BRADFORD’S hugely successful Super Soapbox Challenge could become an annual event.
An estimated 17,000 people watched the action-packed cart races, commissioned and sponsored by the Bradford Business Improvement District (BID), which took place in the city centre.
The full-day free event saw 21 teams competing in their whacky and wonderful creations across a 350-metre downhill course lined with straw bales, safety fencing and huge crowds.
The event gave a big boost to the city centre economy with hospitality businesses reporting a “rip-roaring” trade, with some even selling out of produce, and Bradford BID footfall cameras showed a 59 per cent week-on-week increase in visitors to the city centre.
The Broadway shopping centre said they had 10,000 more visitors than on a normal Sunday.
Now the BID – the limited not-for-profit company funded by more than 600 levy-paying businesses and organisations to help promote and develop the city centre – says it would like to make it an annual event.
BID manager Jonny Noble said: “It was a really fun-packed day with lots of thrills and spills, plenty of laughs and a fantastic atmosphere.
“The teams did a brilliant job on their soapboxes with some really amazing designs and some fabulously quick racers.
“The feedback we had on the day – and since – has been amazing. People really enjoyed the event and we’ve had so many great messages from people thanking us for staging it.
“Just like our giant fireworks display last year, it really brought people together and showed what a great place the city centre can be when we all get behind it and support events that everyone can share and enjoy.”
He said the BID was able to stage the event this year because of some one-off external grant funding but if it were to be staged again, it would need more businesses to step forward with sponsorship.
“We’ve already had enquiries from people who’d like to enter a team next year,” said Mr Noble.
“It’s clear that events like this have a big impact on the local economy and those businesses that took advantage of the crowds and opened up on Sunday will have benefited from the fact there was so much happening on what would normally be a quiet Sunday.
“Now we’ve got the first one under our belts and we know how well-received it was, we hope businesses will want to support more events like this and that sponsors will come forward to ensure that we can stage it again next year and build a bigger and better event!”
Sponsors for this year’s event included telecoms company Vodafone, Bradford-based hygiene chemical and engineering specialist Christeyns UK, The Broadway shopping centre, the Kirkgate Centre and Napoleons Casino and Restaurant.
“We’re really grateful to all those who helped us get Bradford’s first big soapbox derby off the ground and I’m sure they are as thrilled as we are that it went so well,” said Mr Noble.
The Super Soapbox Challenge also raised money for two charities, the Yorkshire Air Ambulance and Bradford Lions who are helping to save lives in the local community by buying and providing defibrillators that give a high energy electric shock to the heart of someone who is in cardiac arrest.
Teams were also able to use the even to raise funds for their own favourite causes.
Ian Ward, general manager at The Broadway, said: “The Broadway management team had a great time taking part in the Soapbox Challenge on Sunday. Our entry was the ‘B Team’ all dressed as members of the ‘A team’ – we had our very own BA Barracus, Hannibal, Face and Mad Murdock! The Soapbox was made by our onsite engineers over a number of weeks and we’re delighted to announce we raised more than £750 for The Broadway’s charity partner, Bradford Nightstop.
“The Soapbox Challenge was a fantastic city-centre based community event. We saw families and friends from across the district come together to enjoy the event and soak up the atmosphere. The Broadway benefited from 10,000 additional visitors to normal Sunday trade figures and we really hope the Soapbox becomes a firm part of Bradford’s calendar each year.”
Andrew Pearson, events marketing director at the organisers, The Super Soapbox Challenge Company, said: “It was a really great event with some excellent entries and a fantastic crowd.
“It went extremely well, especially for an inaugural event, and we even got lucky with the weather on race day!
“It’s too early to give any totals yet but we know the whole event raised thousands of pounds for the official charities and for the teams’ own good causes, so it was a huge success all round!”