Tuesday, April 25, 2017
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Arts & Entertainment

After decades of decay and decline, Bradford’s City Centre seems to be on its path to recovery. The recent reports in the national media suggest some sympathy and leniency in depicting the district.

Bradford’s image was badly bruised and brutalised after the two riots. The city, invariably, was portrayed as a very dangerous place to live and to invest by some sections of the media. Sadly, since then, all the successive national governments treated Bradford with indifference and obliviousness. The local governments also miserably suffered from feckless leadership and unimaginative, nebulous and unsustainable regeneration and economic policies.

Now after prolonged efforts made by Bradfordians including some of their representatives, the redevelopment of the city centre has commenced. It is showing speedy progress and hopefully will meet the target of completion by the end of next year.

Associated with this expensive project [Westfield], are the plans to build four new leisure sports centres, renewing of the adjacent streets to the new shopping centre and improvement of nearby roads in the area. Also, the revamping of the dilapidated Odeon cinema will be a valuable addition to the city’s cultural life and maybe a new attraction to entice tourists to the city.

However, the catalyst for most of the new initiatives was the development of City Park which started the ball rolling. The point to not forget, though, is we need the process of rejuvenation to continue to uplift this city’s economy. It is also quite apparent this process will take a great deal of time to accomplish. Nevertheless, Bradford seems to be on the right track after a long time.

The fears of any after effects of the Westfield project on the established part of the shopping area must be thoroughly examined now and serious attempts be made to allay these concerns without any unnecessary delay. To overlook these may mar the momentum and enthusiasm that is required to bring this city back to its feet.

Bradford with its syncretic and diverse mix of race, ethnicity and religious practices as well as the young population has to be acknowledged as its strength and not weakness. It is a unique city in many respects. With many of its cultures trying to seek accommodation with each other, this could be explored and encourage its residents to work together as Bradfordians to promote and safeguard the commonly shared interests of their great City. The future economy of the district in many ways will depend upon its strategic ability to consult and involve all communities at its planning stage for any new policies. One of the novel initiatives could be to develop and promote Bradford as an international City of leisure and culture. All the possible ingredients to realise this dream are present locally.

Most importantly the Council in cooperation with Chambers of Trade, Bradford University, and big businesses, has to explore every possible avenue to invite more investment to the city. The National Government must assist the local efforts in reviving the economy of the area. There is a big question mark, however for the success of the new shopping centre. Can it survive without the city achieving economic growth in other areas to argument the income of its citizens? The spending capacity of Bradfordians will be a decisive factor in determining the success or failure of the new shopping centre.

It would be wrong to predict doom and gloom for the future of the city but there should be no room for complacency and no need for despondency.

However, Bradford still has a bumpy road ahead but surely it has the ability and capability to cross all these bumps safely and successfully with prudent political leadership and its people working together for a better future for all.

Mohammed Ajeeb CBE

Former Lord Mayor of Bradford

On October 2014, at just 17 years old, Malala Yousafzai became the youngest ever winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for her resolute determination to ensure girls and children all over the world are entitled to an education. Her now internationally recognised activism began with a gunshot to the head by a Taliban member in October 2012, because of her demands for girls in Pakistan to be able to go to school. Since then, Malala has been pushed into the limelight and has delivered speeches worldwide, including the United Nations. It is with no doubt that such recognition made her Nobel Peace Prize victory inevitable at some point, but nobody would have thought she’d get it at such a young age.

However, even though the majority are fully supportive of Malala’s efforts and subsequent success, there are a minority that are rather vocal about their criticisms of her, not least because they feel Malala was not deserving of such an accolade. It is well known that the West have been backing Malala ever since she got shot by the Taliban, unsurprising, given that both share a common rival that they wish to defeat. Therefore the question arises, who are her critics if not the West?  Well, it seems the people that do not support her are in fact people from her home country, Pakistan.

Whilst many will raise their eyebrows at this fact, it is fully understandable why a minority in Pakistan dislike her. First of all, it is incredibly likely that Malala’s critics believe she has created a bad name for Pakistan due to her strong claims that essentially girls in Pakistan do not get the education they deserve and that this is untrue.  Another reason as to why Malala’s critics shun her Nobel Prize triumph is simply because they think she did not deserve it, as there are far worthy recipients within Pakistan such as drone strike victims and long serving humanitarian worker, Abdul Sattar Edhi. Others argue that she is too young and has not yet proved that she is worthy of the Peace Prize with only one year’s worth of activism.

However all of her critics aside, it is to be noted that they are but a minority compared to the vast amount of people that support her. Indeed for the Muslim world, Malala’s Nobel Laureate status now means that overall there are 7 winners of the peace prize including the likes of Yasser Arafat and Shirin Ebadi. The majority would argue that Malala Yousafzai has done her nation proud.

Meet the man behind Bradford Live and their bid to convert the former Odeon building into a state of the art concert venue.

At a time when development is in full swing and the overall ambience is positive within the city of Bradford, it is down to political spearheads, business and community leaders, residents and certain individuals who are dedicated with the notion of creating a more vibrant and cosmopolitan city to live in.

One individual is Lee Craven, a proud Bradfordian, who like many of us, has been frustrated by the constant salvo of negative press and general criticism the city has endured over the last few decades. Born and raised in Bingley, Mr Craven has a vision, and that vision is to convert the old Odeon building into a fully operating multi-functional concert venue with the hope of enticing the elite of global performing stars to the streets of Bradford.

Currently at the helm of a long running successful Bradford based business, Mr Craven reflects on when the seed was planted with the idea of taking on such a gargantuan challenge.

“Funnily enough it started with an innocent post-it note on my desk one morning. It was from somebody at work who said there was a guy next door who ran a bingo hall that joined our business premises in Great Horton and that he wanted to sell it,” he tells Urban Echo.

After purchasing the bingo hall in 2007 to save it from falling into the wrong hands, Mr Craven realised that the building had many of its initial features as a cinema when it was originally built in 1914. After restoring it back to a cinema whilst working closely with a local charity, the Joshua Project, as well as local cinema historian, Colin Sutton, the seed was planted when a conversation between the two took place.

He says, “Colin [who passed away a few years ago] liked what we were doing with the former bingo hall and express his frustration and sadness as to why nobody was doing anything with the old Odeon.”

By 2010, Mr Craven’s inquisitiveness about the dilapidated building had reached a point where he knew he had to do something as the building had been legally permitted for demolition. Though he wasn’t convinced by the demolition proposals and could not see a financially viable outcome if it was to be demolished, he quickly formed a team of architects and engineers with the aim of looking at how the building could be saved from obscurity and transformed into a fully functioning concert hall that would be commercially beneficial to the city and its residents.

After Bradford Live won the bidding process over two other proposals earlier this year, Mr Craven is far from complacent and realises that there is still much work to do. He states, “Parts of the building has been stripped out but many parts are surprisingly very well preserved. The council have been very helpful and we are in constant dialogue informing one another of developments.”

The critics will argue whether Bradford can support a venue that size? Mr Craven responds by saying, “It’s not just Bradford. You’re talking about a regional sized venue that covers the entire West Yorkshire region and will hopefully pull in people further afield. Just like how the Greater Manchester area can support the large arena as well the smaller Apollo Theatre. ”

Mr Craven is confident that the finished project will come into fruition with a planned completion date in 2017. Musical and movie artistes from the UK and India are already relishing at the thought of performing at the new venue. “As a proud Bradfordian, I feel these are very exciting times for the city and I am pleased to be a part of the redevelopment that will hopefully create a city for future generations to enjoy and be proud of,” he concludes.

 SYRENE ARTISTE

What is your full name?

Syrene is my stage name which is inspired by my daughter’s second name Sireen and my marvel comic alter ego Syren.

Where were you born?

The city of Nottingham

When did you first want to become a singer?

I can’t remember when I wanted to become a singer.  I have always been a singer and a dancer for as long as I can remember.  It was later on in life that I thought of sharing it with the rest of the world.

Who was your inspiration?

My father has been and always will be my biggest inspiration. He has simply taught me to go for it. Whatever the dream or whatever the passion regardless of success. Just go for it

When did you get your first break?

My first ever break was with Amarjit Sidhu who by chance was hosting the Asian Mela at the NEC in Birmingham.  This was way back in the day and I was supposed to perform as part of a girl group called ‘Mischief’ but our manager at the time, brought the wrong cd and we couldn’t perform. However, my mother boldly went where no mother has gone before. She went right up to Mr Sidhu and stated as a matter of fact that her daughter can sing whatever Bollywood song he had at his disposal. I sang my heart out and the rest, as they say, is history.

How difficult or easy has it been for you as a British born Pakistani female trying to make it in the music industry mainly dominated by males?

This is the bit where I am going to have a little rant. The problem I see with the British Asian industry is that there is no industry. An industry is something that is regulated and currently there is no regulatory body to ensure that people are not taken advantage of. I feel there has to be a governing body to protect artistes who are trying to succeed.  Not only female artists but male artists alike. Many a time I have had my gut wrenched out and my heart broken from lack of support in this so called industry where hardworking artists are taken advantage of and people who have made it, through whatever reason, are not willing to provide and create a platform for other artists. I have spent a lot of money to fulfil my dream but the money is not well spent by the people you give it to. In the British Asian industry it is the motto of ‘get as much money as you can out of the artist’ but do as little as possible, which is a shame but it is true and I defy anyone who says otherwise.  I am sure there are some bonafide artists out there but the industry is terrible here and hence, why so many artists are looking at other countries to pursue their dream. That is exactly what I have done.  I work with the well-known Dutch producer Gumnaam, on his Riddimand Culture Label. Now that is one dude who has been solid and consistent since I started working with him last year. He has a wonderful work ethic very much like my own and a few people could really learn from that.  It is a real pleasure working with him and one thing is for certain that I just can’t stop singing and I probably will never stop. Rant over!

How many albums have you released and what can we look forward to in the future?

I have released one single “Main Hoon Deewani” which is currently available on iTunes. The second single will be available once I can find out when my current producer has the time to call me and give me some studio time. The album is pretty much ready but until I can get the second single out, it would be a bit pointless to release the album. So for now everything is on hold until I have a new schedule… so watch this space. However, if you are a genuine producer who hates timewasters as much as I do, then hit me up on Facebook – Syrene Artist, or on twitter @sonic_syrene. Meanwhile, I am currently having lots of success working with Gumnaam. It is a great mix of heavy beats, almost dubstep, but with a great twist. Curious? Check out my sound cloud.

How do you balance family life and work life?

I am currently balancing family life and 2 kids with my own Business Development Consultancy as well as working with Gumnaam. I guess I just take each day at a time. My husband is very supportive and loves the fact that I am willing and determined to pursue my dreams. I am a bit of a go getter as most of my friends and family are well aware. Stubborn too! It’s the aspiration to be successful that drives me the most.  I SHALL SUCCEED!!

What advice do you give to aspiring singers?

Practice, practice and more practice. Never ever give up your dream because nobody can take your talent away from you and only you can bring yourself down. If you don’t succeed the first time, just pick yourself up and dust yourself down as nobody in this industry will do that for you. If one way doesn’t work then try another avenue. Who knows, that might be the one that works for you. Much love to all Urban Echo readers!

Quick fire round…

Most precious in your life?

My family

Favourite holiday destination?

Malaysia

Night or day?

Night

Hollywood or Bollywood?

Bollywood

Usher or Justin Timberlake?

If it is looks, then neither. If talent, then… ummm, I guess Usher pips it to the post because I can’t stand falsettos.

Aishwarya Rai or Angelina Jolie?

Urggghhhh really?

Dream car?

Mercedes McLaren

Football or cricket?

Both

Favourite food?

Any cuisine. I love food cooking it and eating it

Eastenders or Coronation Street?

[indignantly] urgggh television? I have no time for television young man!

THE KING OF POP: STILL AT THE TOP

Five years since the demise of pop icon Michael Jackson it seems the late star is still entertaining millions with his previously unreleased albums.

It was on June 25, 2009, when the world watched with shock of reports that Jackson had suffered a cardiac arrest. One month later he was due to perform in London at the eagerly anticipated ‘This Is It’ tour but as it turned out that was it for Jackson and the death of a music legend.

But five years later after his death and the on-going court battles within the Jackson family, the rumours of drug abuse and continued spotlight on his children, let’s remember Jackson for his mesmerising music and showmanship that entertained the world for decades.

Born Michael Joseph Jackson on August 29, 1958, the youngest of eight children, he started his career at the age of six with his brothers in the band, The Jackson 5. With his unique dancing style and attractive singing tone, Jackson quickly outgrew the band and began his solo career in 1971. It wasn’t until 1982 and the release of his album Thriller, that the singing and dancing sensation became a global superstar. Monstrous hits such as Beat It, Thriller and Billie Jean smashed all existing records and confirmed Jackson’s status as the world’s biggest pop star. Through the following decades he continued to stay on top with albums such as Bad, Dangerous and History as well as appearing in the musical film Moonwalker. Jackson was also known for his video releases often working with movie stars, musicians and sports personalities. His Jam video featured Basketball legend Michael Jordan and his Liberian Girl featured most of the Hollywood A-Lister’s under one roof led by acclaimed filmmaker Steven Spielberg.

Today Jackson is remembered as an enigma. A genius who had his flaws but maintained a level of virtuosity and superiority never witnessed before and possibly will never be witnessed again. Though Jackson is no longer with us, his songs remain eternal and future generations will continue to listen to Thriller and Billie Jean and make his legend grow further.

The King of Pop may be gone but his music is here to stay for a very long time.

SHADZ – MAKING THAT PAPER!

Bradford born rapper Louis James Francis (known as Shadz) is creating quite a stir in Bradford. The 24 year old who was born and raised in Heaton, Bradford, met up with the Urban Echo team for an exclusive interview where he talks about growing up in his beloved city and the people who inspired him into chasing the dream of becoming a musician.

Dressed in a casual tracksuit with a slight swagger to his walk, Shadz looks like the average man on the street as we meet to talk about his music. But once we start to discuss his early days growing up in Bradford as well as the inspirations in his life, one can see the passion and determination this young man possesses to make it in the career path he has chosen.

Growing up in the streets of Heaton where he first went to St Barnabas Primary School followed by Shaw House, at the age of thirteen he was inspired by his older brother to become a musician. His brother first started rapping and ‘free styling’ on street corners with his friends and Shadz was just a spectator often mesmerised by his brother’s ability to sing in such a unique way. Although his brother was casual with his approach to the skill he possessed, he succeeded in planted the seed in Shadz’ head to try his hand at this form of music. But Shadz was originally inspired by his father Roy Young. Based in the Middle East, Young has performed at venues around the world at Shadz believes his music talent has come from his father’s genes. “My father was by biggest inspiration but I vaguely remember standing in front of the mirror as a kid looking at myself imitating the late rapper Tupac who I was a huge fan of whilst I was growing up in my early teens. I could relate to his deep lyrics and style of rapping as I found his songs had many tales of struggle and overcoming the obstacles he had in his short life”, he reminisces.

Though his brother started backing him with his new found passion, his mother was unaware of the rapping battles her son was having with his counterparts on street corners, often inspired by the Eminem movie, 8 Mile. It was only later when she heard him perform in front of her that she gave her blessing.

Though Shadz is determined to succeed, he is aware of the cut throat business within the music industry and realizes the difficulties he faces in the hope to be heard and appreciated for his talent. “Although I love Bradford, it can be quite difficult as we do not have a huge music scene here, unlike Leeds and Manchester,” he states. “But in saying that, it is not impossible. My friend who I grew up with is now managed in London by a London based company. He is known as First Born and is currently doing very well. Ditto for Melissa Steele. She is a massive star in London now and back in the days we performed together.”

Shadz is full of optimism and has the right attitude to excel in music. The talented musician also writes his own lyrics and has so far performed at the St Georges Hall in Bradford, the BradFactor Contest as well the UK Unsigned Contest in London where he received positive reviews.

Though he has written lyrics for countless songs, he is most proud of his most recent offerings including ‘High Life’ and ‘Next To Me’ with the latter being an ode to his fiancé. His latest single ‘Make That Paper’ is proving to be a huge hit online and is well received on his personal Youtube channel.

Shadz is a great role model for youngsters in Bradford and around the country as he believes in hard work, patience and perseverance. As a proud Bradfordian, we hope that the city can get behind him and help him reach his goals to ‘Make that Paper.’

You can stay in touch with Shadz via Twitter @shadzdon1 and Facebook by searching Louis Shadz Francis.

BOLLYWOOD PREVIEWS

UK RELEASE DATE 29/08/14 (12A)

RAJA NATWARLAL

In Hindi with English subtitles

Director: Kunal Deshmukh India 2014 141 mins

Cast: Emraan Hashmi, Humaima Malick, Kak Kay Mamon

Genre: Thriller

A small-time con man seeks assistance from his mentor with an intention of setting scores with a gangster.

UK RELEASE DATE 05/09/14 (12A)

MARY KOM

In Hindi with English subtitles

Director: Dilip Virender Sood India 2014 180 mins

Cast: Puneet, Aneet Kaur Sekhon, Herry Tangri

Genre: Biography / Drama

A chronicle of the life of Indian boxer ‘Mary Kom’ who went through several hardships before audaciously accomplishing her ultimate dream.

UK RELEASE DATE 05/09/14 (U)

DAAWAT-E-ISHQ

In Hindi with English subtitles

Director: Habib Faisal India 2014 151 mins

Cast: Aditya Roy Kapur, Parineeti Chopra, Anupam Kher

Genre: Comedy / Drama

Highly anticipated love story of two individuals from different backgrounds coming together to overcome the family obstacles that stand in their way.

UK RELEASE DATE 12/09/14 (12A)

FINDING FANNY

In Hindi with English subtitles

Director: Homi Adajania India 2014 143 mins

Cast: Arjun Kapoor, Deepika Padukone, Naseeruddin Shah

Genre: Comedy / Drama

With an all-star cast led by veteran actor Naseeruddin Shah and current diva Deepika Padukone, Finding Fanny tells the tale of a man who embarks on a road trip to find his lost love.

UK RELEASE DATE 19/09/14 (PG)

KHOOBSURAT

In Hindi with English subtitles

Director: Shashank Ghosh India 2014 181 mins

Cast: Sonam Kapoor, Ratna Pathak, Kirron Kher

Genre: Comedy / Romance

A remake of 1980’s classic Khoobsurat starring Ashok Kumar and Rekha with a modern touch led by daughter of Anil Kapoor and star of this month, Sonam Kapoor.

STAR OF THE MONTH

The daughter of yesteryear actor Anil Kapoor, Sonam Kapoor is one of the leading lights of the Indian film fraternity today. In a career spanning seven years when she made her successful debut in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Saawariya in 2007, the popular actress is going from strength to strength. Known as a fashion diva in her native country, the actress is associated with prestigious brands such as L’Oreal Paris, Electrolux and Spice Mobile. This month she appears in the romantic drama Khoobsurat opposite newcomer Fawad Khan.

Selected filmography

2007 Saawariya

2009 Delhi 6

2010 I Hate Love Stories

2011 Mausam

2012 Players

2013 Raanjhana

2013 Bhaag Milka Bhaag

RIP ROBIN WILLIAMS

“Rest in peace and laughter Robin Williams. Perhaps this tragedy will shed light on the seriousness of depression. You made us all so happy.” – Lady Gaga

Growing up in the eighties, Saturday mornings were always a joy as one could look forward to the television series Mork and Mindy in which a wacky alien comes to Earth to study its residents, and the life of the human woman he boards with is never the same. The alien known as Mork was played by the spry actor Robin Williams and I vaguely remember his fervour and great acting prowess.

Appearing in almost 100 films in a career spanning four decades, Williams was arguably one of the most diverse and talented actors of his generation. Winning the Academy award as Best supporting actor for his efforts in Gus Van Sant’s Good Will Hunting in 1998 as well as nominated for his roles in landmark films such as Good Morning, Vietnam (1987), Dead Poets Society (1989) and The Fisher King (1991), Williams was a very popular figure within the Hollywood film fraternity for his humbleness and dedication to the art of acting and performing.

Other popular films include Awakenings, Dead Again, Hook, Toys, Mrs Doubtfire, Jumanji, Flubber, Bicentennial Man, One Hour Photo, Happy Feet and Night at the Museum.

It came as a great shock that on Tuesday 12 August 2014, Robin McLaurin Williams died in an apparent suicide. A man who has entertained the world for many decades with his laughter and making the world laugh with him was in fact a tormented soul who found solace in his profession where he could hide his true feelings and emotions through his many roles we often witnessed on the silver screen. As reports started filtering through from family and friends, Williams suffered from acute depression and ultimately ended his life by hanging himself at his home in Tiburon, California. The 63 year old has left behind three children and his daughter, Zelda Williams, talked of the last day they spent together on his recent birthday, when she and her brothers shared “gifts and laughter”.

Barack Obama tweeted, “Robin Williams was an airman, a doctor, a genie, a nannie – and everything in between. But he was one of a kind.” Bollywood superstar Shahrukh Khan tweeted, “To have no yesterday and no tomorrow. To forget time, to forgive life, to be at peace… May death be so for My Captain. RIP Mr Williams,” and Lady Gaga tweeted, “Rest in peace and laughter Robin Williams. Perhaps this tragedy will shed light on the seriousness of depression. You made us all so happy.”

As Lady Gaga puts it, Robin Williams “made us all so happy.” As it turned out, unfortunately making us happy was not what made him happy. RIP Robin McLaurin Williams 1951 – 2014.

HOLLYWOOD PREVIEWS

UK RELEASE DATE 05/09/14 (PG)

THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY

Director: Lasse Hallstram USA/India 2014 122 mins

Cast: Helen Mirren, Charlotte Le Bon, Om Puri, Manish Dayal

Genre: Drama

Culinary whiz kid Hassan Kadam (Manish Dayal) moves to the south of France with his family to open an Indian restaurant. But the Kadams will need to have their knives at the ready as they encounter resistance from the icy owner (Helen Mirren) of a local haute-cuisine business.
The Hundred-Foot Journey is based on the book of the same name by Richard C. Morais and is directed by Lasse Hallström (Chocolat).

UK RELEASE DATE 26/09/14 (15)

THE EQUALIZER

Director: Antoine Fuqua USA 2014 Running time (tbc)

Cast: Denzel Washington, Chloe Grace Moretz, Dan Bilzerian

Genre: Action, Crime Thriller

A former black ops commando who faked his death for a quiet life in Boston comes out of his retirement to rescue a young girl and finds himself face to face with Russian gangsters.

UK RELEASE DATE 12/09/14 (PG)

PRIDE

Director: Matthew Warchus UK 2014 120 mins

Cast: Bill Nighy, Andrew Scott, Dominic West

Genre: Drama, Comedy

UK gay and lesbian activists work to help miners during their lengthy strike of the National Union of Mineworkers in the summer of 1984.

 

UK RELEASE DATE 19/09/14 (PG)

THE BOXTROLLS

Director: Graham Annable, Anthony Stacchi USA 2014 97 mins

Cast: Elle Fanning, Simon Pegg, Isaac Hampstead Wright, Toni Collette

Genre: Animation, Family, Fantasy

A young orphaned boy raised by underground cave-dwelling trash collectors tries to save his friends from an evil exterminator. Based on the children’s novel ‘Here Be Monsters’ by Alan Snow.

UK RELEASE DATE 19/09/14 (12A)

THINK LIKE A MAN TOO

Director: Tim Story USA 2014 106 mins

Cast: Adam Brody, Michael Ealy, Jerry Ferrara

Genre: Comedy

All the couples are back for a wedding in Las Vegas, but plans for a romantic weekend go awry when their various misadventures get them into some compromising situations that threaten to derail the big event.

UK RELEASE DATE 12/09/14 (15)

A MOST WANTED MAN

Director: Anton Corbijn 2014 122 mins

Cast: Grigoriy Dobrygin, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Homayoun Ershadi

Genre: Thriller, Crime

When a half-Chechen, half-Russian, brutally tortured immigrant turns up in Hamburg’s Islamic community, laying claim to his father’s ill-gotten fortune, both German and US security agencies take a close interest: as the clock ticks down and the stakes rise, the race is on to establish this most wanted man’s true identity – oppressed victim or destruction-bent extremist?

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