Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Spring is in the air

Spring, according to the definition on wikipedia, relates broadly to ideas of rebirth, renewal and regrowth. Does this apply to Bradford City Centre?  Whilst the Odeon development project (or lack of) or the Westfield development project (or lack of) have been grabbing the local column issues, would suggest Bradford is moribund, but there's lots going on to suggest Bradford is very much alive.

The much talked about City Park has its opening ceremony on March 24th, this Saturday, including musical performers, theatre, parkour and fireworks (and who doesn't like fireworks, except family pets maybe?).  Fabric's Hand Made in Bradford also opens on that day, with Loosely Bound's Zine Extravaganza there too.  Saturday is also the last day of Mark Power's excellent 'The Sound of Two Songs' exhibition, at The Impressions Gallery, just by City Park.  In the evening, there's Dublab at the Polish Club, a screening of 'Room at the Top' at City Hall, 'The Diary of Anne Frank' at the Alhambra and the night before, the world famous Halle Orchestra are playing at St George's Hall. March 23rd sees live literature from Word Life vs How Do Magazine at the Polish club. 

Next month, the city will be hosting the 18th Bradford International Film Festival, with Oliver Assayas, Barbara Windsor and Ray Winstone, amongst others as guests and a diverse range of events.  
Minicine will be at Glyde House for their Mini-Bloodbath, a screening of one of a choice of four horror films and later at the Polish Parish Club for a whole day of Polish cinema. The cinemas at the National Media Museum, show many different films. 

Of course there are loads more things happening in central Bradford and the wider city. Bradford Buzz and How Do Magazine are two fine sources of information for seeing what is going on.  It may not be mainstream, polished and in your face, but there is so much happening in the city right now.

Fountains of Colour, Bradford City Park

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

What businesses might work in the city centre?

Back to the opportunities post of this blog (that is the most important post on the whole blog), of the few things listed there are several which intrinsically linked to weaknesses and threats that the city centre faces.  The opportunities this particular blog post is looking at is: new retailers, creative use of retail space, evening economy and nightlife.  These are mainly linked to the weaknesses: shopping provision and footfall; and to the threats: rents, business rates, competition from elsewhere, abandonment and spiral of decline.  Clever eh?

Basically I keep thinking of what businesses would be welcome additions, that aren't too unrealistic, ones that I would run if I had the start up capital and business experience.  I wish I had those things, but even if I didn't I would still be put off by the things mentioned above in weaknesses and threats.  I will try and include references to existing independent businesses along the way, because there are a fair few already!

So here is a list of things that seem to work well in other places and that aren't ridiculously ambitious:

Good independent coffee shop
Bradford's not exactly lacking in coffee shops: Starbucks (x2), Caffe Nero and Costa Coffee are all in the centre.  I usually go to these places for coffee and, they're ok, but I could be anywhere.  There are some  independent cafés, like the Red Room on Queensgate which do nice coffee and food, and Le Café Bleu on North Parade too.  But it would be nice to have somewhere that was more like a coffee bar, Coffee Evolution in Huddersfield (below) comes to mind.  Somewhere that serves good coffee, has free newspapers available to read and is just a little less polished than its chain counterparts and maybe does music, poetry, philosphy etc 'out of hours'.    (@AtkiTeach also suggested this)
Milkshake / Ice Cream shop
I remember seeing places like Shakeaway down south, that make milkshakes with all kinds of chocolate bars etc.  They seem to be popping up in more and more places now, like the two (Shakesville and Shaake) that are in Huddersfield and Shakeaholic in Leeds and the North East.  Dewsbury has got a new Ice Cream parlour, Igloo, in the town centre.  These places seem very popular and offer something for younger people and families (no not necessarily healthy!).

Cocktail bar
We've got some good pubs and bars in the city centre, places like the Sparrow and City Vaults are good places in their own right.  I'm sure there are places that provide cocktails too, though maybe not to a more mature crowd.  I think places like Font in Manchester (below), Sandinista in Leeds or Vox in Huddersfield would be very welcome additions to the Bradford night scene.  Cocktails, food, good beer...

Font Bar Food and Cocktails

Diverse food establishments - (half way between a restaurant or a takeaway, but not a café)
The city centre has places to go for a curry, Italian restaurants, a Russian restaurant, somewhere to get Polish food; its got the usual chain places and a handful of takeaways to get food and a few cafés too and a tiny Japanese Noodle Bar in the market. But, it'd be good to have somewhere independent that hits that sweet spot between all of these.  Somewhere like Elephant in Brixton Village which sells Pakistani street food or Pinto in Glasgow which sells Burritos would be nice, or a bigger version of the Japanese noodle bar!  There are loads of great food places in the city, but I can't think of many in the city centre where I would want to go in on my own, eat some nice food and then just leave.  Not a takeaway, not a restaurant - not sure how to explain that!

@TanyaVital suggested that more international restaurants would be welcome in the city centre, @KeithWildman said restaurants but not curry restaurants.  I think the aforementioned Russian restaurant is a good example, but there are loads of different cultures making up the city, so international restaurants would be a good draw.  It would be good for one of the big curry restaurants from the city, like Zouk or Akbars to open up in the heart of the city centre, as Bradford is the curry capital after all (and not Brick Lane).

Chocolate / confectionary shop
Other than the often much maligned Thornton's, I'm not sure what else there is in the city centre.  I can't see Hotel Chocolat coming here any time soon, but if someone could learn a few things from them selling nice chocolate with good customer service, it would be welcome and I could see somewhere selling American 'candy', like Candyland in Galway, being very popular.

Card / Stationery Shop
We've got card shops, places like Clintons and ones on the market.  Personally speaking, I like the foul mouthed cards they sell at Scribblr and the cards of Paperchase.  Again, I can't see these coming to Bradford any time soon, but there's opportunities for an independent to capitalise here.

Clothes Shops
I buy many clothes from fairly cheap chain stores, so I'm not best qualified to speak.  There are some clothes shops like TDF and AN-X in the centre already, but I'm not sure how much of a range is covered by shops in Bradford.  @Atkiteach suggested more clothes shops, with an online presence, to stop his other half shopping in Leeds.

A Department Store?
Bradford is currently lacking a department store, it had Busby's many years ago, Brown Muff - later Rackhams until the 1990s and Sunwin House until the 2000s, @KeithWildman identified a department store as something that could be accommodated in Bradford.  The Westfield development when it goes ahead, is most likely to have a Debenhams in it.  However, there are independent department stores still, like Psyche at Middlesbrough (below), something like that would greatly enhance Bradford's retail offer.
PSYCHE - Middlesbrough

Charity shops
I'm not joking, here.  We've got loads of charity shops, these could be a lot more attractive if the goods were presented well, perhaps as vintage shops, rather than charity shops.  Perhaps Bradford College fashion students could fashion up some charity shop chic?  @Bonebabe suggested somewhere with a good seamstress  to adjust charity shop purchases and a personal shopper service for those of us that don't have a creative eye for a bargain.

Food Shop
@Atkiteach suggested an Asian / Oriental food shop, with a range of spices, offering an online service, there are already (market) and Sing Kee supermarket that may be offering this (though without the online part) already. etc.  @FlawedMonkey said that the Polish deli from Manningham Lane would be a welcome addition to the city centre.  @FlawedMonkey also suggested a bakery for the city centre (not Greggs, sorry Greggs!), I think somewhere offering a good range of treats like the village bakery in Saltaire or the Bakehouse in Huddersfield would fit right in, or somewhere to enjoy good bread like Breads Etcetera in Brixton (below).  @FlawedMonkey finally suggests a health food shop, Bradford does appear to be lacking an independent shop. Personally speaking, I would like somewhere that does a good range of vegetarian and vegan food to go, like Eighth Day in Manchester or Food Therapy in Halifax.

Breads Etcetera, Brixton

So there you go; Bradford city centre shouldn't be like any other place, but it would be good to borrow things from Huddersfield, Dewsbury, Manchester, Leeds, Brixton, Glasgow, Galway, Manningham, Saltaire, Halifax and where ever else to become more vibrant.  On reading through, it does seem a bit like a middle class wishlist, but shops and businesses like these would be very welcome in the city centre!

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Bouncing Back

Bradford's Bouncing Back, was a marketing campaign for Bradford in the 1980s, which I'd never heard much about other than people talking about it and saying 'bounced back my arse' or something similar, obviously people in Bradford aren't known for their cynicism about anything.  Liz Green on Radio Leeds had a discussion on her show about how to sell Bradford, I spoke on there and didn't really add much that hadn't been said - and couldn't help have a dig at the negativity of some people in the city.  The question Liz was asking though is, how do we sell Bradford?  A couple of days after this, I was over in Headingley at the Oxfam bookshop and I found 'Laugh? I nearly went to Bradford!' by Tom Clinton, all about Bradford's Bouncing Back.

Bradford had suffered a lot in the decade or so preceding the start of the Bradford's Bouncing Back campaign.  Peter Sutcliffe had been at large, then there was the terrible fire at Valley Parade in 1985 and then the city had suffered badly from the deindustrialisation of the 1970s onwards, as well as the Honeyford Affair and negative perceptions of racial segregation.  Fast forward 25 years and the city is still seen as having an image problem, visible in the city centre from prominant derelict buildings such as the Odeon, the Westfield site, another mass-murderer in Steven Griffiths and the city is still in the shadow of the 2001 riots.  The TV programme 'Make Bradford British' has been summed up very well by a couple of locals Keith Wildman and Kate Wellham, as well as loads of others.

The Clinton book talks through the campaign, the cynicism it faced and the positive impacts it had on the city. The campaign was based on Smiles Better in Glasgow, not much like it had been done before. The campaign's first HQ was in a Portakabin on the pre-Centenary Square Market Street straight outside City Hall.  It was considered the campaign generated over a million quids worth of publicity (from a spend of £142k) and got the name of Bradford out there across the UK and beyond in a positive light and some David Hockney artwork (above), even generating tourism interest to this grim northern town.  The campaign created a focal point for the public and private sectors to work together. In the Autumn of 1988, when the Council was under the leadership of now Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles, the funding for the project ended and it was unable to be sustained privately.  Its difficult to consider what project the difference would have made if it had run for a little bit longer.
Manningham Mills, Bradford

The end of the book is looking to the future and is very positive, with talk of the Victoria & Albert Museum moving north to Manningham Mills (above, which got converted into flats by Urban Splash) and the rejuvenation of Little Germany The West End project is perhaps a sad thing to read twenty years after the publication if the book, as most of this area is still awaiting regeneration.

The response to 'Make Bradford British' shows that there are many positive people in the City of Bradford who are proud of the place, but there still seems to be a missing link between translating this into a more positive image nationally.  We all know what makes Bradford a good place, but what's the best way to get the message across?

City Park, Bradford