After almost two decades of standing empty, bedraggled and rather a blot on the city‘s landscape, news was announced this week that its owners, Bradford Live, have secured the backing of the NEC Group to rebuild it as a 4,000 capacity music venue by 2020.
There are those who feel it’s an ugly building fit only for the demolition pile, but I’ve always felt sentimental about the old Odeon. I saw many of my first films there from Flash Gordon to Ghostbusters. I looked at life differently after watching ‘The Accused’, shared the shock finale of Fatal Attraction, learned the rock history of The Doors and experienced the ‘technologically advanced’ Jaws 3D. It was a first date destination, a foray into teen independence, a place where my perspective had shifted every time I left.
Echoes of childhood are incredibly powerful. The Odeon’s domes and its decor alongside the memories pull me back to a time of security, freedom, possibilities and promise. The Odeon ultimately, reminds me of home and I never wanted to see it derelict, or demolished. But while it stood, while it remained – there remained hope. A symbol of resilience and pride. Of never giving up.
Which is something of a reflection of Bradford. A district of resilience. For decades, we’ve lived with the doubters, those only too ready to knock the city, once one of the richest in the world. We’re the generation that lived in the shadow of the reviled ‘hole in the ground’ for more than 10 years as we lacked the buy in to fulfil the retail vision we’d been promised. Residents of a city and a district which for many, arguable reasons, gradually diminished in the shadow of other, more popular and apparently ‘investable’ cities.
But surely, even the most cynical can see the tide is turning. In just 10 years, we’ve had the unveiling of City Park showcasing the UK’s largest urban water feature, the underground retail and bars of the stunning Sunbridge Wells, the buzz of North Parade’s independent quarter, innovative mill developments such as Urban Splash Lister Mills and the renovation of St George’s Hall, bringing our Victorian concert hall into the 21st century.
We’ve Hockney, Bradford Literature Festival, the Science and Media Museum, the Alhambra, the Impressions Gallery, Cartwright Hall, the beauty and history of Little Germany – now a bustling entrepreneurial hub. Bradford University with an international reputation for its research and news just this week of contracts offered to firms – some local – who will work to improve the infrastructure of our district, making us more connectible, accessible and unlocking our economic potential.
For me, the Odeon reflects a new sense of optimism, of confidence and of pride. This ‘bricks and mortar’ building has resiliently kept watch over the gradual rebirth of the city it was born into eight decades ago. Built to entertain – from cinema, to ballroom, to a concert hall with the Beatles, Everly Brothers, Rolling Stones and Tom Jones on the bill, then back to the cinema of my youth until the closing of its doors in 2000.
Hearing that the gift of entertaining will once again be restored to our Odeon was music to my ears this week. And that’s exactly what it’ll go on to do – provide music and entertainment to new generations who will make new memories that shape inside and outside perceptions of our evolving, eclectic and above all, loved, city of Bradford.