21 May 2013

What could be done with the Bradford Odeon

Bradford Odeon in 1937 Source Wikipedia

The Bradford Odeon is a magnificent building set between the Alhambra Theatre and The National Media Museum in one of England's handsomest cities. Like much of that great city the Odeon has seen better days. It closed in 2000 and by at least one account it is in a terrible state of repair (see Will Kilner "Former Odeon 'unsafe' says survey", Bradford Telegraph & Argus, 29 Sept 2008. There have been calls to pull it down - even though there is already a massive derelict area of the city centre where a shopping centre was supposed to be - and the building has been saved largely by the efforts of BORG (Bradford Odeon Rescue Group), its allies and supporters.

Recently the burghers of Bradford enjoyed two bits of good news. First their football team won an important match at Wembley (BBC Sport 18 May 2013). Secondly, the local authority has acquired the Odeon for £1 (Rachel Covill "Odeon set to transfer to the Council" The Business Desk 1 May 2013). The question that now arises is what should be done with that magnificent building.

Here is my suggestion offered tentatively by an outsider albeit a good friend and neighbour of the city of Bradford. How about turning the building into an arts centre to celebrate the cultural diversity of your great city?  There is a model for such a centre in Tottenham (another community with a rich cultural diversity and a football club) namely the Bernie Grant Arts Centre.  

I visited the Centre last Saturday with a friend from Bradford who was already in London  for the football. I was there for to see Ballet Black as I greatly prefer ballet to the spectacle of 22 men and a ref chasing a ball around a field - a tedious exercise if ever there was one. You can see my review of the performance in "Why Ballet Black is Special" Terpsichore 20 May 2013.

Ballet Black performed in a very comfortable auditorium - by which I mean there was plenty of leg room - but there was much more to the Centre than that. There was a restaurant called the Blooming Scent, serving jollof rice from West Africa, jerk chicken from Jamaica and chips from London, whose proprietor, Gina Moffatt, has been honoured by the Prince of Wales and an enterprise centre with plenty of interesting local businesses. 

Now that I am spending a lot of time in London I hope to get to know the Centre and offer it my support in the way that I have supported entrepreneurs in Yorkshire with clinics, clubs, newsletters and blogs like this. But I shall never forget where I have come from.   If ever the transformation of the Odeon building - or any other Bradford business - needs the sort of help and advice I can offer I and my colleagues will be there for it.  And I now have lots of great colleagues to help me.  

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