Standing in a line with over 100 people in front of me and around 500 behind 35mins before opening time gave me a real chance to take in the atmosphere of expectation surrounding today’s opening of Bradford’s new shopping centre.
Before joining the queue my lad and I had walked around one of Bradford’s other jewels, the beautiful urban garden that is City Park. It was a good chance to reflect on how far this City has already come. When I first experienced Bradford it was on a night out with a girl I had met online (that same girl would later become my wife). That was 11 years ago before mirror pools, before the renovation of the West End, before The Independent Quarter, when the Odeon’s future was undecided and Westfield was still just a muddy hole.
Usually I’d have gone for a coffee at one of my favourite ‘new’ independent cafes, The Pavilion, but this morning I was drawn to an older venue. I succumbed to the temptation of the Red Cups and visited the old (yes Guardian readers, the old) Starbucks. After our drinks we made our way back past One of the entrances to the exciting Sunbridge Wells project and the tables outside Wetherspoons. There were a number of contractors sitting outside who I assume must have worked through the night to ensure The Broadway would meet its deadlines. They were wearily lifting well deserved pints when I stopped to thank them. They didn’t really seem to understand and looked at me as if I was quite mad. I obviously didn’t do a very good job of explaining how The Broadway can represent more than just shops.
Back to the queue and the building anticipation. I’m glad that I decided to be there. All around me people were being Bradford at its best. A whole range of people cutting across all of Bradford’s cosmopolitan community were ready to celebrate together.
I’d really only decided to go along because of the belated inclusion of a new Bradford Brewery bar and I’m glad I did.
The Made Of Bradford bar is a spectacular example of what the hard working people of this city can achieve. Work had carried on all through the night with finishing touches made just hours before opening. The designer David Craig, who’s other work in the city will be familiar to anyone who has visited a number of bars in the trendy Independent Quarter, has done a wonderful job of bringing a sense of Bradford’s industrial heritage to a shiny new shopping centre. I also love the accents of claret and amber he’s used to bed the bar into the psyche of the city and the huge pink ‘Made of Bradford’ sign that boldly and unashamedly contrasts and clashes with everything.
The Broadway have been using the hashtag #newcitysoul in their marketing. They have, quite understandably, taken some flack for suggesting that Bradford needed a ‘new’ soul and that they could be the ones to provide it. The truth is Bradford will always have a deep sense of soul. It already lives in the streets, the buildings and most of all the people. Perhaps talking about reviving, rediscovering or releasing that soul would have been a better idea. As I walked through the crowds and spent time talking and listening with folk today that’s certainly what seemed to be happening.
I think the council leader, Dave Green, probably summed things up best when during his speech today he talked of Broadway as providing the ‘straight edges of a jigsaw’. There’s still a lot of gaps to fill in but at least now we have a better idea of the picture that might be created.
My call to anyone who reads this is the same as it has been for the last couple of years. I encourage you all to rediscover your city, visit the places you thought you knew and see just how much they have changed, #lovewhereyoulive and remember to always #bigupbradford