This week I enjoyed a trip to Bradford as part of the Common Purpose Trader programme I am enrolled on. The day was to talk about Image and Regeneration, looking at Bradford as a case in point and we toured the centre, visited attractions, spoke to local residents and businesses and had an audience with key influencers and decision makers. It was quite an eye opener.
Despite having studied at Leeds University's Trinity and All Saints College in Horsforth, just twenty minutes down the round, I knew very little about the city and it was a real pleasure to discover its stunning architecture and some fantastic destinations right in Bradford's heart. There are many plans in the pipeline for its large scale, much-needed regeneration and these have apparently been in place for some time - but I was saddened to discover these look unlikely to be delivered in the coming years. Confidence is certainly lacking from all quarters, although we did meet individuals who were excellent ambassadors and who were trying to drive change and work collaboratively. These people weren't from the council.
It was apparent from the main stakeholder session that at the crux there is a leadership issue and a reluctance for those in charge to take responsibility - despite the Nike-esque cries to "just do it" from all corners of the room (echoed around the city). Yes, things are never as simple as they first appear and as alluded to here, but Bradford could be a real destination and I hope its leaders do find the courage, energy and investment to finally make it happen. All those invested in the city deserve it.
One thing that really resonated with me and the other North East people I travelled with, was the fact that the North East is much further on than perhaps we realise. We are now so used to looking forward and achieving our next goal, that we sometimes forget to look back and celebrate what we have achieved. Bradford is experiencing many of the issues we have overcome and hopefully it will be able to look to us for ideas, knowledge and inspiration as it continues its onward journey.
In NewcastleGateshead Initiative we have a fantastic destination marketing agency that successfully communicates the strengths of Newcastle and Gateshead and the region to national and international audiences, complementing and extending the work carried out by the regional development agency and tourist information centres. Its dedicated team bring in a wealth of media and visitors who spend thousands in contribution to our local economy.
On top of this we now have 1NG, the delivery agency for One NorthEast and Newcastle and Gateshead Councils. The latter have set the strategy and provided the investment, the 1NG team are already underway with making key projects happen that will again change the landscape and create jobs, wealth and prosperity. A great example for Bradford in itself.
In short, this week helped me realise one thing and that is we have a lot to be thankful for but we're not resting on our laurels. Doesn't it make you proud to be a Geordie?