Bradford Literature Festival (BFL) increased visitor attendance by more than 40% this year with record audiences of over 70,000. The festival’s BAME audience also grew with 51% of 2018's visitors coming from black or minority ethnic backgrounds, up from 49% in 2017.
Bradford Literature Festival has grown from a 2-day event, initially hosting just 968 visitors when it started out in 2014, to a 10-day festival boasting over 500 events across multiple venues, attracting 70,349 visitors between 30th June and 9th July 2018. A celebration of the written and spoken word "in all forms", this year its line-up included a hip-hop and spoken word poetry night featuring BAFTA and MOBO award winning artist Akala, a film screening and Q&A with Labour politician Dennis Skinner, the launch of the Brontë Stones project featuring writers Jeanette Winterson, Carol Ann Duffy and Jackie Kay, and an audience with boxer Frank Bruno.
The festival credited its “ethical pricing” policy for boosting accessibility; just over half (52%) of tickets were provided free of charge or else sold at a discounted rate. Free tickets were provided to anybody in receipt of benefits or living in social housing, those living on a state pension, refugees and asylum seekers, while discounted tickets were made available for students, senior citizens, and the disabled. Festival organisers said it has proven to be "an effective way of encouraging socio-economically diverse audiences", believing the numbers revealed over half of all visitors might not otherwise have been able to afford to attend. Diversity at the festival was recognised by attendees, with 83% of this year’s audience saying they mixed with people from different social and/or ethnic backgrounds and 84% of audiences saying they felt "a sense of inclusion" at the festival.
BLF’s school’s programme grew in 2018 as well, more than doubling session attendances this year from 12,133 in 2017 to 30,676. The programme, which is free to schools in Bradford, delivered 133 events for both primary and secondary school children between the ages of five and 16, including six dedicated schools’ days held at the University of Bradford and involving 74 schools across the Bradford district.
Festival director Syima Aslam commented: "I’m delighted with the success of this year’s festival which demonstrates a significant step-up that we as a team are exceptionally proud of. Each year BLF brings together some of the greatest writers, thinkers and personalities to create a festival of ideas, imagination and conversation, which is also a fantastic showcase for the city of Bradford, from it’s incredible heritage and beautiful architecture, to the strength of its communities and the passions and creativity of its people. It has been a great pleasure to welcome new audiences, many of whom may never have thought about visiting Bradford before, and to know that we are sending them home inspired, challenged and uplifted, having experienced the many amazing things that our city has to offer."
Malcolm le May, c.e.o. of Provident Financial Group which supports the festival, said: "In the three years Provident Financial Group has sponsored the Bradford Literature Festival we’ve watched it become an annual highlight for Bradford, with a unique and diverse programme of social inclusion and educational events which continues to raise aspirations in the city, boost literacy levels and increase skills and employability for Bradford’s young and growing population ... I’m delighted that our support has helped to drive the successful growth of the festival, made culture more accessible to all, and raised Bradford’s profile nationally and internationally. With our continued sponsorship, we hope to enable the festival to grow, attracting even more visitors, and delivering even more inspiring events in the coming years."
Lowkey and Akala