On 31 May we received the thrilling news that our home city will be the UK’s City of Culture 2025. We knew our bid was strong, reflecting the city’s creative assets and remarkable communities, its independent spirit and ingenuity. Whatever the outcome, the process of creating the bid had shone a light on the city’s potential and its many cultural treasures. But winning the title, over strong proposals from Southampton, County Durham and Wrexham, is a dream come true.
What is city of culture?
The competition is run by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), inviting places across the UK to set out their vision for culture-led regeneration, and takes place every four years. We’ve seen from the recent example of Coventry the transformative effect that the title can have, with an audience of just over a million people enjoying over 700 events in their year-long programme. The city secured more than £172m of direct investment to support the programme of events and a major upgrade programme of its public realm and cultural assets, which is sure to have a lasting legacy.
Bradford’s commitment to culture
The museum has been a jewel in the city’s crown for decades—in fact, this month marks our 39th birthday. We’re proud to be a national museum with local roots, in UNESCO’s first designated City of Film. We’ve played an active role in the City of Culture bid process, with other long-established venues in the city—live venues, museums and theatre companies among them—alongside vibrant community groups and illustrious sites across the wider district such as the Brontë Parsonage and Saltaire World Heritage Site.
We’re also excited to welcome our new neighbours Bradford Live, a state-of-the art venue for music, comedy, sport and family events in the iconic Odeon cinema that was once the largest outside London. As well as investing time and energy into this cultural moment, Bradford Council has made a long-term commitment to culture, with a ten-year strategy launched in 2021. So, 2025 doesn’t even mark the half-way point in the delivery of the city’s ambitions.
Coming of age
The consensus amongst commentators is that Bradford’s status as the UK’s youngest city was key to its success. Around 29% of Bradford’s half a million residents are aged under 20, with a quarter under the age of 18. We can’t wait to see the myriad ways that the year-long City of Culture celebration will harness the energy and potential of our young people. One of the bid’s themes is ‘Coming of Age’, which puts the 30,000 Bradford teenagers who will turn 18 in 2025 at the centre of festivities.
Sound and Vision is taking shape
There’s still lots to scope out in terms of programming, as the Bradford 2025 team grows to work up a plan featuring as many as 1,000 new events, but it’s clear that community involvement ran through the DNA of the bid and will be central to the whole festival. Here in the museum, we’re focused on our ambitious Sound and Vision project that will transform our two permanent galleries into new and inspiring spaces with community at their heart. Just as Bradford 2025 will reflect the city’s communities, we want visitors to find their own stories in our remarkable collections in new and transformative ways.
City of the world
A second theme for the bid is ‘City of the World.’ This hints at the multiplicity of cultural heritages that Bradford is home to, but will also reflect the city’s rich industrial history. Whilst our collections are global in scope, we are always keen to celebrate locally relevant stories within our programme. Our Belle Vue Studio exhibition, launched last year as part of our Bradford’s National Museum project, illustrates this perfectly, documenting an influential photography studio where thousands of the city’s residents had their portrait taken between the 1920s and 1970s.
Welcome home sexy
Another theme reflects the city’s unique character and socially progressive attitude, taking inspiration from an irreverent piece of graffiti outside Bradford Interchange railway station. “Welcome home sexy” it says. What can we say? This city of culture promises a warm welcome, regardless of who you are, how you live your life or where you come from. Bradford is famed for its inclusivity, and we want to celebrate that too.
Everything is connected
A final theme—Everything is Connected—speaks directly to our remit as a museum that tells stories about sound and vision technologies and the ways they influence our lives. It also chimes with the Science Museum Group’s commitment to support the development of a digital economy and inspire the scientists and engineers of the future.
In the context of City of Culture, this tantalising theme has the promise of showing how art and science can come together to foster previously unimaginable cultural experiences. All I can say is, stay tuned and prepare to be wowed!