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How Culture is Bringing Leeds and Bradford Closer Together

City Park in Bradford. Picture: Visit Bradford

Lisa Mallaghan, Project Director at Bradford Producing Hub, writes about the relationship between Leeds and Bradford and how we’re working together…

Bradford and Leeds have an interesting relationship. We’re two very different cities but we’re so close that we blend into each other on the map. There’s a rivalry between us; Leeds is currently seen as the bigger sibling with more investment and infrastructure, and Bradford is the underdog forging its own path. We’re often pitted against each other rather than being seen as complementary. 

But I think that’s changing. Culture has brought our two cities together over the past few years in a way that I’ve never seen before. We’re working towards our own celebrations of creativity, Leeds with LEEDS 2023 and Bradford with its bid to be City of Culture in 2025, and we need each other if our projects are going to be a success. 

I was hugely excited when our cities began their bids, and of course the immediate question becomes ‘who is going to make these incredible events happen?’. There are lots of talented arts professionals in Leeds and Bradford, but the reality is that we don’t have enough. We need hundreds, if not thousands, of artists, theatre makers and producers, and many of them end up moving to London or Manchester rather than staying in West Yorkshire. 

That talent drain is why Bradford Producing Hub was created. It’s a four-year project that wants to make sure Bradford is a creative city where live performance is happening all the time. We’re testing new approaches to producing live arts; we have a Creativity Council of 19 local people who choose the performances they want to see made, we commission new shows created by and for our communities, and we’ve launched training programmes to further develop the sector, including cohorts of new producers and production managers.

When LEEDS 2023 first started up, we asked if they were facing the same problems that we were in Bradford. Did they have enough producers to make the work happen? Their honest answer was ‘no’. So together we started Get it Done, a training scheme for aspiring producers from both Leeds and Bradford. We ran development sessions over 18 months, and at the end the participants were confident enough to start getting work as producers across our two cities. 

We agreed that we needed to do more, which is why Bradford Producing Hub and LEEDS 2023 have come together again to create more training opportunities, this time in partnership with LVL / UP, starting in January. Anyone from (or working in) Leeds or Bradford can apply, and participants will develop the skills, strategies and tools of a professional producer. 

The term ‘producer’ can sound intimidating, but it’s just about organisation. They’re the people who pull all of the strings together, from developing ideas, to contracting performers to finding rehearsal space. If you’re someone who manages projects, organises people, and has a willingness to get stuck in, then you’re a producer – or you’d make a fantastic one.

Bradford and Leeds will never be directly comparable, and nor should they be. We’re two different places with our own identities and communities. But when we work together, incredible things can happen. 

To find out more about LVL / UP follow us at @bdproducinghub or @leeds_2023.

You can read more about the opportunity and how to apply here.