Life in Bri­tain’s youn­gest ci­ty

A Brad­ford, les jeunes dé­chantent.

Vocable (Anglais) - - Édito | Sommaire - AMMAR KALIA

295 000 ha­bi­tants, une uni­ver­si­té, un aé­ro­port par­ta­gé avec la ville de Leeds et un club de foot, le Brad­ford Ci­ty AFC : Brad­ford est à pre­mière vue une ville an­glaise des plus or­di­naires. Seule­ment voi­là, avec plus de 30% de sa po­pu­la­tion ayant moins de vingt ans, Brad­ford est la ville la plus jeune du Royaume-Uni. En­quête sur une ville qui se heurte au drame du chô­mage…

When it comes to grim ur­ban sta­tis­tics in Bri­tain, the ci­ty of Brad­ford tops ma­ny lists. Po­lice sta­tis­tics name Brad­ford as ha­ving the hi­ghest crime rates in West York­shire, while a 2014 YouGov poll na­med it Bri­tain’s “most dangerous ci­ty”. Brad­ford al­so has one of the hi­ghest le­vels of youth unem­ploy­ment in the UK: 26% of young people were out of work in 2015, up from 11.3% in 2004.

2. What makes these sta­tis­tics par­ti­cu­lar­ly trou­bling, ho­we­ver, is the one that ties them all to­ge­ther. More than 30% of the po­pu­la­tion here are cur­rent­ly un­der the age of 20, and the ci­ty has the hi­ghest num­ber of un­der-16s in the coun­try, gi­ving Brad­ford the unu­sual title of being the UK’s youn­gest ci­ty. To Adam Ma­thers, 17, that means one thing: over­crow­ding.


3. “It’s too small and crow­ded here, people feel there’s no way out,” says Ma­thers, who was born and rai­sed in the ci­ty and is now one of the 20,000 stu­dents at Brad­ford Col­lege. “Young people are always com­pe­ting for the same jobs. There isn’t much am­bi­tion.” 4. With near­by Leeds a more at­trac­tive pros­pect for young job­see­kers – it is the se­cond lar­gest em­ploy­ment centre out­side of Lon­don, and home to the head­quar­ters of glo­bal com­pa­nies in­clu­ding As­da, Tet­ley and First Di­rect – those who stay in Brad­ford have limited op­tions. Af­ter the clo­sure of the ci­ty’s tex­tile mil­ls, its lar­gest em­ployer, the ma­jo­ri­ty of jobs in Brad­ford now fall in­to skilled trades, re­tail and ad­mi­nis­tra­tive sec­tors.

5. “A lot of our stu­dents don’t leave Brad­ford, they don’t go out of this bubble,” says the col­lege’s head

of health and social care, Wes­ley McG­lin­chey. “We’ll take them on trips to the sea­side be­cause they’ve ne­ver seen sand or the sea. You have to open their eyes to the world and help them de­ve­lop as­pi­ra­tions.”

6. That’s dif­fi­cult when Brad­ford is al­so fa­cing an un­pre­ce­den­ted bud­get cri­sis due to aus­te­ri­ty. The coun­cil’s re­ve­nue sup­port grant, which was £183m in 2013/4, will be eli­mi­na­ted by 2020.

7. Since the launch of the ci­ty centre area ac­tion plan in 2015, which pro­poses in­ves­ting £75m un­til 2030, in­fra­struc­ture has de­ve­lo­ped ra­pid­ly. Near the col­lege is Ci­ty Park, with its vast pa­ved “mir­ror pool” – the UK’s lar­gest ur­ban wa­ter fea­ture – and the sub­ter­ra­nean shop­ping halls of Sun­bridge Wells, along­side the West­field-ow­ned Broadway centre. Fu­ture in­vest­ment plans in­clude crea­ting a busi­ness centre near Ci­ty Park, 3,500 new homes, and re­no­va­tions to the Brad­ford In­ter­change and Fors­ter Square rail­way sta­tions.

8. Al­though the coun­cil is in­ves­ting to try to im­prove the ci­ty, ma­ny young people feel it doesn’t af­fect them. “While in­vest­ments make the ci­ty a more plea­sant place to live, the si­mul­ta­neous cuts in the coun­cil bud­get have af­fec­ted youth services,” McG­lin­chey says. “You can cope with your bins not being col­lec­ted eve­ry week, but things like social services for young people can ne­ver go.”


9. One rea­son for the in­crea­sed num­bers of young people in Brad­ford is its consis­tent­ly high rate of im­mi­gra­tion. It has the lar­gest Pa­kis­ta­ni po­pu­la­tion in En­gland and is al­so cur­rent­ly home to 781 asy­lum see­kers who are awai­ting a de­ci­sion on their claim.

10. Ul­mee­ra Kaur, 18, ar­ri­ved in Sep­tem­ber 2017 from Af­gha­nis­tan. She sees Brad­ford as a safe ha­ven, ra­ther than a ci­ty la­cking in op­por­tu­ni­ty. The ex­pe­rience for 18-year-old Es­te­ge­net Ser­mo­lo has been more dif­fi­cult. Since ar­ri­ving unac­com- pa­nied from a French re­fu­gee camp a year ago, ac­cul­tu­ra­ting has been a chal­lenge.

11. This iso­la­tion has led to ra­cial ten­sions among young people. “Brad­ford is a ve­ry area-orien­ted place,” says Ma­thers. “It’s split in­to the BD post­codes. For ins­tance, if you go to my area, BD2, there’s a mix of eth­ni­ci­ties, but in places like BD10 it’s ve­ry Mus­lim. You stick to your area. […].”

12. Meh­moo­na Per­vaz, 16, be­lieves the lack of sup­port for young people stems from a mi­sun­ders­tan­ding between dif­ferent ge­ne­ra­tions and cultures. “Brad­ford is a di­verse ci­ty but lots of people still don’t un­ders­tand each other,” she says.


13. Per­vaz was one of 10 wo­men aged 13 to 20 who co-foun­ded an or­ga­ni­sa­tion that is see­king to change the fo­re­bo­ding nar­ra­tive for young Brad­for­dians. Ope­ra­ting out of un­hea­ted of­fice space, ar­ran­ged by the coun­cil, next to a de­re­lict branch of KFC, the Spea­kers’ Cor­ner Col­lec­tive was laun­ched last year to ta­ckle the lack of men­tal health sup­port for young people.

14. The col­lec­tive, which takes its name from Brad­ford’s his­to­ric Spea­kers’ Cor­ner that di­sap­pea­red af­ter the se­cond world war, has since hel­ped or­ga­nise the Brad­ford Wo­men of the World fes­ti­val and is wor­king on a pa­nel with the Brad­ford NHS Trust on youth health services.

15. With the po­pu­la­tion es­ti­ma­ted to grow by an ave­rage of 2,000 people a year for at least the next 10 years, the in­herent pro­blem fa­cing Brad­ford’s youth – too ma­ny people com­pe­ting for too few jobs – will conti­nue.

16. Ma­thers has his eye on mo­ving to Lon­don or to the US, to pur­sue a ca­reer in Ame­ri­can foot­ball. “The next ge­ne­ra­tion of Brad­ford isn’t pro­mi­sing, be­cause eve­ryone will set­tle too ea­si­ly,” he says. “Brad­ford will stay the same as it’s always been.”

(An­drew Tes­ta/The New York Times)

26% of young people were unem­ployed in Brad­ford in 2015.

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