Reaching for stars to create the North’s top new venue

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Back in its heyday, the old Bradford Odeon housed a huge auditorium where such music legends as The Beatles, Buddy Holly and Tom Jones once graced the stage.

Now, following the announcement that the NEC Group International is to be the new operator of this historic building, the venue has taken a major step towards becoming a world-class venue once again.

Picture James Hardisty.

Picture James Hardisty.

The venue management firm, which runs the UK’s largest conference and exhibition centre and two of the country’s busiest arenas, will take a 30-year lease on the building and invest £2m towards the conversion costs, with the transformed Odeon expected to open in 2020 – 90 years after it first opened.

The deal has been welcomed by both Bradford City Council and Bradford Live as a significant moment in the city’s continuing regeneration.

Bradford Council Leader, Councillor Susan Hinchcliffe, said the NEC Group had a proven track record in its field. “They have the ability to create a fantastic live events venue at the heart of our city in the historic Odeon.”

Coun Hinchcliffe added: “The venue will bring new entertainment and cultural opportunities to Bradford, supporting our local economy by increasing visitors to the city, attracting investment and delivering jobs.”

Phil Mead, Managing Director of NEC Group Arenas, said: “Bradford Odeon, once restored, will breathe new life into an historic building which has played a pivotal role in the city’s past. The redeveloped venue, as part of the ongoing regeneration of Bradford city centre anchored around City Park, will deliver jobs and investment and transform the live event and entertainment offer of the city.”

The Odeon announcement has also attracted support from big names in the music business. Leeds-based rock band Kaiser Chiefs said it would make a “brilliant venue for the North”, while Francis Rossi, of Status Quo, praised the building’s “great history”.

Bradford Live project director Lee Craven, the man who has spearheaded the bid to restore the former cinema, said the NEC Group’s support was hugely important. “This is the key that unlocks the whole project. It’s about finding the right operator and we’re sure that NEC is the ideal operator for the Odeon.”

Mr Craven said Bradford Live’s ambition was to create a thriving 4,000-capacity live music and entertainment venue.

He insisted: “It will be one of the best live music venues 
in the country, not just the region.”

As well as the main auditorium, the magnificent 1930 art deco ballroom will be restored to its original splendour to host weddings, conferences and other events.

Bradford city centre has undergone a transformation over the past five years thanks to high-profile schemes such as City Park, the Westfield shopping complex and the subterranean novelty of Sunbridge Wells.

The restoration of the old Odeon building is another key piece of the jigsaw. Mr Craven said; “It’s critical to Bradford’s evening and night time economy, which is where the city still suffers a bit.

“But with the Odeon coming online the momentum is in the city’s favour. This is a real breakthrough day for the Odeon and for Bradford.”

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