Archive | March 2011

Six Days Only walk

A couple of weekends back I found a little booklet at Idle library containing walks throughout 2011 organised by Bradford Council. A good read through the booklet found that there seemed to be only one walk that was really family friendly, insofar parents and children could go on it. The walk is round Northcliffe Park in Shipley on Sunday 10 April, starting at 1.30.

Tonight I’ve created a quick event page on Facebook, which I’d like people to use to show they are interested in attending the walk. I think it’s a great little walking area round there for families, so strongly believe that this is a great opportunity for a more guided stroll around those parts.

However, it is a shame that a council driven programme like this series of walks is so dominated by walks geared towards adults only. At the same time there may be a reason for this approach, possibly ill-attendance. If we can turn up and show our support for this walk, maybe the organisers of the walks would consider organising further/more family friendly walks. Either way, I think it’d great for families to turn up and show their support – and have a good afternoon out. (I know I’m looking forward to packing the “snack” they suggest, ahem!)

Oh, and also, by doing this maybe a few people might get up, out, and about when normally they wouldn’t, as well as enjoy a little bit of social interaction! See you there!

The 760 book club

Today I am restarting a regular journey that I last did nearly two years ago. Back then it was the day after my voluntary redundancy at Brahm was accepted. One last trip in to pack my belongings into a box, to check a pitch was sorted, and then to wait. The stomach wrenching wait of people fearing the call to the board room. Some of my comrades would get that call. I wanted to walk out that last time with them. One last hoorah! To the pub! Unlike them I knew I was leaving – I decided a good month beforehand. That’s mentally when I left, tired of all the fighting, the futility. I wanted to get out if the hole.

By 11.15 we were all in the Oak. At 3.45 two of us got the 91 down the hill from Headingley, slumped on the back row, bellies full of Stella. I waited at Kirkstall for the 760 to Idle. It was a fantastically sunny day. I was stepping into the unknown. On the bus ride back I watched the world go by. I never did this. I usually had my nose in a book.

In August 2001 I started my daily trek to Headingley by bus. At first – for seven years! – it was from Rodley, picked up by my chauffeur from outside the Frying Machine. I quickly got into the habit of taking a book with me, for the days the Guardian didn’t arrive in time for my journey.

My book reading increased, the paperboy had one less morning drop off. It was a good time! I could get a solid 45 to 60 minutes reading in each way. I mastered the art of reading while walking, so I could squeeze an extra five minutes in from my walk through Headingley. I hammered my way through books. In a bad week I just finished the one, in others I rattled through three. When we moved to Idle, further along the 760’s route, I managed to bag an extra 15 to 20 minutes EACH WAY!

And then, it stopped. I got jobs that needed a car to get to. I became a Radio 4 listener, being drawn into the real world not a fictional world. It frustrated me. My ‘wishlist’ just grew, not finding anything like the time I had before, that time on the bus that went “mmmmmmmmmmm”. That calm, that escapism before the invariably awful day ahead.

Now, I am starting the daily commute by bus all over again. We’ve just passed that first stop in Rodley. The Frying Machine is gone, replaced by Rodley Balti. And people still get on with books in their hands. The chap who has sat next to me has a hardback version of the Keith Richards autobiography. A hardback version!

Technology has become so much an accepted part of people’s lives in the past two years, moving beyond just providing that awful loud headphone musical background. I expect people will be using iPhones, iPads, Kindles, and laptops more. But I look around. There’s hardly any tech on show. There’s still a few books on show. And I wonder what are they reading. And why, why have they chosen those books.

Are you one of those ‘commuter readers’ who use the 760? I’m the guy on the top floor with the Norman Mailer. Pleased to meet you.

Some thoughts on Positive Bradford

The weekend before last Positive Bradford started to seep into my life – or my Twitter stream at the least. Bit strange I thought. I was aware of Positive Bradford a couple of years back, as part of the “save the Odeon” movement (here they are on Facebook). It begged the question “What are they up to now”?

A bit of rummaging about, mainly on the internet, and a few articles popped up. It seemed the Positive Bradford I was hearing about wasn’t the pro-Odeon group, but something else entirely. Weirdly, the clearest summary was on the Tong High School website. Why here, I know not – it added to the intrigue. But it gave me some background. To paraphrase:

‘Positive Bradford’ came about from a group of business people saw something on GMTV about Bradford being one of the worst cities to visit. They decided to do something to make a difference! A steering group was formed in June 2010 with people from all sectors invited to help firstly change the perception of the people of Bradford, to highlight positive aspects of Bradford. Lots of positive things have already started to happen. The steering group has now been split into sub groups with the leaders of the sub groups feeding back into the main body. The intention is to have a ‘Positive Bradford Day’ in September 2011, to coincide with the completion of City Park in Centenary Square.

This all sounds cool, something the city needs. Great! But I already have questions. What are the positive things already happening? Just who are all these people from across all those sectors? And why the frigging hell was I only just hearing about this now? (And it turns out, after some asking around, I wasn’t alone on this count. Far from it.)

It looked like an opportunity to find out would be sooner than later, at a meeting on Tuesday 5 April at the Midland Hotel. One massive problem: it is being held at lunchtime, on a weekday. Which is great if you work in the city. Which is great if you work near the city and can afford a longer lunch break. But isn’t great for those of us, the many of us, who want to be involved and yet work stops us from attending. And, despite the indication that things are already moving along, there aren’t any clues of how people like me – who can’t make the meeting, who are hearing about this for the first time, who want to be involves – can get involved with whatever is already going on. It’s all a bit frustrating, especially when you read references to it in today’s paper. GAH! It’s like some secret, select club!

As if to further confound this frustration I also found out last week about a decent attempt at engaging the city’s youth population, getting them to create a Positive Bradford logo. Good idea! And getting Darren Baker to help judge the competition, nice touch. Shame I found out about the competition two days before the closing date. Another possible issue: An art teacher mate at a local school hadn’t even heard about it. I’m not saying this ‘competition’ won’t be well entered – it just feels like it could have been better.

But I fear when I read promises of “the winning design/picture will then be developed… into the official Positive Bradford brand.” For fuck’s sake! It’s not a brand that the city needs! Do these people think? What is the point in a brand? A carrot for the kids? Will the kids care that their idea will become a brand? More likely not.

And I suppose that’s the final thing that winds me up – the blatant back-riding that some are getting out of it. “Yeah, we’ll help you out with the PR and all that, as long as our company gets press out of it.” In this example the guilty party is “leading Bradford Marketing Agency This is Chemistry” and their poorly edited postings on their website. This is hardly positivity. This is just opportunism, and smacks of lazy crowbarring that somehow subverts the good intentions outlined in excerpt from the Tong High School website.

I remember a great post on the Leeds-based Culture Vultures blog (a year ago it seems) that was also born out of the same Travelodge survey – the same survey that brought this Positive Bradford into existence. It was a great post, extolling some of the great cultural attractions of Bradford, albeit doing that usual “Bradford as a cultural West End approach”. I was chatting to the author of that piece late last week, and despite these attractions within the city the same underlying worries rang out – what else is there in Bradford, other than cheaper house prices, and usually further afield from the city centre out in the Bradford district? I hope these vagueries are what Positive Bradford will build upon when they look to highlight the positives. But also people do have worries. It isn’t feasible to just ignore the negatives – an examination of these aspects is necessary to legitimise any “positivity” outlook.

If that shit-hot marketing company is to do something maybe do some effective PR and give us some substance about where Positive Bradford is now, and also how it can engage with the ground level public. Is that too much to ask? As it stands the ‘amateur’ efforts of the previous Positive Bradford campaign are looking a darn sight more informative and effective than the current one in terms of delivery and motivation. Come on, whoever you are running this new campaign – open up!

Attend the Positive Bradford event at the Midland Hotel, on Tuesday 5 April at 12pm. Click here for more details. And let me know how it goes!