Exclusive: Inside Bradford’s neglected Odeon

AVING suffered a decade of neglect and been shrouded in plastic sheeting for several months, supporters of the Bradford Odeon must have feared the worst for the interior of the landmark building.

But, as these new pictures show, the inside of the historic former concert hall and cinema remains remarkably well preserved, giving campaigners hope it can be restored to its former glory.

The building was dramatically saved from demolition last month after its owner, the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA), decided to pull the plug on a proposed development to turn it into a hotel and offices.

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While the announcement was a major victory for thousands of campaigners who have been battling to save it from demolition for several years, it failed to answer lingering questions about the building’s future.

One of the principal concerns has been the condition of the building. Asbestos has been found inside and the HCA has spent more than £700,000 on repairs to the roof and structure.

But the images, the first to be taken of the Odeon’s interior in several years, show a building in remarkably good shape.

One of the former cinema theatres has been stripped of its seats as part of the asbestos removal but another has seats and aisles still in good condition.

The pictures were taken by Mike Bottomley of the Bradford Odeon Rescue Group (BORG) during a visit this week organised by the HCA. Those who ventured inside said the rest of building is looking well.

BORG spokesman, Mark Nicholson, told the Yorkshire Post the visit had given him and his fellow supporters hope that the building can be retained in its current guise.

He also revealed three potential developers had been in touch regarding the building and, despite the current economic malaise, businesses still considered the building viable and valuable.

Mr Nicholson said: “A problem we always had with any prospective developers was that we could not let them inside to see it.

“Now we can show anyone who comes forward that the inside is pretty good.

“The inside of the Odeon is certainly not as bad as many had been told and we are optimistic that a developer could, indeed, make use of the main structure of the building as it is.

“Some work had to be done to rid the building of asbestos, and it’s true to say that some carpets and seats had to go as they had been contaminated. However, Artez, the contractors, have been sympathetic to the majority of the building and I can report that BORG are much more confident today than we were a few weeks ago.”

Mr Nicholson had high praise for the work the HCA had overseen in repair work to the building.

“It is easy to be cynical about what is happening in there but they have done a brilliant job and are protecting the building for the future. With the economic climate the way it is it could be sometime before it is bought.

“What a pleasant change there has been now HCA has taken over from Yorkshire Forward, whose record of lack of care for the Odeon will not bear close scrutiny.”

A number of potential ideas have been floated for the Odeon’s future.

Some had suggested it could become a performing arts centre and music museum for the north, modelled on the John Peel Centre for Creative Arts in Suffolk. Another route being examined by campaigners is to take it into community ownership using the powers of the Localism Act.