Sunday, 27 September 2015

Bradford

Life has been full with work, events and visitors, but a couple of weeks ago one of our daughters was giving a lecture at the British Science Festival, which was held in Bradford. We were very proud of her and took the chance of going up to Bradford to hear her lecture.


I'd taken a look at Bradford on Streetview and it had looked pretty depressing, so I wasn't expecting much. I was wrong, though. It is run down, but it used to be a big important city and gives the impression of being almost on the verge of turning the corner so it will be one again.  It really felt quite welcoming.  The station at Bradford Interchange was brightly decorated with flowers, and had helpful, friendly staff.


The city centre streets were clean and it was only a short walk to City Park. There, the City Hall dominates a new public space with an elaborate water feature/fountain/lights pool, which is surrounded by cafes and shops. 



Every time we passed this pool, we saw kids having a lovely time.  This little lad (below) caught my eye, he was enjoying himself so much, splashing with all his might and singing at the top of his voice.  Unfortunately he was wearing his everyday clothes....


Suppose it was a bit mean of me to laugh when his mother suddenly noticed 


We discovered that we had arrived during the few weeks of the year when City Hall opens its doors for self guided tours.  It's a fairly new initiative, with volunteer guides of all ages, and items from the city's museums on show.  So we went into the imposing front door....



 and almost the first thing I saw was a miniature City Hall made by a local resident. I'm a sucker for miniatures.    


The stained glass windows show Bradford's motto LABOR OMNIA VINCIT, "Work Overcomes All"- and the boar's head represents an old legend called the Boar of Cliffe Wood (click the link to read it).  There is more about the coat of arms here,  I expect the ram is a reference to Bradford's history of weaving. 


The City hall is in best traditional Victorian sstyle (although in fact some of it is post-Victorian) and  I am glad to report that it was obviously cherished - it was immaculate.  The rooms are grand and high, and the corridors are long, with lots of mahogany, tiling and well polished brasswork.  This fireplace in the banqueting hall must be twenty feet high, and the frieze above it shows various symbolic characters in life size.



I really did love this fireplace, very much the kind of fireplace you might find in Hogwarts. The marble looks like magical blue flames and that's the Royal coat of arms on the fireback. 


My eye was caught by a large multi layered tapestry hung on the wall in this room. It's too intricate to show in detail, so I can only show you a part, but you might recognise the Bronte sisters, who lived nearby, and David Hockney, one of my favourite contemporary artists, as well as that boar's head again.   It's a community effort made with all kinds of media by people of all ages, and it is called "The Threads that Bind Us." It was commissioned to mark the Queen's Diamond Jubilee in 2012, and the people behind it are a couple of artists called Morwenna Catt and Lucas Stephens.  I liked the tapestry so much that I'd like to see more of their work.   


Elsewhere in the hall, the city plate and regalia were on display, among other interesting items - including one of the few death masks of Oliver Cromwell in existence - Bradford was a Parliamentary place in a sea of Cavaliers at the time of the Civil War.  Below is the Lord Mayor's Evening Jewel, although I have no idea if or why it is only worn in the evening.  


And below is the Lord Mayor's Parlour, a room which I would be very happy to have as MY parlour. The current Lord Mayor is in fact, a woman,so the Lady Mayoress's parlour opposite this one is occupied by her consort.



Bradford  was a cradle of the Industrial Revolution, so its heyday was in the nineteenth century. Its prosperity was built on wool and textile manufacture, and had about 130 spinning mills in its prime.  If I'd had a car, rather than coming by train, I'd have taken a short ride out to one of the most famous of these mills, Saltaire.  I've wanted to go there for years, and if I do  I'll post about it, but meanwhile here's a link so you can see why I want to go. 

 So there was a display about weaving in one of the rooms, where local weavers and spinners were demonstrating on looms of various types. I think this lady is weaving jute. 


Around fifteen years ago Bradford had race riots, but I have to say everyone we met seemed cheery and positive, specially compared to London.  I only visited the city centre, so it might be different in other places, but it was nice, anyhow.  When I left City Hall I came across these ladies from St. Vincent de Paul Society who had set up a living room tableau in the square.  It was created from donated second hand furniture and ornaments in order to encourage local people to recycle large objects to help others.  


One thing I have wanted to do for years is visit the National Media Museum (below)- which is free of charge and actually overlooks the City Park.   It contains, among many other wonderful things, the National Photography collection and a BFI mediatheque where you can dial up a huge variety of films. But I only managed half an hour in one of the galleries when I had to go out and meet people so that's another thing that I'll have to write about another time.



In the evening the City Park fountains light up, and although it's hardly Piccadilly Circus, the cheerful atmosphere attracted quite a few party goers all dressed in Mexican sombreros.  The atmosphere was fine, but there are a lot of pubs around - too many, in my view, for a city centre - and I'm not sure I'd want to be there by midnight.   


We went up a side street to have supper in Mylahore, which also served as an unofficial press centre during some of the British Science Festival week. It seems a very popular place.   West Yorkshire has become famous for its British Asian restaurants and Mylahore serves a mixture of Indian and modern western food in colourful, modern and cheerful surroundings.


However, all this sparkly modernity is only one aspect of Bradford. It is impossible to avoid noticing the large areas of dereliction and the neglect of so many bits of potentially wonderful cityscape.   Many of the mills are derelict.  The result is lots of beautiful wild flowers, but - !



It is sad indeed to see some of the ugly development that was inflicted on the city in the 1960s when many of the Victorian buildings were ripped down, The ugliest is a concrete monstrosity called Kirkgate, It was so hideous I didn't take a photo although I suppose I should have done. It's sad to see how neglected some of the solid well built Yorkshire stone buildings are which remain.  These would make impressive offices, don't you think?  


Too much of this, whole streets with crumbling shops, bookies, gambling parlours, pubs or low cost businesses, all built from this beautiful local stone. 


I discussed Bradford's problems with a few people at the university and a couple of people said that one issue is the lack of middle class jobs in the town. An even bigger issue was that for eight years the site for a Westfield shopping centre lay completely derelict in the city centre - although it's now being built and will open soon.  When that happens, perhaps footfall in the city centre will increase, and more of the old buildings  will be brought back to life. 

I was encouraged to see a bit of that already - this is the Wool Exchange, which has been re-used by a Waterstones bookstore. 


Here is an interior shot from ground floor level. 

''''
There's a cafe upstairs, and this is the view from that.


Managed to cut my hand and bought band-aids in a fascinating pharmacy.  This had been taken over by one of the chains, but  the area was so run down they couldn't make it pay.  It is now owned by a private individual who has turned it into something of a tourist attraction, as well as providing friendly service for prescriptions.   


The splendid old drawers are all intact, complete with names, but it's a bit of a lucky dip what you will find  - from fabulous expensive perfumes to cheap, cheerful ornaments, local products, and - yes, band aids.  


... with all kinds of items from the shop's history on display.  



I'm glad to say that it seemed quite busy and the staff were really delightful. 

I don't see myself returning to Bradford this winter - last time I visited in the winter I nearly froze to death - but when warmer weather comes again, I'll try to go back and see if the new shopping centre has attracted more people to the surrounding streets.  Bradford City centre has so much going for it, and at present it feels like a place that's just about to tip from the wrong to the right side of the tracks once more.  I hope I'm right. 

61 comments:

  1. I was scrolling through, admiring all the beauty and cheerfulness and the line from the old song, Inch by inch, row by row, going to make this garden grow. I hope your lovely city continues moving out, inch by inch.
    And, in my next life, I will be tall and graceful as your daughter.

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  2. I've never heard of Bradford but your description and photos are extremely interesting. The City Hall by the pool is extremely impressive. I love miniatures, too, and the one of City Hall is really beautiful. I've always been intrigued by the Bronte sisters - it's nice to see that they have a place on the tapestry!

    Your daughter is lovely.

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  3. I'm not familiar with this city but your photos show that there is much to recommend it. Thanks for sharing.

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  4. every time I read a new entry on your blog I get all goose bumpy and anxious to GO THERE!, I googled Bradford, so many positive things to be said. One day some body with a load of cash will have an idea and buy up all of those wonderful stone buildings! Thank you for taking us along, excellent little trip and I can see how, that far north and inland the winters may be chilly!
    I found London to be very friendly when I was there in June- must have been the sunshine!

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  5. I could happily hang out at that bookstore all day! Thanks for the lovely photos!

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  6. Very interesting post, the city centre looks well worth saving. Hope it works out. So sad to see great buildings becoming derelict.

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  7. Your daughter is a doll.
    I love when cities are on the upswing. Our little town went through a bad patch but the police knuckled down and it seems that businesses are coming back. It is a wonderful feeling to be proud of your town again.

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  8. I've never visited Bradford...but your post and photographs brought your visit to life for me...I hope it will recover its life without becoming infested by 'artisan' this and 'eco' that shops.

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    1. Sometimes they are the salvation of a place, though. Until we found Waterstones cafe it was pretty hard to find anywhere enjoyable to have a cup of tea!

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  9. Wow - the City Hall looks magnificent, inside and out! I would love to get lost in that book store...and, oh, all those drawers in the pharmacy!

    I hope you are right with your feeling about the town turning a corner.

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  10. Bradford has obviously reinvented itself since I was there many years ago. It looks wonderful - especially those fountains!

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  11. This was so interesting, Jenny. That city hall is so grand and magnificent. I do hope Bradford revives and becomes a destination again. Those old buildings are so lovely, all the intricate details and carvings and ironwork! Also, I looked it up on the map and see it is not far from Halifax. Family on my father's side came to the US from Halifax in the late 1800s and they all worked in the mills there. Found them in the census rolls; even was able to get the marriage certificate of my great-great grandparents.

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    1. Have you looked on street view to see if the places where they lived are still there? I like to watch an "ancestors" programme on TV and what strikes me is that when you see the conditions many people had to live in it is not surprising that the intelligent ones emigrated to a place where their talents would have a better chance of flourishing. Still despite the widespread poverty there was also great energy and these towns have a lot of character and interest.

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  12. Such nice potential! You are right, i hope it does come back, the way parts of our city downtown are coming back. It's a hard pull, but it can be done.

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  13. I hope you're right as this looks like an interesting place. You've amassed a diverse set of photos, so there's a lot to look at and I love the fountain at night...Was rather hoping to see the eclipse, but none to see with rain and clouds.

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  14. From your description and pictures, it really looks like Bradford could be in for a good future. All those derelict buildings could certainly become offices or flats, which I am sure are always in demand.
    The huge fire place really does look like something out of Hogwarts! And the book shop and pharamcy are great, too.
    Thank you for this very interesting post!

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  15. Another great post filled with wonderful photos.

    It's good to see that little boy having good, innocent fun just as little kids should do. :)

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    1. Yes, it was wonderful to see his glee. His mother wasn't really too cross at his soaking wet clothes, although she did make him get out of the pond. Hopefully next time they come she will bring along his bathing suit!

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  16. You have made Bradford look very beautiful, but if get that it doesn't all look like this. It would be such a shame to lose those local stone buildings. The film museum is on my to-visit list. I need to get up North. With kids we usually visit the same parts of the country over & over, visiting family & friends. Need too make some friends in Yorkshire.

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    1. There are some seriously grungy bits in Bradford. I think it probably needs more people in middle income jobs. The work there seems to be mostly warehousing etc. but if they could just brighten up the bits with the fabulous architecture a bit more I think that companies might start moving in accountants and other office based/professional businesses and they in turn would bring the money. Maybe the new Westfield will do it although such malls are often inward looking. Still, Westfield was the making of Shepherds Bush in London.....

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  17. Firstly I must mention - yet again - my admiration for your ability to see and catch such wonderful 'photos of the moment' (which is what I've decided to call them from now on). The last time I was in Bradford was more years ago than I care to remember and it, like so many of the Lancashire and Yorkshire mill towns, was a very dismal place with its former grandeur well hidden. It's good to see the changes that are being made.

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    1. Thank you Graham. "Photos of the moment", I like that idea and it sums up what I try to do too! Yes, it's a matter of hoping that they can make enough changes and sustain the ones they've made so that the town reaches the tipping point and it stops being such a struggle. A matter of momentum. I think they're nearly there.

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  18. Wow - that's quite a tour, Jenny, from your daughter's presentation (you must have been incredibly proud), through to a virtual tour of Bradford. Love the shots. It's a city visited, but not well known, so far as I'm concerned - and I need to rectify that. I hope Waterstones hangs on - bookshops are becoming as rare as hen's teeth. I guess it's fair to say that large chunks of once industrial Britain look a little battered as the world changes around us. Yet during its industrial heydey there was hideous poverty in Bradford - Titus Salt built Saltaire where it is partly in an effort to give his workers a better life. You'd enjoy a visit there - I think there's a permanent Hockney exhibition.

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  19. Your girl looks so very professional and elegant at the Science Festival, Jenny, and I can imagine how proud you were. It is wonderful to see our adult children achievements. Bradford does look interesting, and I hope it gets the resurgence it deserves. The tapestry is amazing, as is the Lord Mayor's parlour...I think quite a few mayors would be very jealous of that one. I really loved the former Wool Exchange building, and how beautifully it works as a bookshop. Let us hope there is more of such enterprises. Great post.

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    1. Thank you Patricia. I'll show her your comment! Her work is pretty interesting and it was a most fascinating trip for all of us. I was so glad they'd kept the Wool Exchange. The vandalism was appalling in some of these Northern towns when they just wanted to get rid of the past.

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  20. I have only visited Bradford once and was very disappointed with it. It's good to see that it has improved. Perhaps now we can go again.

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    1. I would suggest trying in a year's time Valerie, By then the Westfield will be open and perhaps there will be signs of what effect it is having on the city centre. Without looking at the plans in detail it's hard to know if they'll suck people out of the old centre even more, or bring them back. I suspect the latter, since they are very central. It's going to be crucial to develop attractive cafes, pubs and shops in which people like to linger and browse in the older areas. Potentially it could work so well.

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  21. I agree, Jenny, to see such nice derelict buildings it's very sad. I've never been to this city and having a virtual stroll with you I liked it! The city hall is so beautiful especially I love this tapestry, it's great work.

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  22. You pointed out so many beautiful places in Bradford but blight (which usually means poverty) can keep people away and impact their economy even more. We have the same problem here with some cities and towns that just can't seem to overcome their problems because no one is willing to invest in their future.

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    1. Yes, it can take a long, long time. I think people often under estimate how long. Even when an area has become desirable and funky, it can still look pretty bad in parts. I heard that people are starting at last to invest in Detroit again. It looks so scary but there are such amazing looking buildings there too.

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  23. What a fascinating city. I do so hope it is on the rebound. What a terrific place to visit.

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  24. As you say, it looks very much like a city centre that's about to tip over from struggling and tatty to thriving and smart. It obviously has a lot going for it, what with the City Park, the Media Museum, the restaurants etc. If it's one of those cities that hard-pressed low-income Londoners are fleeing to, like Leeds, that could make all the difference.

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  25. It looks like an interesting place to visit. I don't think I've ever been to Bradford.

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  26. What a beautiful, poised daughter you have!
    As usual, I loved the tour. So much to see. I really hope that they save those old buildings and repurpose them--like the book store. Interesting how they have such a modern neon style mixed with the old historical brick buildings. Oh, and that parlor--gorgeous! I wanted to settle in with a good book or write a letter at the table there. :)

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    1. Me too, Rita. I have a kind of pipe dream about owning the kind of place with 30 foot long Victorian rooms 20 feet high with fireplaces and huge windows, and Victorian furnishings. I don't think about myself vacuuming it ! :) thank you for the kind words about our daughter, I'll pass them on.

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  27. A lovely and encouraging post, Jenny! I have never been to Bradford, but my brother-in-law comes from the city and I think he might be pleased to see your enthusiasm. If you don't mind, I'll send him the link to it and share the post. It's lovely that so much renovation has already been done and your photos are just beautiful!

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    1. Yes, please do share the link, Val. There is still much to do there but as I said, it has the feeling that they might be about to turn the corner at last - before too long.

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  28. I googled Bradford and learned that it's a rather large city. It certainly sounds like a good place to visit although the chances that I'll ever get to England again are remote. If you nearly froze to death in Bradford's winter, you wouldn't want to be in Minnesota in the winter!

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    1. I had relatives who lived in Minn. and from what they said, I agree with you about the winter! :)

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  29. You have sure helped me want to visit Bradford someday. Thanks!

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  30. I am glad you liked Bradford. It is the city of my birth and the city from which most of my family came. It has improved a lot over recent years and the area around the City Hall is so much more attractive than it used to be. The Waterstones is one of my favourite bookshops in the country and there is beginning to be a vibrancy about the place again after decades of depression. We live only a few miles from Bradford so if you ever make a return trip let me know and I will take you for a coffee in Waterstones. Alan

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    1. Thanks Alan, I will take you up on that and will be really interested to hear more of your thoughts about Bradford too. Many years ago I had a friend with an old unrestored country cottage near Ilkley and we stayed there once or twice (great but freezing!!!l) and at that time all the demolition and ill advised redevelopment in the city centre was appalling to see. Ilkley was fine though I haven't returned there for years.

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  31. Strange how our image of the whole of the North of England can be coloured by a few episodes of Coronation St and the voice of Eddie Waring. Somehow the monumental town halls and other grand buildings put up by the Victorians are largely unsuspected by those who've never visited our northern industrial towns. To answer the question you posed on my blog Yes, the steam engines always seem to have been brightly painted, particularly the fairground ones.

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  32. You have a beautiful daughter,Jenny. She looks so intelligent. You must be very proud of her.
    Bradford is such a beautiful and interesting city. I enjoyed strolling the city with you. I especially like the fourteenth photo and the history. Yes,the fireplace is gorgeous!!
    Have a good new week ahead.

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  33. I've only been to Bradford once and had a fab time.... saw In Brugee at a new film centre that had just opened that night and Micheal Palin was there, had a delicious curry and popped over the moors to Haworth to check out the Bronte's hood....... brilliant!!

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  34. You must have felt very proud listening to your talented daughter Jenny - it is interesting how we decide what a place looks like without ever having visited - Bradford looks so much better than I would have pictured it.

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  35. PS -- just went to theWorld Heritage site and I would be going to that wonderful Saltiere with you. Was it the history, the WWI, the nearby llama/alpaca farms or the writers colony that got to you?! For me it would be all of them!

    And I also forgot to mention my congratulations on hearing your lovely daughter give her presentation. I suspect this is rather a big deal to present at a national science festival and I know you had to be bursting with pride!

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  36. Hello, Jenny. Bradford City Hall looks both magnificent and beautiful. I like traditional European stone buildings and it’s a pity for such buildings to be neglected. I’d like old buildings to be reused for various uses. I feel familiar to the buildings like the 21st image because such buildings were in the Former Foreign Settlement of Kobe which was designed by British civil engineer J.W. Hart and constructed on the basis of European modern city planning. The streets are protected not only through preservation but also with the understanding of how the landscape could be developed through the construction of new buildings. Needless to say, some old buildings were renovated and some collapsed ones by the earthquake were rebuilt using the original materials as much as possible. (The posts are labelled as “Former Foreign Settlement of Kobe”.) While I prefer a small independent book store on the corner, I’d like to stroll through the shelves and have a rest upstairs at the Waterstones bookstore. Last but not least, my respect to your daughter both intelligent and beautiful.

    Yoko

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  37. Another great tour!
    So good to see the old buildings kept up and reused.
    So good to know the family is as bright as yourself!
    Good pictures and good history!

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  38. Fascinating post, Jenny. Although you focused on the positives of your time there, it's sad to see the closed up buildings and derelict mills. I could provide similar-looking photos from my own town. The pharmacy looks amazing though - and that Waterstones building...! I enjoyed the link about the boar on the town coat of arms - thanks for sharing.

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  39. Thank you very much for this post. I had heard a lot about Bradford and I must admit it was not very pretty. Your photos are so beautiful.

    Greetings from London.

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  40. Thanks to everyone for the comments, I really appreciate them all and read them avidly! It is funny, although I have been blogging for years I still puzzle about how to manage comments, I wonder if anyone else has this problem. The 3 alternatives seem to be to reply individually, reply in a lengthy response taking in a lot of peoples' different points, or say nothing. I THINK it's best to treat it like I would do if it was a real life party, i.e. respond to everyone individually, but that can feel pretty frantic. Sometimes it is good just to listen and nod - but then perhaps people think you're not interested or not thinking about it. (I do in fact think about everything that people write in their comments). A "group" response to things that several people have said interests me most because it draws together different ideas and aspects, but I don't think many people would see a "group response" unless they're looking out for one. I think that responses only get sent on to subscribers if they're linked to their own comments. Hmmmmm.........

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    1. I've seen bloggers quit over the comments. It is so so so overwhelming and in fact, I am actually thinking about stopping for a while because it eats up so much time. I think that you should do what fits in your schedule after the important work is done. Visit other people's blogs and only answer questions in your comment section. I think most people don't expect a reply. They leave a comment because they want you to know that they came for a visit. Sometimes, I think we over-think things and put too much emphases on details. Hmmmmmm, maybe I should listen to my own advise. You know after I leave a comment, I rarely go back to see if it was answered. Stay sane and worry about your "real" life and then answer if you have time, visit if you have time.

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  41. Seems such a fine place to be, and the photos are certainly lovely. Greetings to you!

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  42. A wonderful post. Has certainly made me want to visit Bradford

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  43. The problem is you are popular.#If like me very few comment it is easy to reply, however popular folk would spend all day dealing with all the comments. Fame brings some degree of hardship...

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    1. To be fair I'm an anonymous worm compared to One Direction :)

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  44. Enjoyed Bradford through your post. What an impressive City Hall and I liked looking at the miniature as well. Your daughter looked quite comfortable as a speaker. Hope Bradford keeps moving forward and that you return and share it with us one day.

    darla

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  45. I am impressed by that wool exchange building! I just finished reading Ken Follett's "World Without End", in which the wool trade played an important role. Those characters eventually built themselves a wool exchange, but not as fancy as the Bradford building!

    The wildflowers are beautiful. At least there is some advantage to the underdeveloped areas.

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  46. Another really fascinating post, and good to see your beautiful daughter. Waterstones do some clever things with old buildings - there's an excellent Bank conversion in Birmingham.

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  47. I found this really interesting. Most of what I have heard or read about Bradford tended to be negative, so I was pleasantly surprised to see your photos. I absolutely love those old Victorian buildings, and I'm always puzzled when they are torn down and replaced with tacky modern architecture. I do hope the new development will help give the city a boost, and that it will lead to a renewed interest in fixing up some of those abandoned buildings.
    The city hall is beautiful. That fireplace!!

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