ARCHITECT Nigel Guy was at the forefront of introducing larger social housing to people from black and ethnic communities in Bradford.
By Anila Baig
Now he campaigns for the rights of those facing deportation in the midst of the Windrush scandal as well as working as a radio presenter.
He tells Bradford Means Business about his varied career.
Nigel Guy, 54, was born in Bradford to Jamaican parents, Moses and Nerissa. He grew up in Manningham and Bowling and, for many years, lived on the Holmewood estate, not known for its diversity back in the 1970s.
But Nigel, the youngest of 14 children, describes an enjoyable childhood apart from a few teething troubles.
“It takes a village to raise a child and my elder siblings were my support. I was very fortunate to have a tightknit family and they provided strength and wisdom for me.
“I remember when I was about 11 years old we all had our chores to do and I was cutting the grass on my knees with some blunt garden shears. One of the neighbours started to make comments over the fence. Back then of course there was no hate crime legislation but we conducted ourselves with dignity and they came to realise we were not to be messed about with.”
One turning point came on a summer’s afternoon when Nigel and his siblings were playing cricket on a field.
“The children on the estate joined in and before we knew it we were all enjoying a really good cricket match, competitive, fun and breaking barriers.
“Sport was a good leveller and really helped us to bond.”
Bright at school but easily distracted, he wanted to go into nursing like his aunts and two sisters.
“I’m in awe of the hard work, determination and commitment of my nursing family as they all raised families while coping with the demands of working in the NHS.
“I was inspired by these strong black and caring women in my life.”
But the careers advisor at school was not encouraging so he thought about being a joiner but a comment from his English teacher set him on a different course.
“My wonderful English teacher Mr Peter Leach was more encouraging. He said I could be whatever I wanted to be as long as I applied myself and worked hard and he suggested I join the after-school drama club known as the West Riding Youth Theatre and Usher Street Theatre Company.”
Nigel was a natural and soon taking on lead roles on stage and touring in the North with the drama group.
“It gave me a lot of confidence and helped in many ways, how to project my voice, even how to learn lines and there were other skills I learned like how to promote and the play and even negotiating with my friends to come and watch when they would have preferred to play football.”
He dropped out of his second year of A-levels to join a Youth Training Scheme and learned how to become a draftsman and was approached by a friend who asked him if he was interested in working for a planning consultant and architecture firm.
He was and he worked for the company for five years studying Building Studies and Surveying at Bradford College at night school and day release from work. He later joined the City of Bradford Architects in 1989.
“I worked with some very creative and talented people during these years.”
But he didn’t want to do things by halves so in 1992, after his first child was born, he enrolled at the University of Huddersfield to study International Architecture.
Money was tight but with the help of his wife, Marcia, and his siblings he managed to complete the degree. He even met the Royal Family of Jordan whilst studying at the University of Amman.
“The experience really taught me a lot about other cultures and especially how creative and humble students carried themselves.”
After university Nigel worked for a number of architect practices and in 1998 he took a career change as a Development Officer at Manningham Housing Association which had been set up specifically to provide homes for the communities in need of large homes for affordable rent and sales.
During his 19 years at MHA he became the Managing Director of Firebird Homes, a subsidiary development & regeneration company.
“We had a great team and built many houses in inner city areas where there was the greatest need up to six-bedroom houses to accommodate larger, extended families on brownfield sites that many developers wouldn’t go near.”
It was ground-breaking work.
Nigel left his role at MHA in June 2016 and now is a full-time people’s advocate as well as being a regular presenter on BCB Radio after appearing as a guest.
His main aim though is to work collaboratively to help create a fairer society.
“Many people from the commonwealth nations had arrived with their children or had saved hard to bring their children into the ‘Mother Land’ but now, decades on, the Windrush Generation and their descendants are being mistreated and a great number of people are or have been threatened with deportation.”
He has been a former long serving trustee and director of a number of voluntary organisations. He designed a flag in recognition of the journey and vast contributions the Windrush Generations and their ancestors have made to UK society which has been adopted by many local authorities and organisations up and down the country.
Nigel has also been busy during the Covid crisis. As Marketing and Communications Director at Windrush Generation UK – a local community organisation- he was helping to deliver food parcels and essentials to over 100 households every two weeks.
“This is great partnership working between voluntary organisations & kind benefactors.”
He is also organising and hosting cultural events for October’s Black History Month.
“Raising the standard for Black History Month in Bradford and around the UK acknowledges the diverse rich culture and heritage and this is truly music to my ears.
“October is not just for Black people to raise awareness of an array of cultural, history, heritage, achievements, gains and losses in all walks of life.”