by Lindsey Gray
Many of today’s school leavers will only have the one impression of Bradford, that of a poorer cousin to the glistening metropolis of Leeds, but for many of us in the workplace our memories are very different. When I was at school the highlight of my year was a Christmas shopping trip to buy gifts for my Mum, Dad, Aunties and Uncles, Grandparents etc
Before I even got to umm and ahh over gifts, one of the biggest decisions was always whether to do “the trip” to Bradford or Leeds. Both cities were on a par with one another and easily accessible by both car and public transport, both offered a variety of chain stores, independent department stores, markets etc and both would be packed with shoppers, a vibrant buzz in the air.
More often than not we chose Bradford, as my Nan lived up at Wibsey and it was easy for her to come and join us on the bus. We had moved away from Wibsey to Menston (“near Harry Ramsdens” was the easiest way of explaining our new location) and our bus, the number 654 brought us straight into the Interchange (which, incidentally, we thought of as being altogether space age in design and appearance).
I remember Chelsea Girl on a side street leading up from Broadway, across the street were shoe shops Saxone and Lilly and Skinner (or was it Dolcis ?). WHSmiths on Broadway had a huge record department (I bought my first single there, Ian Dury – What a Waste. I had to return the following Saturday and return it as it had a scratch, much to the annoyance of my Dad who was playing taxi at the time.)
Department stores Brown Muffs with it’s squeaky floors and concertina lift door, Busby’s with it’s cafeteria where, no matter how hungry we were, we were never allowed to get any food “we’ve got plenty at home” was always the answer from Mum.
I remember being transfixed by the water feature in the Kirkgate Centre and loved the markets below, full of fascinating sights and smells. As a very small child I remember wondering where all the people slept, as I thought they lived in their shop units (some probably did!).
Last week saw the opening of Westfield Stratford in East London with visitor numbers on the first day alone topping 200,000.
I ventured out to have a look on the centre’s first Saturday and could not believe the amount of people out for a Saturday shop. Granted many (like me) were there just for a look-see, but all had some cash to spend and all used some of the local facilities, even if it was just a tube or a bus.
Local estate agents in the area are already reporting an increase in property prices (due also to the huge Olympic village next door), and like it or not, investment like this has got to be the way ahead for Bradford.
Sadly the Bradford I once knew and loved is no longer around however redevelopment will regenerate Bradford and make it what once was, and will always be in my memories, the city of choice.