A Day in… Bradford

By | Category: Travel destinations

National_Media_Museum_BradfordAt tourist offices you can pick up a brochure called “Great Days Out.” The inside talks of welcoming you to Yorkshire’s greatest attractions. But Bradford isn’t there. Do the publishers, who I’m guessing are Welcome to Yorkshire, not believe that there is enough in Bradford to justify a whole day there? Is this booklet just an advertising pamphlet and Bradford chose not to spend money on it? I don’t know the answer. What I do know is that whatever you think you know about the city, it is definitely worth a day trip.
I had planned to spend four or five hours there, finding what might be of interest and writing it up. As it was I spent nearly 3 hours in just one place, quite engrossed in what I was seeing. Where were the notes I was taking so that I could write this piece? All I had was a blank sheet of paper. And what was it that had distracted me from my writing? What has occupied me for 3 hours? The National Media Museum. This free attraction covers the areas of film, radio, TV the web and photography but I suppose the attraction for most is that the relates to our everyday life, – TV. Up on the 3rd floor can be found a studio and cameras where you can play at being an actor or an announcer. You as a cameraman can focus on friends as they try their hands at being on a TV set. School parties love it. The excited noise from dozens of kids from goodness knows how many school parties echoed across all 7 floors of the museum despite the whispered cries from their teachers to shush! You’ll disturb the other visitors one teacher admonished. In fact they probably made it for the visitors because you wanted to see what was amusing them so much. As soon as they left a gallery, the rest of us went in. Apart from the magic factory on floor 4 where the kids just didn’t want to leave. Here they could play with light on what looked like old- fashioned almost fairground machines, turning handles, adjusting pinhole cameras a and calling their mates over to see the effect. All us adults could do was peer over their shoulders and regret not being able to have a go ourselves! That is for those that made it past the video games on the ground floor. I hadn’t appreciated that games had been around that long.
After my 3 hours staring at TV sets that I’m sure we had when I was a kid along with more recent “toys” like Betamax video machines ( I still have a working one in my loft.) and mini TV’s I realised what the time was and felt peckish. Down on the ground floor, there is a cafe. With home made items. A mug of tea and a cherry slice later, I was bemoaning the fact that this beats the usual fast food chains, where I’d normally grab a bite, any day of the week. By a mile. A tip. If you want a decent snack while you’re out for the day, try the local museum or gallery first. I’m rarely disappointed.
Outside the museum is a statue of J.B. Priestley, the Bradford born playwriter and author. His coat billows behind him as he walks away. And on his face is no smile. That’s because he died before he could enjoy the fun here.
To be fair to the “Great Days Out” brochure, at the back there is what looks to be an advert for the museum but there are other things to do in Bradford as well. Cramming it all in one day is going to be your problem especially if you had thought of combining it with a trip just outside the city to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Saltaire. It just isn’t going to happen unless you decide to miss something. Because Bradford has thought through its transport plan, Bradford Interchange station is just that. If you come by train you just need to go up the escalator and there are bus services to all around. The first bus I was saw was actually a National Express Coach off to Aberdare! But apart from that you can catch a free bus that will take you into the city centre. Not that it is far to walk; it just makes it easier. If you decide to walk the city hall is an imposing site opposite the station. Imposing because it is one of those very ornate Victorian edifices where one city tried to outdo another by creating something grander. Have a closer look by walking around to the front and you’ll see statues dotted around the building. They are the monarchs of England and then Britain after the union. I’m not sure I found all of them but I certainly got as far as George IV, On the ground floor is the tourist information office, very well stocked with free guides as well as souvenirs. In front of this building, there is work taking place to create a new city park which is costing them over £13 million. When finished, the building will be surrounded by either gardens or leisure areas.
The shopping centres are to be found in the centre. Earlier I suggested the free bus. One reason is that the shortest way is up Ivegate, an very steep street but at least it is pedestrianised. Up there you’ll find one of the city centre shopping centres, Kirkgate which has the usual stores that you can find in any big city these days. There are a couple of other shopping centres, one near the other station, Bradford Forster Square and the other at the square. Incidentally, it was this station that the first pullman train travelled in 1874 from Bradford to London St Pancras. Now the station is reduced to just running services to Ilkley, Skipton andLeeds. All the other connections go from the Interchange station.
So with gardens, a first class, and unusual, museum, shopping and Victorian architecture to gaze at what else is there? I should mention the Alhambra. This old theatre has been around since 1914 and is one of the most important theatres in Yorkshire with an impressive music hall pedigree. And what of the cathedral? It started as a parish church and only became a cathedral in 1919 so it’s a bit of a jigsaw puzzle rather than a building designed solely for its purpose.
Just 16 years old is the Peace Museum, which looks at those who have tried to bring peace to various parts of the world. It’s a very different museum from what one might expect from a museum. Just like the Media Museum. Which rather sums up Bradford as the place that has rather more and rather different things than you’d expect.
And I didn’t even have time to get to Saltaire.
image coutesy of Welcome to Yorkshire

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