Compassion and community on the streets in the wake of the fire
By David Pendleton
The role of the local community in the immediate aftermath of the Valley Parade fire is one of half-remembered tales and urban myth. It is perhaps understandable given that at the time the largely Bangladeshi community around the ground was one that rarely interacted with both the football club and the supporters.
It is fair to say that there was an element of fear when matches were being staged, this being partly due to the hooligan culture that was a constant theme at all clubs during the 1980s. The gulf between the football club and the local residents is something that is perhaps difficult for people to comprehend in an era where the ‘Bangla Bantams’ are now a regular feature at City’s home games.
Arguably, it was in the wake of the fire that the first tentative bonds began to be formed between the football club, its supporters and the local community. For years tales have been told of people queuing outside terraced houses in order to use the householders’ telephones; injured people being offered water and comforted in blankets; and a few badly injured supporters being driven to hospital by local residents.
Three decades on it has been decided to attempt to re-tell those stories and hopefully even reunite the helpers and the helped.
In order to achieve this, the Heritage Lottery Fund has awarded a grant to Bradford City Community Foundation for a project entitled ‘Unheard Voices?’ to document the experiences of the surrounding community affected by the events of 11th May 1985 at Valley Parade. Unheard Voices?
The project will tell the story of how the local community helped people on the day of the tragic fire in 1985 and also the stories of the events of the following days. The project, which began in February 2016, will be led by a steering group who together with a project manager and staff from Bradford City Community Foundation will recruit and train volunteers in Oral History skills to enable them to get involved in focus groups and workshops for people to share their memories.
We want to gather the memories of people who lived in the local area surrounding the football club in 1985 and also of fans who fled the ground and were helped by the local community. The project will enable these stories to be captured in a short film and a book and then to be shared. The tragic fire in 1985 was a key event in the history of the local community as it was for Bradford City football club, its fans, the people of Bradford and the whole sporting community.
If you have any stories or wish to be part of the project please contact Paula Helliwell via the football club’s community foundation via email firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 01274 706850.
I wasn’t there. As always, David and his colleagues show true grace and decency.