Thursday, 30 August 2012
Bradford City Fire Memorial
Bradford's City Park also holds a small but evocative memorial to the 56 victims of the Bradford City fire disaster. On Saturday 11 May 1985, a flash fire destroyed one of the stands at the Valley Parade football stadium, during a match between Bradford City and Lincoln City. The blaze started when a spark or cigarette fell onto rubbish that had accumulated beneath the old wooden terracing. It took just four minutes for the entire stand to catch fire, and the bitumen roof melted, causing molten tar to fall onto those trying to escape. Many people were trapped trying to get out and in addition to those who died, another 256 were injured, some very badly. It was a terrible disaster and I remember it to this day, although it was 27 years ago. The match was being televised and broadcast so there was an immediate awareness of what was going on.
It's fair to say that it traumatised the entire city - and still casts its shadow - though perhaps some good came of it in the end. It resulted in legislation to improve safety at all British sports grounds, and a legacy of expertise in our local hospitals and at Bradford University, which continues to do pioneering research into skin science, burns and plastic surgery. A well-run Disaster Appeal raised millions and contributed to the scientific research. And in some ways it brought the local community together.
This bronze memorial was given by one of Bradford's 'twin towns' - Hamm, in Germany - and I believe there is a similar memorial in that city too. It is inscribed with the names of all those who died - from the youngest aged 11 to the oldest, 84. It shows three figures within a broken circle. The circle represents the damaged stadium and the figures straddle the divide between life and death, honouring those who rushed to help. A memorial service is held here every year on the anniversary of the fire.