Bradford BID’s Super Soapbox Challenge

Bradford BID’s Super Soapbox Challenge

Bradford is never a more exciting place to be than when it’s streets are brought to life by throngs of people joining together in celebration of a cause or event.

It’s called “animation” and it has been one of the key strategies of the Bradford Business Improvement District’s core business plan since it was launched at the start of 2019.

Helping the city centre to thrive, in an era when the whole purpose and function of town and city centres is under scrutiny, is the major objective for the BID and there is no better way to achieve it than to bring in more people to enjoy its facilities. Every business sector – be it retail, hospitality or leisure – needs customers and every person on the street is a potential customer.

In its first three-and-a-half years, the BID has worked phenomenally hard to drive footfall, even though much of that period has been hampered by the biggest public health pandemic of modern times. From its Getting Bradford Back to Business campaigns to the launch of Bradford at Night, from its five-year hot-washing, graffiti and chewing gum removal policies to its support for, and organisation of, public events, the BID has won many plaudits from residents, visitors, tourists and the businesses that finance it through an annual levy.

The talking point of 2021 was undoubtedly the BID’s massive Firework Display which drew an estimated 10,000 people to the city centre to kick off the festive season.

And 2022 has already built on that success with the hugely successful Super Soapbox Challenge. The full-day free event saw 21 teams competing in their whacky and wonderful home-made creations across a 350-metre downhill course lined with straw bales, safety fencing and huge crowds, which reached an estimated 17,000 people across the day.

The event gave a big boost to the city centre economy with hospitality businesses reporting a “rip-roaring” trade, with some even selling out of produce, and Bradford BID footfall cameras showed a 59 per cent week-on-week increase in visitors to the city centre.

Now, as it looks to start planning for a second five-year term – which will be decided by a ballot of its 600 members towards the end of next year –  the BID says it would like to make the Super Soapbox Challenge an annual event.

BID manager Jonny Noble said: “It was a really fun-packed day with lots of thrills and spills, plenty of laughs and a fantastic atmosphere. The feedback we had on the day – and since – has been amazing. People really enjoyed the event and we’ve had so many great messages from people thanking us for staging it.

“It’s clear events like this have a big impact on the local economy and those businesses that took advantage of the crowds and opened up on Sunday benefited from the fact there was so much happening on what would normally be a quiet day. Now we know how well-received it was, we hope businesses will want to support more events like this and that sponsors will come forward to ensure that we can stage it again next year and build a bigger and better event!”

Ian Ward, BID chairman and general manager at The Broadway, said: “We saw families and friends from across the district come together to enjoy the event and soak up the atmosphere. The Broadway benefited from 10,000 additional visitors to normal Sunday trade figures and we really hope the Soapbox becomes a firm part of Bradford’s calendar each year.”