A memorial service marking the 38th anniversary of the Valley Parade Fire Disaster will be held tomorrow - in conjunction with Bradford Metropolitan District Council.
Taking place in Centenary Square, Bradford, by the Bradford City Fire Memorial, this year's service will be the second physical service since the COVID-19 pandemic.
Beginning at 11.00am, attendees will include relatives and friends of the 56 people who lost their lives and were affected in 1985, as well as club and council officials and members of the public.
The Lord Mayor of Bradford, Cllr Martin Love, will host a Civic Party from Lincoln who will also attend the service together, with Mark Hughes and City’s first-team players and staff in attendance alongside representatives from Lincoln City. Family of the late Professor David Sharpe OBE, founder of the Plastic Surgery and Burns Research Unit, will also be in attendance, following his passing last month.
The Act of Commemoration will begin with 'Abide with Me' and 'You'll Never Walk Alone', as the City Hall clock bells ring, with the service to be conducted by the Dean of Bradford, The Very Reverend Andy Bowerman.
He will be assisted by Bradford City AFC club chaplain, Pastor Oliver Evans, while a blessing will be given by the Right Reverend Toby Howarth, Bishop of Bradford.
The Lord-Lieutenant will lay a wreath on behalf of His Majesty, The King, followed by Cllr Martin Love on behalf of the City and district, and chief executive officer Ryan Sparks on behalf of Bradford City AFC.
Wreaths will also be laid by the High Sheriff, the Mayor of Lincoln, representatives of Lincoln City FC, Professor Ajay Mahajan on behalf of Bradford's Plastic Surgery and Burns Research Unit, bereaved families and representatives of the emergency services. Once these wreaths have been laid, others who wish to lay their own wreaths or floral tributes are welcome to do so.
The disaster claimed the lives of 54 Bradford City supporters and two travelling Lincoln supporters, injuring hundreds more, in one of the world’s most devastating sporting tragedies.
The club’s chief executive officer, Ryan Sparks, said: “After the return of a physical memorial service for the first time since before the pandemic last year, we will once again come together to remember the 56 lives lost on 11th May 1985 in person.
“As with each and every year, it is hugely important for us to be able to pay our respects to those who sadly lost their lives, and the families who remain affected by the Valley Parade Fire Disaster to this day, in the most fitting way possible.
“This year, of course, the service will be made even more poignant following the sad passing of two hugely significant figures linked to the tragedy recently, who all of us at Bradford City hold so very dear.
“It is important that this year, while we honour all those affected by the disaster on the 38th anniversary, we also pay tribute to Professor David Sharpe OBE, founder of Bradford’s Plastic Surgery and Burns Research Unit, and Jockel Reisner, who sculpted the Bradford City Fire Memorial which stands in Centenary Square.
“We invite and encourage people to join us in the City Centre on Thursday May 11, as we come together to collectively pay our respects.”
Cllr Love said: “It is important to the city and district that we take time to remember those who were affected and those who continue to be affected by the tragic events on 11th May 1985.
“I invite people to join us in Centenary Square as we come together to pay tribute.”
The Morrisons Family Stand (West) at the University of Bradford Stadium will be open tomorrow to allow supporters to visit and observe personal reflection time. To enter, head to the memorial at Valley Parade by the executive entrance, where a gate will be open into the concourse.
The rest of the University of Bradford Stadium, including the Yorkshire Payments 1911 Main Reception, Burlington Street Box Office, Bradford City Store and Valley Parade Ticket Office will all be closed all day tomorrow, to allow club staff to attend the service.