B is for Bradford
Sitting with a hefty population of over half a million, Bradford is the 6th most populated English district, but growing up it couldn’t feel emptier. There were certainly a lot of reasons for this, arguably the main one was the way in which my personality and general all around anxiety allowed me to alienate myself from the rest of the world (more on that later). I’d also argue that there’s also something about the place itself that contributed, just another ingredient in the perfect storm that created me (hello!).
To give a bit of history in case anyone is unaware (probably most of us, let’s be real), Bradford was initially one of the big industrial powerhouses of the north, exporting textiles and coal all around the world. Throughout this time, there was a big push overseas for people to come to Bradford (and other big industrial cities such as Manchester) to support the powerhouse, hence a lot of Irish (enter, my family), Eastern European, Indian and Pakistani migrants flocked to the city, creating a melting pot of culture. Naturally as the years went by and the textile industry slumped in Britain, so did Bradford’s reputation and importance.
I know there’s a lot of arguments to the contrary (completely my personal opinion here), but I don’t think Bradford can ever really recover from the industrial decline. It has a decent population with (just) enough jobs to go around, but there’s very little there for the foundations of a long-lasting, future-proof and prosperous city. The city centre (while it’s definitely improved in the last ten years or so) leaves a lot to be desired, it’s not exactly somewhere I’d like to go to hang out, a place I’d only visit if I really needed to buy something from the handful of shops that are still left and couldn’t wait for a delivery. It’s always going to be dwarfed and belittled in every way by neighbouring Leeds (Bradford is the Gotham City to Leeds’s Metropolis). The thing that sticks out in my mind when thinking about it, is that melting pot of culture should be a prime example of integration and togetherness (in my rose tinted Star Trek world), but in reality it’s just… awful.
Growing up, I was very aware of a hateful, racist aura around the city. While not always obvious (a lot of people have grown used to it or don’t really know any better), it’s tends to always be there, whether it be a look in somebody’s eyes, a questionable Facebook post or a full on rant in the street. Funnily enough, I don’t blame my family, the people I went to school with or anyone I’ve encountered there, racism is something that’s learned through tradition and it’s ridiculously easy for someone to fall into it. However It’s just something that repulses me at a fundamental level, it disagrees with every atom of my being and it’s something that I believe can only die out in time. I fail to see the point in any campaign, drive or protest on the matter. Obviously it’s great that people are passionate about it and want to make a difference (and by all means, go for it) but only by properly integrating in the workplace, socially and in media (which has a hell of a lot of influence and is doing a semi-decent job for the most part… minus anything touched by Rupert Murdoch) can we move on. Highlighting an issue, pointing to it and telling people what to think can’t get us far (but hell, I’d love to be proved wrong).
Okay… Back on track now! There’s also definitely a sense of shame if you’re from Bradford (not all people I might add, I know a couple of “proud Bradfordians”). I remember before we all finished Sixth Form and moved on to Uni, we had a discussion in the classroom on whether or not we’ll actually tell people where we’re from which is just crazy (I’ve never lied, I might add). There’s also a weird self-deprivation thing going on as being outwardly smart/remotely-interested in School had an insane amount of stigma attached to it (thankfully I had very little to lose at this point, so fuck it). I’ve known a few people (in my family and friends) that are crazy intelligent and you could see the potential from a mile off that have become content with the feeling that they’re not good enough (or scarified a potentially bright future to fit in socially). It’s actually really upsetting to see.
Something I’ve always said when asked about Bradford, is that it’s biggest problem are the people. For the most part, it’s a slim percentage of the huge amount of people that actually live there, but boy do they leave a lasting impression. I’ll probably talk about some of the horrendous experiences with “other people” (ew) during my School years in a later post, but to summarise, a lot of people I’ve had negative experiences with in Bradford have a general arrogance, rudeness and self-entitlement about them that leaves a bitter taste in your mouth. Bringing my partner to my home city was frankly embarrassing. We encountered random insults at a bus stop, mocking calls in the street, an aggressive (I think the term is “fuck boi”) barging into us in a shop, the list goes on. It’s an experience I’d never want to relive and thankfully now I’m an adult and can control where I live/visit, I won’t have to.
I know my experience with this city is pretty much overwhelmingly negative, but that’s not to say there isn’t anything good about it. It’s situated in the Pennines (an area of beauty I could never really appreciate until moving away and experiencing other parts of the country), neighbouring villages and towns are some of the most picturesque and quintessentially British places I’ve ever visited and despite its shortcomings, most of its people genuinely do want the city to improve which is the most important thing to take away. It wasn’t a good place for me, but that’s not to say it can’t better itself in the future. I genuinely hope it does.