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Bradford: City of Film
April 25, 2018Article by Paul Avery
When window-tinted trailers line the streets, snow doesn’t melt on a hot day, and it looks like there’s free breakfast but a stressed-looking person with a clipboard yells ‘that’s not for you, it’s for Keira!’, you know a film crew is in town.
This is a weekly occurrence in Bradford, where City Hall is closed for the shooting of Official Secrets, starring Keira Knightley and Ralph Fiennes – the story of British Intelligence whistle-blower Katherine Gun. City Hall’s exterior also recently appeared in Peaky Blinders, while other locations in the town feature in November’s BBC series Gunpowder, and upcoming comedy film Funny Cow.
Bradford’s disproportionate share of movie glitz is nothing new; the city has been entwined in the history of cinema since the 1890s – a fact commemorated by its 2009 designation as the world’s first UNESCO City of Film.
In addition to early advances in filming and projection technology, the city’s movie-making credits include Oscar-winning Room at the Top (1959), British classic The Railway Children (1970), and Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life (1983), as well as more recent entries including East is East (1999), The History Boys (2005), and God’s Own Country (2017).
But celebrity sightings and jobs in production crews are only one side of Bradford’s love-affair with the movies. The city is also the stage for a variety of festivals and events celebrating film-making. This year’s calendar features:
- Bradford Animation Festival – January
- Golden Years Film Festival – April
- The Drunken Film Festival (free films screened in pubs) – July
- Widescreen Weekend – October
Quirky independent festivals have swept in to fill the gap left by the Bradford International Film Festival, which sadly ended in 2016. That festival was a national institution that, in the words of its former Artistic Director Tony Earnshaw, ‘brought a touch of the red carpet, a tangible sense of glamour, the presence of living, breathing film heavyweights and the notion that the north could do it as well as the south. Some said even better. In short, it proved that the British film industry was alive and kicking outside of the M25 and shored up the heritage of filmmaking in our region that goes back to October 1888 and the very birth of moving pictures.’
The emergence of new festivals, an increasingly packed production calendar, and the acclaimed media courses available at the University attest that this spirit and tradition is still thriving in Bradford.