The scheme to transform Bradford’s historic former Odeon building into a 4,000 capacity music and entertainment venue has received significant funding from the Government’s Northern Cultural Regeneration Fund after months of campaigning by Bradford Civic Society, developers Bradford Live, and Bradford Council.
The award of £4 million from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport means that the ambitious project is now almost fully funded, and internal demolition works are expected to start soon. The Northern Cultural Regeneration Fund was announced in August 2017, with UK City Regions invited to submit only one project for funding consideration with a maximum of £4 million available per bid. Bradford Civic Society immediately started a grassroots campaign for the Leeds City Region LEP to nominate Bradford Odeon as their chosen project, and a supporting petition attracted over 2,800 signatures.
After Leeds City Region formally backed the Bradford Odeon bid, Bradford Civic Society continued to work closely with developers Bradford Live and Bradford Council to lobby the Culture Secretary – Matt Hancock MP – for maximum funds. Earlier this month, the Bradford campaign brought together friends of the city’s cultural and creative community to support the Odeon bid in an open letter addressed to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport. There was also intense lobbying from the district’s MPs.
Announcing the successful NCRF bids, Northern Powerhouse Minister, Jake Berry, said: “These multi-million pound cultural investments in Blackpool, Bradford and the Lake District represent a major economic and cultural boost for the Northern Powerhouse. From converting a vacant cinema into a state-of-the-art venue to improving access to the UK’s newest World Heritage site, these investments will have a transformative effect, benefitting local communities by creating new jobs while increasing tourism from across the UK and further afield.”
Si Cunningham, Chair of Bradford Civic Society, said: “This is yet another great day for Bradford as part of our city’s continued efforts to bring this much-loved building back to life. Ever since Bradford Live first unveiled their ambitious proposals for a new world-class music venue, the grassroots support for the rebirth of the Odeon has been overwhelming. I’m especially happy that Bradford Civic Society has been heavily involved in this final push for funding, and very proud of our members, who’ve campaigned tirelessly to save the building and even rolled their sleeves up to get in there and give it a bit of TLC earlier this year.”
BRADFORD’S FORMER ODEON BUILDING:
THE STORY SO FAR…
This latest announcement is one of many significant milestones reached in the ongoing saga of one of Bradford’s most-loved buildings. Here’s a reminder of the story so far…
The New Victoria Theatre opens its doors. Over two million bricks are used to construct one of the largest venues in the country at the time of opening.
The 1950s and 60s
The theatre is renamed the Gaumont and goes on to host The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Shirley Bassey and many more world-renowned artists as the north of England’s premier music venue.
The 1970s, 80s, and 90s
After closing as a music venue in 1968, the building reopens as the Odeon Twins, featuring two cinema screens and a bingo hall. A third cinema screen opens in the late 1980s.
The building closes to the public, signalling a new era of uncertainty. In 2003, the building is bought by the now-defunct regional development agency Yorkshire Forward, who propose a full redevelopment of the site. 2004 sees the formation of the Bradford Odeon Rescue Group (BORG), led by Bradford Civic Society member Norman Littlewood, and a public campaign to save the building is launched.
It’s announced that “New Victoria Place” – a development consisting of premium office space, apartments and a hotel – wins an international design competition for the site. The plans, including full demolition of the building and its iconic twin towers, are later approved. Bradford Civic Society, reformed in 2006 after a ten-year hiatus, hosts a public debate at the University of Bradford to discuss what should happen to the building.
Amid strong public opposition of economic uncertainty, the New Victoria Place proposals are finally scrapped. After the building’s owners, Yorkshire Forward, are themselves disbanded in 2012, ownership of the former Odeon passes to the Homes and Communities Agency. In late 2013, the HCA sell the building for £1 to Bradford Council, who invite proposals to retain and refurbish as much of the original landmark as possible.
After a high-profile competition, Bradford Live are chosen as the former Odeon building’s preferred developers. Their scheme proposes a £15million redevelopment of the 1930s supercinema to transform it into a 4,000 capacity live music and entertainment venue, with fully restored ballroom and new public spaces. The other group, Bradford One, had proposed a similar ambitious scheme.
2017 is a significant year for the landmark building, as NEC Group International, part of Birmingham’s NEC Group, is chosen as the operating partner for the Bradford Odeon. In the same year, Bradford Civic Society launches a public campaign to secure funding from the Government’s Northern Cultural Regeneration Fund to enable works to begin in earnest. Bradford Council also approve a £12million loan to developers Bradford Live.
Bradford Civic Society begin the year by leading a group of volunteers to clean parts of the historic former Odeon building that have been derelict for some years. This important work enables the identification of key heritage features, and prepares the site for contractors to begin full works later in the year. In March 2018, the Government confirms the award of £4 million from the Northern Cultural Regeneration Fund, effectively meaning the majority funding is now in place. Advanced design an planning works continue behind the scenes, with a predicted reopening date of 2020.
Bradford Civic Society is a registered charity, and is only able to campaign on behalf of the city and projects like the Bradford Odeon with your support. Become a member today for just £5 by joining online here.
Images courtesy of Bradford Live.