Crowds gathered in Bradford Centenary Square to celebrate the city’s links with Ilkley and Charles Darwin, with the unveiling of a massive sand sculpture.

The celebrations are part of Garden Magic, organised by Bradford Council to bring greenery and entertainment to the city centre.

The theme this year is Charles Darwin – marking the bicentenary of his birth and the 150th anniversary of the release of his work ‘On the Origin of Species’.

While the book was being published, Darwin was staying in Ilkley with his family, while he underwent the town’s hydropathic health cures.

More than 90 tonnes of sand was used to create the sculpture by ‘sand man’ Jamie Wardley, of Ilkley, who transformed it into a giant bust of the pioneering scientist.

Shipley-born poet Andrew Mitchell performed a live poetry reading from his specially commissioned 14 poem sequence about Darwin’s stay in Ilkley and follows his global voyage on the Beagle.

Mr Mitchell said: “Bradford is linked with Ilkley and this event is all about our own cultural background.”

There are also five small sculptures scattered around the installation representing the five floral kingdoms – these have been created by local artists.

The event has been supported by Bradford-based Uriah Woodhead, who provided the sand and building materials.

It will see music, street theatre, living statues and stiltwalkers entertaining people during the day from noon until 2pm and every evening there will be live music, ranging from a jazz ensemble to the Cherry Pickers steel band.

Mr Mitchell will also be performing his poems tomorrow. The poems, which form ‘a voyage of ideas’ will also form a literary voyage around Ilkley. The event also forms part of the Darwin in Yorkshire celebrations, which includes the International Darwin Conference at the University of Bradford.

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