Bradford Literature Festival (BLF) is an inspirational arts and cultural event with a national profile, and international outlook, deeply rooted in Bradford’s diverse communities.
Established in 2014 BLF is underpinned by a fundamental love of literature, and a belief in the power of literacy and cultural engagement, to promote community cohesion and resilience and break even the most tenacious intergenerational cycles of socioeconomic deprivation and civic disengagement. An improvement in literacy and cultural education – particularly within the most diverse and disadvantaged communities – is also the first vital step towards socioeconomic and cultural regeneration.
In just 6 years, the festival has grown from a single weekend of 25 public-facing events, to a rich programme of over 450 events held across 10 days in June and July each year. The festival offers over 70,000 local, national and a growing number of international visitors the opportunity to attend one of the most eclectic, energetic and exhilarating festival programmes delivered anywhere in Britain today.
The 10 days of public programming sit alongside a 6 day Schools Programme, as well as year-round Schools and Community Engagement projects which build trust with and between communities. The projects use engagement with arts and cultural content as a source of inspiration, and to develop aspiration, in some of the most disadvantaged communities to be found anywhere in the country. BLF takes social inclusion seriously and operates an Ethical Pricing Policy offering free or significantly discounted tickets to anyone who is on benefits, lives in social housing, is a refugee or asylum seeker, as well as anyone caring for a disabled audience member.
Leading cultural lights have called BLF ‘the UK’s most inspirational festival’, and ‘one of the most important avenues for talent development in Britain today’. At its heart BLF is a ‘topic-led’ festival. The programme acknowledges but is not bound by the bestseller lists, instead it is concerned primarily with centring the stories of artists and reflecting the experiences of audiences, whose socioeconomic background, ethnicity or religion, leave them often overlooked in the arts and culture sector more widely.
BLF offers not only the most diverse and provocative programming in the country, but also a unique space for impactful conversations between communities, on topics of local and international relevance – from hydro-politics to the politics of the hijab; from the next US elections to the current crisis in Kashmir; touching on cross-community concerns – such as the climate crisis, loneliness, mental health, and child poverty – in-between.
It is perhaps the only festival programme where alongside book launches, local cultural heritage, from the Brontes to Hockney, is celebrated alongside transatlantic spoken word line-ups and world-class hip hop gigs. Lectures on AI and feminist theory, rub shoulders with Sufi Whirling workshops and celebrations of Rumi and Blake; food salons focusing on Caribbean and Kashmiri cuisine sit in the brochure a few pages along from science panels on the future of food.
This fearless approach to programming, has drawn internationally renowned artists, academics, political figures and public personalities to Bradford to speak and perform, including Jeanette Winterson, Will Self, Simon Callow, Shashi Tharoor, Ben Okri, Marcus Du Sautoy, Mark Miodownik, Lemn Sissay, Carol Ann Duffy, Simon Armitage, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Akala and Lowkey.
Investment in BLF supports the revitalisation of the local economic and cultural life of the city – and helps to lay the foundations of new ways of working in communities, that could change lives not only in one city, but across the country, and not for one generation, but for generations to come.