Bradford’s £3.5m project which aims to get more than 100,000 local people engaged in the arts has just appointed Zulfiqar Ahmed as Director.

Creative People and Places programme ‘The Leap’ is set to shape a new cultural programme for the district. The news is yet another exciting milestone in Bradford’s ambitious cultural plans, following the recent announcement that Richard Shaw will lead the city’s bid to be UK City of Culture in 2025.

An expert in community-led development work with a twenty-five-year career in the design, development and implementation of innovative social impact initiatives across the UK and internationally, Zulfiqar returns to Bradford where he has more than 20 years’ experience.

His previous roles include six years as Programmes Director at Bradford based QED UK which provides economic development initiatives in the city; and Director of Development at UnLtd, leading the design and delivery of social entrepreneur grant and business support programmes across the UK.

Most recently he was Global Programmes Director at Impact Hub Global based in Vienna, and in Islamabad where he was executive director at Equal Impact, Zulfiqar worked closely with Bradford-based 30 Chapel Street to set up exchange programmes between creative entrepreneurs in Bradford and Pakistan.

In his new role as director of The Leap, Zulfiqar will now build a team to work closely with Bradford’s diverse communities and help them to shape what is on offer.

Zulfiqar Ahmed says: “I’m excited to grab this fantastic opportunity with both hands and help play a role in creating transformative change in Bradford.

“The city is the UK’s youngest city and one of the most richly diverse – and it’s important that Bradford’s arts and cultural provision reflects that.

“The aim of THE LEAP is to help local people play a leading role in determining a thriving arts and culture scene and inspire a future generation of cultural ambassadors for the city.

“The first step is to hear from people of all ages and backgrounds from across Bradford, spread the word about THE LEAP and find out exactly what people want this programme to be. I can’t wait to get started.”

THE LEAP is one of 12 new Creative People and Places programmes currently starting up across the UK, putting people at the heart of culture in the places where they live.

With £2m of funding awarded by Arts Council England and additional funding from Bradford Council, it will focus on some of the most disadvantaged areas of Bradford, where opportunities to engage with arts and culture are few and current levels of participation are low.

THE LEAP is governed by a volunteer consortium which is led by Bradford Institute for Health Research (BIHR) whose ‘Born in Bradford’ project is one of the largest studies of its kind in the world, tracking the lives of over 30,000 Bradfordians to find out what influences health and wellbeing.

Dr Tracy Watson, Chair of THE LEAP consortium and general manager at Bradford Institute for Health Research (BIHR) – the expert research arm of Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust comments: “Zulfiqar’s appointment is a tremendously exciting step in our journey to realise the creative passions and talents in Bradford.

“He will join a growing family of experts at the Bradford Institute for Health Research and bring a crucial arts and culture perspective to our efforts to improve wellbeing for the people of Bradford.”

Pete Massey, Director, Yorkshire, and Northern Economy and Partnerships, Arts Council England said: “Our Creative People and Places programme is all about giving everyone the opportunity to shape and experience brilliant cultural experiences wherever they live.

“It’s great to see someone with Zulfiqar Ahmed’s experience appointed to head up this initiative.

“He joins this key programme at pivotal time for culture in Bradford where a number of initiatives, including a bid to become UK City of Culture in 2025, look to reshape the cultural landscape of the district and ensure that more people than ever get to experience great art and culture. I look forward to seeing how the programme develops with the people of Bradford.”