Until the age of 13 I spent every school holiday living with my grandmother and enjoyed a sense of freedom missing from life at home in London. Back then there was still a textiles industry in Bradford. The city was built around fabric mills with micro-communities living and working around these factories. Even in the 1970s many of these mills continued to provide employment for many of the first generation Pakistani immigrants who had flocked to Bradford in the 1950s and 1960s.
Today the mills have largely closed down, and where once the huge factories clattered to the sound of industry they are now largely populated by pigeons. The only textile mill I spotted during various drives around the city that was still in business was Hield, which continues to provide fabrics for both the fashion and furnishing markets.
In the city centre I also noticed a space earmarked for a new Westfield shopping centre aimed at lifting the city’s retail options beyond the bargain basement retailers that litter a once proud shopping destination. Judging by my cousins and their friends the younger people in Bradford are a brand-hungry lot – for reference, G-Star was the brand of choice with nods to perennial favourite Stone Island – and the introduction of a new shopping centre should go some way in dissuading them from travelling to Leeds and Sheffield. If the city can sustain the forthcoming Westfield development the icing on the cake would be the arrival of a new wave of young fashion indies.
Do you live and work in or near Bradford? If so, I would like to read about your impressions of the city and any memories you may have of the city’s illustrious history as the textiles hub of the UK.