Image of the Odeon from Bradford Live archive

The Bradford Live project is set to turn the city centre’s former Odeon building into a multi-purpose live events venue. Works are due to start later this spring.

The venue opened in 1930 as the New Victoria, and was the biggest cinevariety theatre outside London and the first in the UK to be purpose-built for screening ‘talkies’. It closed its doors in 2000 and has been empty ever since.

Yorkshire Forward bought the building for £2m in 2003, but plans to demolish and replace it with offices were scrapped when the regional development agency itself was abolished in 2012. Ownership of the Odeon was then transferred to the Homes & Communities Agency who in turn handed it over to Bradford Council for £1 in 2013.

In 2014 the council approved a plan by Bradford Live, a not-for-profit distribution social enterprise, led by local business people, to create a live music venue after inviting developers to submit commercially viable ideas for the building. Birmingham-based NEC Group is investing £2m into the conversion works and will run the building on completion of works.

The redevelopment work is expected to create 60 temporary construction jobs and five construction apprenticeship roles.

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Local firm RN Wooler & Co was selected as contractor “not only for its illustrious client portfolio but also its commitment to social responsibility and the training of local youngsters”, the client said.

Bradford Live managing director Lee Craven said: “These are exciting times for the Bradford Live project and we are proud to have RN Wooler & Co as part of the team. We want Bradford Live to become part of the community and help drive the Bradford economy. It will be a fantastic venue, delivering 270,000 visitors a year to the city and support not only those involved with the project, but up to 500 FTE [full time equivalent jobs] indirectly across the region.” 

Gareth Wooler, director of RN Wooler & Co, added: “We are particularly honoured and proud to have been awarded the contract for this exciting and prestigious project. As a family owned, Yorkshire company employing local people, the opportunity to create employment and further strengthen our ties to the community is a fantastic achievement and is testament to the hard work and continuing efforts of our colleagues.”

The client’s team includes Aedas as architect, structural engineer Price & Myers, Buro Happold as mechanical & electrical engineers and Turner & Townsend as cost consultant / project manager.

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