A Festival tale of two cities: Leeds & Bradford

June 27, 1951 | Filed under: Yorkshire Post

This is a tale of two cities. It starts with a question. Why has Leeds wrapped itself up in a mile of bunting and a thousand flags while Bradford, only eight miles away, goes about in its working clothes?

Leeds, some Bradford people say, has dressed itself up merely for an occasion:- the Festival of Britain travelling exhibition on Woodhouse Moor.

But Bradford, say some Bradford people, has not dressed itself up because it has not an exhibition.

If the travelling exhibition had come to Bradford would Leeds have felt happy enough to bring out its bunting and its flags; would Leeds then have had its open-air shows at Temple Newsam and its exciting shop window spotting competition?

Bradford in its working clothes is in workaday, down-to-earth mood.

The Lord Mayor of Bradford, Alderman Horace Hird is fond of pageantry, but he says, “On this occasion those who are looking for the spectacular must go outside our cities.” He himself hopes to see the festivities at Bolton Castle – one of the places outside Bradford with an unrivalled setting.

“People have different ideas about how the Festival should be celebrated,” he told me, ” This is very desirable. So far almost every celebration has been of a transient nature – something which pleases for a week and is moslty forgotten a week after. My own idea – and one which as Lord Mayor I have put into concrete form – is of an enduring nature. Every citizen has a chance to play an active part. I have launched an appeal for funds to try to bring happinesss to the aged deaf and dumb. This, for many years, will be a memorial to the way Bradford people recognise Festival of Britain year.”

When the appeal was launched, £4,000 poured in.

Pageant memories

Bradford likes to know clearly what is being celebrated and how it can best join in the clebration. In some Corporation circles there is a feeling that local exhibitions do not pay.

“I would not like to have money invested in one,” said one official.

And he added, “The Festival idea was not sold to Bradford. Memories of the net loss of £13,000 on the Bradford centenary pageant in 1947 were clearer than the idea of the 1951 Festival of Britain.”

Bradford – although some citizens were disappointed the travelling exhibition was not coming their way – still wanted to commemorate the festival in a big way. It was Bradford which caused a flutter by proposing to send 17,000 children to the Festival in London at a cost of over £30,000. one big act like that, without bunting or flags to advertise it, would have satisfied Bradford. But the Ministry of Education did not approve.

What was left? An exhibition of works by Bradford artists at Cartwright Hall, and Education Week. There was a hnaging basket at the main entrance to the Town Hall. But recently that fell. And it has not reappeared.

What does the man in the street think about the lack of decorations? “There is nothing to celebrate,” said one man.

“The exhibition in London is too remote. It should be called the London Festival Exhibition. If the travelling exhibition had come to Bradford, the trimmings would have come out.”

Last February the Civic Society tried to enlist the co-operation of the Corporation in promoting the Festival spirit. The reply of the Corporation representative was: “The City Council are not going to spend money on festivities.”

And few people complain. It would have been different one feels if the travelling exhibition had come to Bradford.