Monday, 22 May 2017

Bradford

I'm a big fan of The Wire. It's a contemporary portrait of the city of Baltimore, told through the lenses of its police, criminals, dock workers, media, education system, and politicians (and the overlap between all these groups). It's not television that immediately hooks you, and at times it can actually seem quite dull: it's not sensationalist or prone to excessive drama. But it shows very, very clearly a portrait of a city in a very bad place.

I don't know whether Baltimore has improved since The Wire was made. But I do see similarities between that depiction of Baltimore and Bradford.

Walking around some parts of Bradford give you the feeling that there is very little hope for the people who live there. If people are largely a product of their environment, then anybody who manages to better themselves coming from such an environment has probably beaten the odds.

Bradford's economy is based on nothing. I asked a couple of people this question and was given the same answer: there is nothing left in Bradford. Nearby Leeds has been given all the attention and investment. Bradford has been left to decay slowly.

Despite the big fancy new Broadway shopping centre (six years in the making), the main shopping street in Bradford, Darley street, has barely any shops left open. Instead it has beggars and homeless people sleeping in the large entrance ways to what used to be big high street shops. Check out Google Streetview to see for yourself.

The big mill in the photos below, next to Airedale road, had a drug dealer standing nearby on a grassy mound, surrounded by litter, including drug paraphernalia. To be standing there as the world's most obvious dealer, in the middle of the afternoon, 100 metres from Lidl, is pretty brazen. (He didn't know the name of the mill, and I can't find any information online about it.) A couple of corners looked like scenes ripped straight from The Wire, with youths sitting on their stoops. (I didn't think any of these people would appreciate having their picture taken, but I would like to go back and get slightly more under the skin of such things..)

There is some development work happening in and around the city centre, but really it seems (at the moment) like it's rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. If the city council and property developers are hoping for some kind of tipping point where the forces of gentrification suddenly take hold I think they are going to be very disappointed, for some time to come.

If Baltimore has improved since The Wire then perhaps the city council of Bradford could learn some lessons from them. Otherwise this urban decay in Bradford, and other places in the region, is going to turn into gangrene.