Some time ago, I noticed that there was something unusual about the city of Bradford, something that distinguished it from other northern industrial cities.
To begin with, there was Ray Honeyford. Three years ago Honeyford, the headmaster of Bradford’s Drummond Middle School, wrote a short, three-page article that was published in the Salisbury Review. The Salisbury Review has a circulation of about 1,000, but the impact of Honeyford’s article was felt beyond the magazine’s readership. It was discussed in the Yorkshire Post and reprinted in the local Telegraph and Argus. A parents’ group demanded Honeyford’s resignation. His school was then boycotted, and children, instructed by their parents not to attend classes, gathered outside, shouting abuse at the man who weeks before was their teacher. There were fights, sometimes physical brawls, between local leaders and politicians. The ‘Honeyford Affair’, as it became known, attracted so much attention that it became common every morning to come upon national journalists and television crews outside the school. And when it was finally resolved that Honeyford had to go, the Bradford district council had to pay him over £160,000 to get him to leave: ten times his annual salary.
But there were other things about Bradford. The Yorkshire Ripper was from Bradford. The prostitutes who came down to London on the train on ‘cheap-day return’ tickets were from Bradford. At a time when the game of soccer was threatened by so many troubles, Bradford seemed to have troubles of the most extreme kind. Days after the deaths in Brussels at the Heysel stadium, forty-seven Bradford football supporters were killed in one of the worst fires in the history of the sport. Eighteen months later, there was yet another fire, and a match stopped because of crowd violence.