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Wednesday, 18 September, 2002, 15:51 GMT 16:51 UK
Bradford embarks on diplomatic mission
Paul Brookes, director of Bradford's Capital of Culture bid, on their embassy roof terrace
Paul Brookes holds his passport to Bradford

The brass plaque on the door is almost as smart as the door staff outside the impeccable central London address: not bad for an embassy that's only going to be open for two days.

It's been set up by the City of Bradford as part of a bid to become European Capital of Culture in 2008.

Plaque outside embassy
The embassy includes displays on the best of Bradford
They also want to convince Londoners like me there's more to the place than curry, riots and industrial decline after a survey showed most southerners don't even know where it is.

Bradford's temporary diplomatic mission doesn't have quite the same official footing at the court of St James' as their Trafalgar Square neighbours from Canada and South Africa.

The 'embassy' in fact amounts to half a dozen rooms and a roof terrace hired from an incredibly upmarket hotel.

Passports available

But it does have an 'ambassador' - former film director Lord Putnam - and 'cultural attaché' in the form of TV personality Richard Whiteley.

Passports and visas are issued, although they are probably of little use beyond Leeds-Bradford airport, and there is, of course, a diplomatic drinks party planned.

Will a certain chocolate sweet deployed by ambassadors across Europe to spoil their guests be served, BBC News Online asks duty diplomat Paul Brookes?

UK's Capital of Culture hopefuls
Brighton and Hove
Inverness Highland
He smiles, but for the Capital of Culture bid director this is a deadly serious business.

"We're here to try and change the misconceptions about what Bradford is among people who haven't even been there, we want to show that Bradford has some amazing jewels."

He cites as just a few examples the National Museum of Photography, Film and TV, city son David Hockney's showcase gallery and shops at Saltaire and Bronte country around nearby Haworth.

"We also wanted to get in touch with the 'ex-pats' of Bradford, those who were born or spent time there and are now in London, and get them behind our bid."

This is no idle PR boast to back-up the 'embassy' image: as he speaks, as if on cue, Bradford ex-pat Kader Iqbal wanders in.

The 49-year-old security supervisor arrived in London three years ago to find work.

He saw adverts for the embassy in the local press and has popped in to claim a passport. As a proud Bradfordian, he's delighted to pose with his visa stamp.
Kader Iqbal
Kader Iqbal, another proud passport owner

"I miss it a lot. The York stone houses, the better public transport, the calmer pace of life, the way you can get on a doctor's list or whatever when you want.

"Then of course I have a lot of friends there still. I try and visit them when I can but it's difficult."

He backs his city of birth all the way for its Capital of Culture bid: "They've got a good chance, they deserve it and I wish them well."

Music to the ears of Mr Brookes - but it's the unconverted he needs to preach to.

"There are all the stereotypes," he sighs. "Bradford's the place of riots and crime, a place of industrial decline and curries, ugly architecture and poverty."

Bradford's bookies boost

The efforts being made to counter that, and win over the politicians deciding where the 2008 title goes, are impressive.

The embassy is just one part of a purring machine publicising Bradford's wide-ranging attractions and achievements under the slogan "one landscape many views".

Thanks also to the support of Bradfordians like pop star Gareth Gates, the city has risen from near bottom of the City of Culture bookies' form book to near top.

Gareth Gates' plaster palm print
Gareth Gates is lending a hand to Bradford's bid
The embassy jaunt at a hotel where rooms cost from over £100 a night is considered well worth it.

Mr Brookes insists he doesn't know how much it cost - although corporate sponsorship is helping - but the long term benefits, he says, could be "enormous".

Above all, winning the Capital of Culture designation is expected to trigger a surge of economic investment and confidence.

That, these diplomats-for-a-day hope, will mean job creation and higher living standards long after the plastic, brass-effect plaque outside has been taken down.

See also:

18 Sep 02 | England
04 Apr 02 | UK
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