City Buzz: Primark plot twist is quite the cliffhanger

Primark, Leeds.

Primark, Leeds.

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If anyone decided to make a Hollywood blockbuster about Leeds, there’d be a few obvious shouts for starring roles.

I’m not talking about wannabes or D-list celebs either. For me it would be the buildings that get top billing.

Take Trinity Leeds, for example, which would definitely be our leading lady, played by someone like Jennifer Lawrence – easy on the eye, relatively new to the scene but already making waves.

Kirkgate Market, meanwhile, would be more of a Sir Ian McKellan type – a cultured, ageing stalwart and much loved national treasure.

Which brings me to the beautiful building on The Headrow which is currently home to Primark and a place that’s no stranger to Hollywood glitz and glamour.

It was sad to hear bosses at the budget clothing giant announced the closure of what had been a flagship store after almost 10 years.

But whilst many of us will look back and conjure up memories of queuing forever for a changing room and getting trampled in the Saturday stampedes, others will have more treasured memories.

Many of you remember the building in what was arguably its heyday as the Odeon Cinema, which stood at the site from 1940 to 2001 and where you might have caught such classics as Jurassic Park and Ghostbusters.

The site is actually steeped in cinematic history, and was previously the Paramount Theatre back in 1932.

But if we were to imagine Leeds to be a movie, the poor old doomed cinema site would have to be played by Sean Bean.

After all, it’s a proud piece of Yorkshire, a bit of a housewife’s favourite and the one that you’re always rooting for.

Sadly though, like our Sean, it also seems to invariably come to a grizzly end, just when it’s starting to get good.

Not only did the cinema close its doors before nearby Briggate got a big facelift in 2004, now it’s seemingly been killed off before Victoria Gate gets going.

It doesn’t bode well for the immediate future of that end of town, and it’s likely the area could suffer for some time.

While the Grand Theatre up the road has plenty of fans and the booming new nightlife area around Merrion Street keeps pulling in punters, the top of Briggate seems to be clinging on for dear life.

Perhaps it’s an inevitable consequence of the success of Trinity Leeds – the whole city centre is contracting and becoming increasingly drawn towards the mammoth shopping complex like some benevolent black hole.

Whilst this isn’t entirely a bad thing, the knock-on effect means businesses seem to be floundering on the outskirts.

We’ve already seen it on Greek Street, which used to be a hive of activity but is now reduced to a few eateries.

The fancy dress shop on Albion Street also shut recently at the top end of town.

And now Primark has been added to the list of closures near The Headrow, following in the footsteps of Burton, Peter Maturi, Dwell and Muji.

With the loss of these shops, footfall soon follows.

There might be some light at the end of the tunnel with Victoria Gate opening in a year or so. But that’s a long time in retail and a dangerous period of limbo for the notoriously choppy waters of city centre retail. Let’s just hope that this part of town gets its happy ending after all.

Thomas Williamson, photographer. Image by Paul Craig Photography

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