COMMUNITY | Bradford’s Cultural Response

CATHERINE SIMES has put together a list of all that’s going on in Bradford during the Coronavirus lockdown (after a bit of a rant.)

The government might be incompetent, but there are reasons to be positive in Bradford

How are we all doing Culture Vultures? A month into lockdown and I’m trying to be positive. I know that I’m lucky.

I work from home anyway, I have a garden, I’m used to using technology and communicating online. Although I hate video meetings and zoom calls with a passion, I’ve had to get used to them. We’re all having to get accustomed to a life of social distancing and the ‘challenges’ shall we say that it brings.

We deserve a lot of credit for how we are coping. Or maybe if we’re not coping we need to be kind to ourselves and allow ourselves an off day, where nothing is right and nothing anyone can say will help. Write these days off, tomorrow will be better. We should allow ourselves a bad day and a rant now and again, and the following is mine. If we weren’t angry and frustrated at some point during this crisis there’d be something wrong with us.

And if anything is likely to kill my positivity it’s a phony Facebook post, usually on a community group page, but not always. I thought the complaint was that social media keeps us in a comfy bubble where we only hear views that match our own?

Not in Bradford. It would be better for my mental health if it did.

The latest round robin to make my blood boil is a post doing the rounds suggesting that journalists should stop being so negative and what would really help is if we all got behind the government; they are only doing their best.

Well fuck that.

I’m all for being positive but not as a cover for letting the government off the hook for the country’s shocking lack of preparedness. We can debate the government’s immediate response to the crisis maybe, but the fact that the government ignored reports and recommendations about the UK’s readiness to cope with pandemics is negligent.

To not raise concerns while the doctors and nurses you’re so enthusiastically clapping are dying for want of protective equipment is irresponsible. If we don’t question the response, what chance do we have of improving it? If we don’t ask why some countries are managing the situation with fewer deaths, we’re condemning ourselves to continue on the same path, rather than learning from mistakes.

If we want a positive focus from this, something to really raise the spirits, it would be to plan for a better future, to demand that never again should we be so woefully underprepared, with public services shot to shit after years of underfunding, with Germany having five times the number of intensive care beds as we do, with our sick pay the second lowest in Europe, with employment protection so poor workers are scared to lose their jobs so go into work sick.

This is not a record to be proud of, to get behind.

You criticise to make the situation better and we should be better than this. How we respond to a crisis and the preparations we make beforehand, our ability to withstand shocks and our levels of resilience are inherently political. Sticking your head in the sand, flying the flag and hoping that for some reason Covid respects the British stiff upper lip isn’t going to achieve anything positive.

So no, I don’t want to go easy on the government.

And breathe. Rant over.

Flipping as I do almost constantly between despair and hope, what I really would like to be positive about and celebrate is Bradford’s response to the crisis. Bradford Council quickly set up five hubs across the city providing food, support, transport and contact for vulnerable people; Bradfordians have volunteered in their thousands to support their neighbours; community centres like the Sandale Trust on the Buttershaw estate are working tirelessly to keep people fed and maintain contact with isolated residents; and Bradford’s performers and artists are finding creative new ways to reach audiences.

I’m grateful to all those people who are providing their time, activities and some light relief to keep us entertained and connected during the lockdown (big shout out also to the people who are not and are seeing it out under the bedclothes until this is all over. We all have our different ways of coping. Feel free to continue as you were, no pressure to produce, look after yourselves). 

As an example, the following is a week in review – Corona virus culture in Bradford looks something like this: 

The epic outdoor theatre performance, Zara (in your living room), by Bradford based Mind The Gap Theatre Company is available on YouTube until 11 May.

Freedom Studios has re-recorded its 2016 play North Country set in a post-plague Bradford, available on YouTube and BCB radio for the next week. 

Kirsty Taylor and the Bradford Producing Hub hosted an online evening of poetry with Toria Garbutt and open mic night for Bradford talent. 

Take a guided film location tour with Bradford City of Film. Its series of Screen Talks with actors, directors and writers is also now available online. 

The Rose & Crown virtual pub opens its doors every Saturday evening to share a few drinks and a bit of chat.

For T’Culture West Yorkshire has launched its Social Unity live shows on Facebook for underrepresented performers with second episode this Thursday 30 April at 7pm.  

Dave Glenister has taken his regular pub quizzes online on Tuesdays and Thursdays, or you can request them made to order to play in your own home.

Bradford Civic Society’s series of Blue Plaque posts take you on a tour of Bradford’s great and good, its people and places. 

Queer Down Instagram live chat with host Kafayat Adegoke. Part of Kafayat’s regular series on “avoiding the covidiots”.

Bradford’s Museums and Galleries have put some of their exhibitions online including the British Press Photographers Association’s exhibition at Cartwright Hall and Educating Bradford celebrating 150 years of education in the city.

Visit the Impression’s Gallery online exhibition Forget Me Not, a project exploring family history and heritage. The gallery is also involved in the #massisolationIG photography project recording life during the corona virus lockdown. 

And in the rush to go digital, Bradford arts groups have also recognized the need for real, physical experiences, especially for people without access to the internet:

The Bloomin’ Buds Theatre Company’s work in community settings has had to undergo a radical transformation. No longer able to provide activities and support in its regular groups, the organisation has instead been putting together arts and craft packages and delivering them to vulnerable families and elderly people in the community. These packs are designed to help maintain mental health and well-being for adults and children by providing materials and activities to be creative in these uncertain times.

Liberty Arts Yorkshire launched its Theatre in a Box project just last week. With funding from Bradford Council’s ‘response’ grant, Liberty Arts has created interactive, puppet theatre packs free of charge to be delivered to isolated, vulnerable and low income families in Bradford. There are two boxes – one aimed at 2–6 year olds and another for 6–11 year olds.

Join Us: Move. Play. (JUMP) is a Bradford organisation whose purpose is to get kids out and about and more active, which in the current circumstance is a bit difficult. In response, JUMP has created a list of fun, simple indoor activities and games. 50,000 activity calendars have been delivered to Bradford families to help youngsters to move and play every day without a lot of space or specialist equipment required. The activities are also available online at for everyone to access.

Bradford, yer doing us proud.

To keep up to date with what’s on online in Bradford, I’ve put together a list of events, classes and activities happening across the Bradford district, on my website You Can Take the Girl Out of Bradford. It’s regularly updated as more events and activities are launched. 


  1. Yorkshire Academy of Creative Arts & Dance have been delivering free movement to music classes online via Zoom every Monday, Wednesday and Friday 11.30-12.15 followed by a good old chat with a cuppa. They have also distributed exercise equipment for the vulnerable including resistant bands, exercise balls and fitness trackers to keep people active at home.

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