KEIGHLEY woman Shanaz Gulzar – a leading figure in the district's preparations for City of Culture 2025 – has welcomed a funding boost of almost £20 million for the year-long extravaganza.

Government Culture Minister Stuart Andrew visited Bradford 2025's new headquarters to announce the funding.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has awarded Bradford 2025 £10m, with a further £5m coming from National Lottery funding through the Arts Council, and another £4.95m from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Bradford district was named 2025 City of Culture last summer, and since then it has been announced that around 1,000 performances will take place during the year.

It's estimated that the various events will attract over 15 million visitors and pump an additional spend of £136.9 million into the local economy.

During his visit, Mr Andrew said: "The fact that Bradford has the youngest population in the country means we will see long-term benefits.

"The creative industry is a growing part of the economy, and this will give young people more opportunities for the future.

"If you look what happened in Liverpool and Hull, City of Culture transformed those cities. People will see this district’s creativity and want to invest here.

"I’ve been told that when the team has called for applications from artists and creative groups, the number of responses has far exceeded expectations.

"The other thing that makes this unique is that it's the first City of Culture that will also have a wider geographical element, stretching out as far as Keighley and Ilkley, so this will be a different type of City of Culture."

Ms Gulzar, creative director of Bradford 2025, says the latest funding will help "drive things forward to the next level".

She adds: "It demonstrates the confidence of these funders in 2025, and their commitment to it."

Pete Massey, director of Arts Council England in the north, said: "We provide funding for all Cities of Culture, but we’re especially pleased to do this for Bradford. It's great to see lottery players' cash being invested in something on this scale.

"I suspect Bradford's year of culture will be the biggest we’ve seen yet.

"The thing that singles this out is the fact it's district-wide, not just for the city.

"The team is already putting out commissions for artists across the district."

He said the Arts Council had been particularly impressed by work to involve young people.