New Voices Bradford winners announced after talent search

Humaira Bham, Olivia Wright and Irene Kaali with Anita Rani
Humaira Bham, Olivia Wright and Irene Kaali have been announced as the new voices for Bradford 2025 [BBC]

Three women have been named as the winners of a BBC talent search to find new voices for Bradford's year as UK City of Culture in 2025.

Zumba instructor Irene Kaali, optometrist Humaira Bham and car sales advisor Olivia Wright were chosen from hundreds of hopefuls who applied.

Judges said they were chosen for their "heart, authenticity, warmth, and passion for their home city".

They will form a key part of BBC Radio Leeds' coverage of Bradford 2025 events.

New Voices judges
A panel of judges picked the winners at Sunbridgewells on Sunday [BBC]

BBC Radio Leeds had asked members of the public to record a 45-second video of themselves, describing what the city means to them.

The applicants were whittled down to a shortlist of 14, who performed in front of a panel of judges at Sunbridgewells on Sunday.

Judges included TV presenter Anita Rani, BBC Radio Leeds presenter Rima Ahmed, BBC Radio Leeds executive editor Simon Monk, and Bradford 2025 UK City of Culture’s creative director Shanaz Gulzar.

Bradford-born celebrities Kimberley Walsh and Jonny Bairstow had also helped to promote the search when it launched in March.

Winners and judges of Bradford New Voices
Judges included TV presenter Anita Rani and BBC Radio Leeds presenter Rima Ahmed [BBC]

Each finalist was given two minutes to impress the judges who scored them on their ability to communicate their vision, creativity and innovation of audition, passion for the district of Bradford, and understanding of the UK City of Culture 2025.

Judges said Olivia did an "impassioned and funny" audition, Humaira read out an emotional poem about her heritage and family, and Irene sang a song she had written herself.

Irene, 30, from Bradford, said: "Ultimately, I’ve always just wanted to spend my life doing something that I can be proud of that goes beyond me, so this is everything I could have dreamed of.

"I’m just going to try and live in the moment, enjoy it, and be proud of it."

Winners at the event on Sunday
The winners impressed the judges with their passion for the city [BBC]

Humaira, 25, from Batley, West Yorkshire, said she was "over the moon".

She said: "My mum came up to me, she was moved to tears. If I can make my mum that proud it makes me so happy."

Olivia, also 25, said: "I applied because I want to be part of the movement that brings about change in Bradford.

"This city inspires me every day. I was born here, I have grown up here. I want people to love it the same way I do."

The year of culture is set to deliver more than 1,000 performances working with people from all over the district.

Humaira Bham, Olivia Wright and Irene Kaali
The three women will work alongside the BBC team covering the city's cultural events in 2025 [BBC]

Head judge Anita Rani said: “The standard was incredibly high.

"I know lots of people who judge talent shows say this but genuinely it was really difficult. Ultimately, we could only pick three people and we picked the three who had the highest scores and I’m very happy it’s three female winners."

She added: “People from Bradford have always known how special it is and it’s time for us to show the world but also own our own narrative.

"Too many people who haven’t been here have an opinion of the place. This is the time for this city that cultured me to have its moment to shine.”

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