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Pupils create graphic novels in tribute to Bradford City unsung heroes

Secondary school pupils have produced three graphic novel stories in tribute to unsung heroes of the Bradford City fire thanks to a collaborative project with Leeds Beckett University.

Bradford City fire graphic novels

Fifty-six people died and more than 250 others were injured at the Valley Parade stadium blaze on 11 May 1985. 


University academics and an artist worked closely with Year 9 pupils at Beckfoot Thornton School to help develop their ideas, which included creating fictionalised characters based on real-life events.


The Bradford-based school’s involvement is particularly poignant given that former pupils Ashley Stockman, 16, and her brother Craig, 14, were among the victims who lost their lives.


Memorial plaque in tribute to siblings Ashley Stockman, 16, and her brother Craig, 14, who were among the victims.


Memorial plaque in tribute to siblings Ashley Stockman and her brother Craig. 


A plaque provides a permanent memorial to the siblings and acts as the focal point to the school’s own annual commemoration ceremony.


The three stories will be published in a graphic novel produced for the Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded project, Forged by Fire: Burns Injury and Identity in Britain, 1800-2000, in 2020.


Project Co-Investigator Dr Shane Ewen, Reader in the School of Cultural Studies & Humanities at Leeds Beckett University, said: “Given we are more than thirty years on from the Bradford fire, it remains well-known locally to Bradfordians. 


“However, it does appear to be less well-known beyond West Yorkshire despite contributing to major changes to the safety of football in grounds up and down the country.


“We think now is the right time to bring the story to wider attention by giving Beckfoot Thornton’s students the chance to take the lead, and in putting the unsung heroes at the heart of the narrative.


“In doing so, we hope that this helps serve as a memorial both to the 56 victims of the fire as well as everyone else involved in the tragedy.


“We’re extremely grateful to Jeremy Richardson, Headteacher, and Neil Adams, Head of History, at Beckfoot Thornton School, and especially the Year 9 students who have done a terrific job in sharing their stories with new audiences.”


Rachel Wood, from charitable organisation Saltaire Stories is currently working alongside Leeds Beckett University on a project about the unsung heroes of Bradford City fire.


As the part of the project, the partners launched a competition to give pupils of a winning school the opportunity to work alongside graphic artist Tom Bailey to create three stories for the novel.


The first story told of the bravery shown by a young 10-year-old supporter called Josephine who, in helping her grandfather escape, received life-changing burns injuries.


The story of 10-year-old supporter Josephine


The story of Josephine, a 10-year-old Bradford City supporter who risks her own life to help her grandfather to safety, with terrifying consequences.


Members of the Bangladeshi community who helped injured police officers and supporters were the focus of the second tale. 


Finally, pupils shined a spotlight on the medical professionals, particularly plastic surgeons, who worked tirelessly to help the hundreds of survivors suffering burns injuries.


The novel will be available for use within schools and other organisations in order to start a discussion around issues related to injury, heroism, identity and survival.


Photos courtesy of Beckfoot Thornton School. 

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