Laying the foundations for Bradford to thrive as UK City of Culture

Bradford Culture Company Limited

Leading the bid to help Bradford become the UK City of Culture in 2025.

Bradford was one of a record 20 cities bidding to be named as the UK’s City of Culture for 2025. genecon worked as an expert research partner to demonstrate how arts and culture positively impact the lives of individuals and communities across the city. In May 2022, Bradford was unveiled on the BBC’s The One Show as the winning bid.

At a glance:

genecon was hired as a trusted research partner to support the bid and inform the development of a new culture strategy for the city

Our focus was on finding an intelligent way to measure the social value generated by arts and culture activity

Bradford’s bid was successful, and the city will be City of Culture in 2025

Image courtesy of Karol Wyszynski

The challenge:

The title of UK City of Culture is awarded to one place across the UK every four years. It is a prestigious designation, with the successful cities such as Coventry, Hull and Derry seeing major economic and regeneration benefits as a result of being named City of Culture. The bidding process is therefore highly competitive.

As the youngest city in the UK, culture is at the heart of Bradford’s regeneration ambitions. External perceptions of Bradford were considered to be mixed by the bid team, and bidding for UK City of Culture 2025 was therefore seen as a major opportunity to mark a new chapter in the city’s story.

We were appointed to develop a model to measure the social value generated by arts and cultural activity in Bradford, and to develop a Theory of Change model to capture all aspects of the bid and the outcomes and impacts that the Bradford’s UK City of Culture 2025 bid will achieve. As well as supporting the bid, our work informed the development of the city’s new 10-year culture strategy ‘Culture is Our Plan’.

Image courtesy of Visit Bradford

How we did it differently:

Providing evidence of economic impact is an important factor against which UK City of Culture bids are judged. Being able to quantify social value alongside economic value formed a key unique selling point for Bradford’s bid. And, being able to capture the essence and exciting dynamics of the entire bid via a concise Theory of Change model forms one of the cornerstones of success for such very competitive bids.

Our initial approach was to understand the client’s needs in detail as the bid evolved. Measuring and monetising social value is not as straightforward as modelling headline economic value, so we brought fresh thinking and a creative approach to work out how to measure and evidence this in the most meaningful ways for Bradford and to develop a bid that would set the city apart. For the Theory of Change aspect we adopted a co-production approach to ensure the Bradford 2025 bid team could input at key points, and to enable our work to also shape the emerging final bid.

We brought together a diverse, multi-skilled team with experience of social value measurement and modelling.

Image courtesy of Visit Bradford

We worked closely with the client and stakeholders to make sure our work was in line with their expectations and the other work taking place to support the bid.

Our research built up a diverse picture of the vibrant local arts and cultural activity in Bradford, setting this within the strategic and socio-economic context of the bid. We consulted a diverse spectrum of local stakeholders to ensure the research absorbed local perspectives and important existing and planned activity. The Theory of Change we developed connected overall strategic objectives of the bid, the planned City of Culture activities and linked these to the positive social and economic outcomes and impacts for the people and communities of Bradford.

A series of stakeholder interviews and case studies helped develop the Theory of Change, as well as refine the measurement methodology to include health and mental health, wellbeing, civic pride, happiness, young people’s lives and volunteering and employment.

We produced a baseline analysis of the social value of the arts and cultural activity in Bradford and presented a strategic level report to the client, which included recommendations on how to improve social impact through stimulating more activity.

Image courtesy of Visit Bradford

Our impact:

In May 2022 it was announced that Bradford had been successful in its bid to become UK City of Culture 2025. Bradford received £275,000 in initial seed funding to help develop plans for its milestone year of cultural activities and events.

“The selection is never about whether one bid is better than another, it is more that one bid has the potential to make a bigger and deliverable impact.” Sir Phil Redmond
Chair of the Independent Advisory Panel
  • Banner Image courtesy of Karol Wyszynski