A day in the life of Si Cunningham, Chair of Bradford Civic Society

Ahead of the national civic movement regional event in Bradford on September 30th we spoke to Si Cunningham (Chair of Bradford Civic Society) to find out how he is settling in and to see what a typical day is like in the life of a Civic Society chair. 
 
When I first took the reins at Bradford Civic Society earlier this year, I told members how I saw greater collaboration with other civic-minded groups in the city being key to our future success.
 
Ours is a fast-paced metropolitan patch with lots going on. Many different groups are taking ownership of areas that overlap with our own civic society remit – particularly in areas of conservation and regeneration.
 
I’d like to share a snapshot of a what a working day looks like for Bradford Civic Society, and offer an insight into just a few of the new partnerships we’re forging here in West Yorkshire...

A day in the life of Bradford Civic Society

When I first took the reins at Bradford Civic Society earlier this year, I told members how I saw greater collaboration with other civic-minded groups in the city being key to our future success.

Ours is a fast-paced metropolitan patch with lots going on. Many different groups are taking ownership of areas that overlap with our own civic society remit – particularly in areas of conservation and regeneration.

I’d like to share a snapshot of a what a working day looks like for Bradford Civic Society, and offer an insight into just a few of the new partnerships we’re forging here in West Yorkshire...

10am – Social Media + Blogging
Having a fully managed Twitter account (as well as Facebook and Instagram) has been hugely important for Bradford Civic Society. We’ve attracted over 700 new ‘followers’ since March – many had never heard of us before. We use it to share news and provoke conversations and debates about Bradford’s development. I like to think we have a very regular and engaged following now, so it’s really important post regular updates and respond to questions or comments. We have to be mindful that a lot of people are civic minded, but for whatever reason won’t or can’t come to events or meetings. Social media is the perfect way of staying connected with them. We’re also offering up our new website as a platform for anyone who wants to share their views about Bradford’s heritage, development, or anything really! Our first guest blogger is a senior city councilor who wanted to share his views on how the city centre should develop. We’ve also had a local photographer share some images from inside one of Bradford’s grand old mills, and that’s proving very popular. Again, this content gives us a 24/7 presence in the city – we’re no longer chained to meeting rooms.

12 Midday – Heritage catch up
For the first meeting of the day I’ve picked my favourite spot in the city centre – the Wool Exchange. It’s a beautiful building with a great view of Bradford’s finest buildings, which is fitting as this is a meeting about heritage. I’m having a chat with our city centre manager about how we can work together to make more of Bradford’s heritage assets and inspire people to learn more about their city’s built environment. I think a good relationship with our city centre manager is essential, and we’re lucky to have such a positive “can do” officer in Bradford

1pm – Welcome Pontefract!
By happy coincidence, we’ve arranged to welcome the guys from Pontefract Civic Society to Bradford today to share insight and exchange ideas for the future today. We start with a whirlwind tour of Sunbridge Wells and have a frank discussion about some of Bradford’s challenges. It’s really interesting to hear about what’s going on in Pontefract and I’m impressed by some of their efforts to increase membership and engagement. We’re hosting the Yorkshire + Humber Association of Civic Societies in September, so hopefully we’ll see lots more new faces then too.

3pm – Cuppa with our creatives
Rather than some soulless online printing company, we’re proud to be working with Bradford creatives on things like our new membership cards and website. Assembly is a co-working space in the burgeoning ‘top of town’ area of BD1, and the various freelance creatives who work there are very much friends of the Civic Society. They’ve been hugely important in helping us get our messages out there, and are also really plugged in to what’s going on in the city centre. Today I’m sending our new membership cards to print and really pleased with how they’re looking. We want to inspire good design for Bradford, so it’s important we look the part too.

3.30pm – BCB Radio
Also in the ‘top of town’ is the BCB Radio studio, and today I’m there to talk about our campaign to secure culture and regeneration funding for the Odeon. I love BCB – it’s a proper community radio station that gets to the heart of Bradford issues. After a quick interview, we discuss how we can work together in future on some special shows about various civic issues.

4pm – Sandwich
Civic Society chairs have to eat too, so there’s time for a quick butty at a new spot near the Broadway Centre. It sounds obvious, but I think it’s good to check out and support our shops and cafes in BD1 as Civic Society members – we’re ambassadors for the city and should know all the best spots. We’ve recently arranged for our members to enjoy 10% off food and drink at Sunbridge Wells, and I hope to encourage more collaboration like that.

4.30pm – Place Board
The last meeting of the day is at the City Council’s grand Britannia House building – home to the regeneration department among others. Bradford Civic Society sits on the council’s Place Board – made up of representatives from various civic groups in and around the city. It’s a chance for us to hear updates on major projects and share our own news, as well as put questions to various decision-makers from the city. It’s a very insightful meeting, and provides a bit of food for thought for future Civic Society events and campaigns.

5.30pm – Telegraph & Argus photocall
The final appointment of the day is with another important friend – the local newspaper. The T&A are hugely supportive of the Civic Society and our various campaigns. Today they’re writing a story about our Odeon petition, which requires having some photos taken in the pouring rain. I do my best “concerned Bradfordian” face, although am perhaps not at my most enthusiastic after a busy day!

6pm – Home
Unfortunately I have 25 minutes to wait for the next train (when’s this Northern Powerhouse rail coming?!) so I reluctantly force myself to have a quick and delicious pint at one of Bradford’s oldest pubs. I reflect on my notes from a busy day, and am encouraged by the enthusiasm and positivity shared by so many people in Bradford. There’s a lot to do, but by collaborating more and making new friends, I’m really excited about what we can achieve. I’ll drink to that!

Do you want to share your day as a Civic Society representative? Get in touch with Sarah James at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) and we will feature you in our weekly update.