THE Bradford Live music venue will be a major factor in clinching the UK City of Culture title, says the 2025 bid director.
Bradford's City of Culture bid director Richard Shaw says the new venue, in the former Odeon cinema, will bring in bands that previously bypassed Bradford, as well as hosting other events "never before seen" in the city centre, and will boost hospitality "essential for a budding UK City of Culture".
The Bradford Live project will see the cinema, empty since 2000, brought back to live as a music venue with a capacity of around 4,000, run by the NEC Group. The latest planning application for the building was approved by Bradford Council this month.
Mr Shaw said: "The news that Bradford Live has formally appointed contractors to convert the former Odeon into a 4,000 capacity venue means that, all being well, live music and events will be back at this historic site from autumn next year. This latest boost is also music to the ears of those in the district’s cultural and creative sector, as having such a prestigious venue makes our UK City of Culture bid all the more compelling. While towns and cities around the UK begin to look at how they will bounce back from Covid-19, how many can say they have a new regional venue under construction, with exciting world-class acts to be announced this year?
"Nobody is suggesting Bradford Live will be a ‘silver bullet’ for Bradford, particularly given that we’ve been poorly served compared to other cities for many years now, but we must acknowledge the considerable boost such a venue will bring to our cultural status. For starters, Bradford Live will literally put Bradford back on the touring map once again. Bands that previously bypassed Bradford, or indeed West Yorkshire altogether, will now have a 4,000 capacity home managed by experienced operators the NEC Group. This also means conferences, exhibitions, and hosting opportunities never before seen in central Bradford. Then there's the direct impact on the district. An operation as intricate as Bradford Live means a multitude of jobs created and sustained in a venue that will need to look after 200,000-plus visitors a year.
"Last but not least, we must consider the immediate boost to Bradford’s current cultural quarter as a result of dozens of new large-scale events. The area around City Park and the West End will need bars, restaurants, improved access, and probably even an increase in hotel beds at some point. This readiness for long-term hosting and hospitality is not just desirable for a budding UK City of Culture - it is essential.
"Of course, the most satisfying aspect of Bradford Live is not the painstaking restoration, or the frequently unearthed heritage, or the excitable speculation about who will follow in the footsteps of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones once the doors open again. No, it’s the fact that it was the people of Bradford that made this happen. In the face of near certain demolition, Bradfordians stood up and demanded something better. Every campaigner, every petition signer, every Odeon-hugger, every vocal Tweeter can take comfort in the fact that their tenacity not only saved a cultural gem...but might just win us a new cultural crown."