Life in Britain’s youngest city
A Bradford, les jeunes déchantent.
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.”
A MULTICULTURAL CITY
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.
A NEW HOPE?
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.”
26% of young people were unemployed in Bradford in 2015.