Bradford Odeon Rescue Group

 

 

Ten years ago our Chairman and his wife, Norman and Julie Littlewood, collected signatures on a petition to save the Bradford Odeon.

Because of the large public support shown, the Bradford Odeon Rescue Group (BORG) was founded and it has become a well-respected and prolific campaign group.

Our key strength is the dynamics created by the sheer diversity of every member of BORG, each with their own area of expertise.

members

Norman Littlewood, Chairman

Norman Littlewood, Chairman

I was born, bred and have lived all my life in Bradford. With the support of my wife, Julie, I started our campaign to save the Odeon in 2003. After much public support, in 2004 BORG was formed, and which is still working tirelessly for the cause.

Starting work at 14, I was an apprentice stonemason and bricklayer and qualified with honours. At 22 I started a construction business working on commercial buildings and houses. I am a family man with many interests; I’m on many committees and also like gardening.

The Odeon must be refurbished for Bradford’s benefit.

My most memorable New Victoria moment: Mantovani’s Orchestra, over 40 musicians on stage with plenty of room to spare.

Julie Littlewood

Julie Littlewood

Born, bred and lived all my life in Bradford; co-founder of BORG since 2003. Married to Norman.

I’ve worked in retail and accounts as well as receptionist and clerical positions; and for many years I’ve been a property manager.

I have a daughter and granddaughter with whom I am fortunate to be able to spend lots of quality time. My interests are varied but include caring for the elderly, looking after stray or lost animals and wildlife.

It would be shameful and such a waste to lose the Odeon building.

Favourite Film: The Sound of Music

Mark Nicholson, Secretary

Mark Nicholson, Secretary

I’m Mark Nicholson and I have been a member of BORG since 2006. My main duties include Group Secretary, Media Spokesperson and Historical Archivist.

My interest in the Odeon has been a lifelong passion and my favourite childhood memory remains to be the wondrous mirror ball in Odeon 2 prior to all screenings of Star Wars in 1978.

I consider myself to be a historical and structural authority on the Odeon building… in other words, an Odeon Anorak!!! I am currently compiling an exhaustive history of the New Vic, which I hope to have published in the middle of 2013.

Most memorable Odeon moment: The wondrous mirror ball in Odeon 2 prior to all screenings of Star Wars in 1978.

John Pennington

John Pennington

I’m a councillor, businessman and past president of Bradford’s Chamber of Commerce. In the 90s I bought the dilapidated Midland Hotel and, after much hard work, and with a clear vision in mind, it was transformed from a sad edifice into one of the jewels in Bradford’s crown.

Although my beginnings were in textiles, my heart has always been in entertainment and I firmly believe that our Odeon can become a fine asset to the city, and one which Bradford citizens will appreciate.

Buildings are like people – put laughter and enjoyment into them and they will repay you tenfold.

Most memorable Gaumont moment: Seeing the Beatles play live.

Mike Bottomley

Mike Bottomley

I’m Bradford, born and bred; married, with a young daughter, and I’ve been a member of BORG since the very early days.

I have an entertainment engineering background as I worked in professional touring theatre and show production for a number of years. I now work for a large UK telecommunications company as an engineer.

Outside work I have interests in photography, classic cars and building restoration and conservation. Some of my Odeon photographs are featured on our website.

My favourite cinema snack: Big bag of Revels!

John Tempest

John Tempest

I’ve been a member of BORG since 2004.

I’m married with four children – three of them inherited, and one other – and I’ve lived in Bradford for most of my life. Apart from family life, including playing with our dog and adopted cat, I have an interest in homelessness, which keeps me quite busy.

I’m a PR consultant with many years’ experience advising politicians as well as working on numerous other campaigns. And I have been known to write a bit.

Like others, I want to save the building because it would be criminal to do otherwise.

Favourite Gaumont moment: Seeing the Rolling Stones play.

John Pashley

John Pashley

I am a widower, former industrialist, long-standing member of BORG, and have been a Bradfordian for almost 80 years [born at St Luke’s]. I remember when Bradford truly was ‘no mean city’ and I believe it still has the natural heritage and potential cultural resource to make it a city of “living and leisure” which through its quality of life would make it the envy of our more materialistic neighbours.

Favourite New Victoria moment: Enjoying the combination of Norman Briggs’s playing of the Wurlitzer organ with the Odeon acoustics.

Matt Shaw

Matt Shaw

I’m the newest member of BORG and I work as a Senior Creative within a leading Design/Marketing Agency. Design is very much about form and function, I believe that the Odeon building has a fine form that should be preserved, and I’m dedicated to finding Bradford’s finest landmark a function that can benefit the whole community. I am passionate about design and architecture both old and new.

Living in Bingley, and being 38 years of age, I have fond memories of seeing lots of white scary faces at the premier of Silence of the Lambs, whilst my parents remember dancing the night away to Cliff Richard.

Most memorable Odeon Moment: Queuing in anticipation for Silence of the Lambs!

1928

William Illingworth designs the New Victoria

Local Architect William Illingworth FRIBA, of Sunbridge Road, also a Bradford Alderman, set about designing one of Bradford’s most iconic buildings. The design with its twin green-domed entrances and imposing façade have been a city landmark for over 80 years. The Italian Renaissance design of its interior adapted to modern (1930) requirements and sumptuous furnishings were to be marvelled at for the next four decades. The company behind this ambitious project was Provincial Cinematograph Theatres (PCT) and Gaumont British Picture Corporation (GBPC).

November 1929

Construction work begins on the New Vic

Construction of the New Victoria starts on the site of the old William Whittaker’s brewery which had ceased brewing and malting in June 1928 and followed the curve of Brewery Street. This stunning red brick theatre combined with cinema, ballroom, restaurant and tea room café. Costing a quarter of a million pounds to build, its Moorish style Citadel frontage contrasted with the similarly domed Alhambra Theatre next door. 

 

April 1930

Exterior construction complete

Construction of the third largest cinema auditorium outside of London was completed. Using over 2 million bricks and over 1,000 tonnes of steel, the building took a further four months to fit out internally.

August 1930

Stunning interiors complete

The internal fit out was now complete. The New Victoria could boast a fine classic italianate style interior featuring ornate plaster mouldings, ceiling domes and walls lined with hair felt and damask copied from an original Italian design. A huge 3,318-seat fan-shaped auditorium, complete with Wurlitzer organ featured stone-lined walls and a richly moulded ceiling dome was the third largest auditorium outside of London.

The domed octagonal entrances connected the sweeping curve of the stalls foyer with its polished brass barriers, potted palms, huge settees, mirrors and an ornate marble fireplace midway down its huge length.

A massive restaurant, flanked by square pillars supporting ornate lights, was first used to provide a celebration lunch on the opening day, it soon became a fashionable and elegant place to dine with attentive waitress service resplendent in their crisp black and white uniforms.

 

September 1930

Opening Performance

The spectacular afternoon opening performance at 2.30pm on Monday 22nd September 1930 attended by the Lord Mayor, Alderman Angus R. Rhodes along with other distinguished guests, civic officials and managers of other Bradford city centre cinemas.

 

September 1950

The "New Victoria" is renamed to "The Gaumont"

As per a nationwide Rank policy to brand all of its “key” cinemas with the same moniker, the theatre is renamed the Gaumont in September. A refurbishment in early 1954 rejuvenated the interior beauty with decoration and the seemingly endless task of re-carpeting and the installation of a gigantic chandelier suspended from the centre of the massive dome. Many speculated how you would change the bulbs in such an enormous centre piece and at such a height. The answer was all too simple – the complete chandelier was lowered on chains from a winch in the roof down the stalls seats where it could be then be managed with relative ease.

February 1957

Bill Haley and the Comets perform

Bill Haley and the Comets appear on February 17th, the first “Rock ‘n’ Roll” concert at Bradford Gaumont.

 

March 1958

Buddy Holly performs

Buddy Holly appears on March 9th.

Jan 1960

Eddie Cochran performs

Eddie Cochran appears on January 30th

1962

Ballroom & Restaurant close

The ballroom and restaurant close their doors to the public

 

December 1963

The Beatles perform

The Beatles perform at Bradford Gaumont first on February 2nd returning on December 21st.

 

October 1964

The Beatles return

The Beatles appear on October 9th.

1968

Tom Jones performs

Tom Jones’ appearance on October 26th is the final concert prior to the Gaumont’s closure on November 30th for extensive internal redevelopment.

August 1969

The Odeon Twins opens

The Odeon Twins open on August 21st and Top Rank Bingo opens a couple of months later.

1988

Ballroom converted to Odeon 3

The former ballroom is converted into a third Odeon screen, opening June 23rd.

1997

Top Rank Closes

The Top Rank Bingo Club closes down.

July 2nd, 2000

Odeon Closes

The Odeon closes its doors on July 2nd.

2001

Demolition approved

Planning permission is granted for the Odeon’s demolition for a mixed use leisure development which is later abandoned.

 

2002

Bradford Conservation Area

The Odeon building is included in Bradford’s City Centre Conservation Area.

2003

Norman and Julie Littlewood start a campaign

Yorkshire Forward purchase the Odeon for redevelopment of the site in May 2003 and Norman Littlewood begins our campaign against demolition with his wife, Julie.

2004

Bradford Council asks for Group to be formed

Norman Littlewood is asked by a Bradford Council Committee to form a group to work alongside Bradford Centre Regeneration to explore ALL options for the Odeon.

2005

BORG formed

It became apparent that the premature launch of BCR’s design competition for the Odeon site in March demonstrated just how determined the regeneration company were to demolish the building, and at this point Norman Littlewood’s formed group became the Bradford Odeon Rescue Group (BORG).

 

2006

Design Competition Winner announced

Langtree Artisan “win” the design competition with their unimaginative New Victoria Place proposal in August and BORG receive the first batch of hundreds of interior photos recently taken inside the Odeon the following month, which superbly expose the lies stated by BCR regarding the state of the cinema building.

 

2007

Hug the Odeon

BORG calls upon its supporters to ‘Hug The Odeon’ on July 14th and 1,000 Bradfordians turn out to completely encircle the Odeon site linking arms.

 

2008

Planning Application submitted

Langtree Artisan finally submit their planning application for New Victoria Place in September and amongst the thousands of objections received was one submitted by English Heritage.

2009

Planning permission granted for New Victoria Place

After more than four successive scheme proposals, the revised planning application is submitted in July and is endorsed by English Heritage. Planning approval (subject to a Section 106 Agreement) to demolish the Odeon and construct New Victoria Place is given by Bradford Council’s Regulatory & Appeals Committee, who blame the u-turn by English Heritage for their “reluctant” decision.

 

The scheme proposed in 2008

The scheme proposed in 2007

The scheme proposed in 2006

2011

The HCA takes ownership of the Odeon

The dismantling of Yorkshire Forward is cited as the reason for the signing of the Section 106 Agreement not being completed by the time the Odeon is transferred to its new owner the Homes & Communities Agency (HCA) in August.

 

2012

Odeon gets a reprieve

Confusion and inconsistent details emerge about the signing of the Section 106 Agreement during the early part of the year, but in September the HCA announces the termination of the developer agreement it had inherited with Langtree Artisan due to its failure to sign it and the Odeon’s future development is back on the table.

2013

Bradford Council buys the Odeon for £1

After several months of negotiations between Bradford Council and the Homes & Communities Agency, the transfer of the Odeon to Local Authority ownership was completed on 14th November 2013. The council are now hoping to attract expressions of interest for developers who wish to sympathetically redevelop the building.

The projection room

The wiew from the projection room, showing the false ceiling.

Original plasterwork

Plasterwork detail taken in the rear auditorium.

Tower entrance lamp

An original light fitting still survives.

Original ceiling dome

The original ceiling dome – note the original chandelier boss in the centre!

Tower cafe

Original wall decoration.

Stage procenium

Full height brickwork behind the old stage.

Connecting staircase

Connecting staircase between the ballroom and restaurant.

The foyer

The old Odeon ticket booth in the foyer.

Odeon 2

The Odeon 2 auditorium.

Odeon 2

The Odeon 2 auditorium.

Odeon 3

The Odeon 3 auditorium (formerly the ballroom)

Bingo hall

The Top Rank bingo club.

Ceiling plasterwork

The original ceiling plasterwork still survives above the false ceiling in the former restaurant.

Original windows

Original windows exist in the former restaurant (bricked up during the Odeon conversion).

Window detail

Original window complete with glass, now bricked up.

Luxury cinema seating

Luxury upper seating in Odeon 2!

Theatre box

The original box at the front left of the auditorium, bricked up during the Odeon conversion.

Tower staircase

The staircase from the Thornton Road tower to the balcony.

Staircase

The staircase to the manager’s flat overlooking the Alhambra.

Dome plasterwork

The existing original plasterwork of the lower level of the auditorium.

Roof truss steelwork

The mighty steels of the roof section.

Organ lift entrance

Located in the basement, this door enables access to the organ lift.

Manager's flat

This is the living room of the manager’s flat complete with coal fire!

Fly tower

A view of the fly tower above the stage.

Ceiling detail

Ceiling Detail above the ballroom ceiling.

Tower window

A view through the original window looking towards City Park.

Ceiling plasterwork

Original art-deco plasterwork from the ceiling in the upper balcony lounge.

Original wallcovering

Original damask wallcovering based on an Italian design.

Corridor to the auditorium boxes

Corridor at the circle level.

Orignal plasterwork ceiling

Original plasterwork ceiling in the ballroom tower lounge.

Auditorium flock curtain

Original curtains still exist!

Ceiling plasterwork

Original Ceiling plasterwork the upper balcony lounge.

Ballroom ceiling

Another angle of the plasterwork (existing) under the false ceiling in the old ballroom.

Art-Deco plasterwork

Original plasterwork detail in the upper balcony lounge.

Original leaded glass

The windows in the south tower.

Odeon store room

With hatch door access to auditorium circle, photo of The Beatles in this area is shown in our timeline.

The circle balcony

The original circle balcony still survives in a void created during the 1969 building works.

Cherub moulding

A cherub moulding on the original balcony that survives in a void created in the 1969 building works.

Ballroom ceiling

The intricate plaster mouldings that still survive in the old ballroom under the false ceiling.

Bingo hall

The bingo hall as it is today.

Bingo display board

The bingo hall (formerly the stage) as it is today.

Original plasterwork

Ornate plasterwork in the lift foyer.

The boilers

The spooky skeletal remains of the old boilers in the basement.

Original plasterwork

Surviving auditorium ceiling plasterwork in front of the stage proscenium.

Original plasterwork

Surviving auditorium ceiling plasterwork in front of the stage proscenium.

The ballroom

The original mirror frames (bricked up in 1969) on the Thornton Road side of the Odeon.

Ballroom pillars

The pillars as they exist today in Odeon 3 (the former ballroom).

Projection room

The projection room for Odeon one.

Odeon 3

The Odeon Three, (former ballroom) as it is today.

Ceiling plasterwork

The ceiling plasterwork in the former ballroom.

Ceiling plasterwork

Ceiling plasterwork in the crescent lounge.

Balcony detail

The original balcony still survives in a void created during the 1969 building works.

Tower windows

The original window frames and blown glass overlooking the Alhambra.

Inside the Odeon
Private Eye
Private Eye

Published By:
Private Eye

18th May 2012

Telegraph & Argus
Telegraph & Argus

Published By:
Telegraph & Argus

25th September 2004

The Northern Blog, The Guardian
The Northern Blog, The Guardian

Published By:
The Northern Blog, The Guardian

21st September 2012

Telegraph & Argus
Telegraph & Argus

Published By:
Telegraph & Argus

15th December 2006

Telegraph & Argus
Telegraph & Argus

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24th September 2009

The Independent on Sunday
The Independent on Sunday

Published By:
The Independent on Sunday

20th May 2012

Telegraph & Argus
Telegraph & Argus

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Telegraph & Argus

5th May 2009

Telegraph & Argus
Telegraph & Argus

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9th December 2006

BBC Ceefax
BBC Ceefax

Published By:
BBC Ceefax

15th July 2007

Yorkshire Post
Yorkshire Post

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Yorkshire Post

6th December 2006

Telegraph & Argus
Telegraph & Argus

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November 22nd 2008

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Telegraph & Argus

22nd July 2008

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24th September 2008

Yorkshire Post
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23rd August 2007

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August 15th 2006

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4th October 2004

Yorkshire Post
Yorkshire Post

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Yorkshire Post

20th September 2012

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9th June 2006

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Telegraph & Argus

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6th October 2004

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Telegraph & Argus

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10th May 2008

The Yorkshire Post
The Yorkshire Post

Published By:
The Yorkshire Post

26th May 2012

Telegraph & Argus
Telegraph & Argus

Published By:
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18th October 2007

Telegraph & Argus
Telegraph & Argus

Published By:
Telegraph & Argus

2nd February 2004