Bradford. It’s the gritty Northern city par excellence. I grew up in nearby Keighley and I know the city well. A place of light and dark. Very David Peace. The city where you met Father Christmas at Busby’s, but also the city of the Yorkshire Ripper. Looking at the empty shops that are such an unwelcome characteristic of Wool City today, it’s hard to imagine that during its 19th century heydey it was one of the richest spots on earth. Stupendous fortunes were built on textile manufacturing, reflected in the architecture of the city. That’s the remaining architecture. Car-centric Bradford Metropolitan District Council has been vandalising the place since the late 50s, something which served as a backdrop to my favourite film, Billy Liar. Recent ‘innovations’ have been plans to demolish the much-loved (if sadly no longer used) Odeon and the disastrous and never-ending saga of Westfield. The perfectly preserved industrial landscape of Thornton Road was swept away with hardly a murmur. The vacant lots haunted by willowherb and plastic bags are waiting for development that will, in all probability, never come.
The big changes are easy to see. But the small stuff – the tobacconist that vanished, the curtain shop that became a bookies – are changes so subtle they hardly register. Which is why websites like Bradford Eye are so valuable. Martin O’Connell worked in Bradford’s photographic retail trade from the 1967 to 1989. It seems he always had a camera on him and Bradford Eye is his personal record of a city that seemed to vanish overnight. Go and have a look at a time when Bradford was still a destination, rather than somewhere to go past on your way to Leeds.
More Pictures at Bradfordeye.co.uk