshire region, is the fastest growing in Yorkshire;
  • Its total business output has been calculated at £7.8 billion;
  • Bradford has more than 15,000 businesses, providing almost 200,000 jobs; 
  • More ‘Footsie 100’ companies have their  headquarters located in Bradford than in Leeds;
  • The National Media Museum, in the heart of Bradford, is the country’s second most visited museum out of London;
  • Bradford was chosen by  UNESCO as its first City of Film;
  • The district has the third largest number of manufacturing businesses and the tenth largest concentration of ‘advanced manufacturing’ businesses in the UK;
  • The University of Bradford Business School is ranked within the top five in Europe;
  • World-leading research into improving treatment for cancer and other life-threatening diseases is carried out in Bradford;
  • Saltaire, the industrial village which was way ahead of its time, is a UNESCO  World Heritage Site;
  • The world’s finest quality cloth, tailored to make the best suits you can buy, is still made in Bradford;
  • Bradford has more than 5,700 Listed buildings – twice as many as Liverpool, European Capital of Culture in 2008;
  • Little Germany, once the home of the world’s leading wool merchants, has Europe’s largest concentration of Listed buildings;
  • The concept of ‘shopping from home’ was pioneered in Bradford by Empire Stores and the city remains the home of Britain’s biggest home shopping companies;
  • Bradford Mela, a celebration of Asian music, dance, culture and food, is the biggest of its kind in Europe;
  • With more than 400 Asian restaurants, Bradford is the curry capital of the country;
  • More than 90 different languages are spoken in Bradford, though more than eight out of ten of its people only speak English;
  • More new businesses are being set up in Bradford than anywhere else in Yorkshire, with first year survival rates higher than national or regional averages;
  • Bradford’s established strengths include high-technology communications and manufacturing, plus business and financial services, cultural, creative, health and environmental industries.

That’s a pile of good news. I just wonder how much of it is recognised or celebrated outside of Bradford, let alone inside. 400 curry houses means that you could go out once a week for eight years and never repeat yourself. (I don’t mean that in terms of digestion, of course…)

Add to this the news today that an 18 year old Bradford lad (Lewis Murch, a freerunner from Buttershaw, no less) has been named Urban Hero of the Year 2011 at a ceremony in Manchester. Read the story and celebrate him. There are loads of similar stories around – but they don’t always dispel the negative myths. As the Positive Bradford people have commented:

The measure of a city is not how many department stores it has, but the value and contribution of its people  . . . It’s a place where community cohesion isn’t just a fashionable term but a way of daily life.

Now, if we can just get the footie sorted, we’ll be made!