NEC Group to transform historic Odeon into live international music venue
Bradford’s historic Odeon building is to be transformed into a live music and events venue as the NEC Group chooses the site for its first venture into Yorkshire.
The NEC Group of Birmingham, which runs the UK’s largest conference and exhibition centre and two of the country’s busiest arenas, has been announced as the new operator of the building. The group plans to bring live music, comedy, Bollywood shows, and other live performances to the venue. They have a 30 year lease on the building and have pledged a £2m investment towards conversion costs.
The new building is expected to open in 2020, with construction work starting next year. The site, on Godwin Street, was completed in 1930 as the New Victoria and was the third largest cinema in Britain when it opened. It closed in 1968, remained unused and has since fell into disrepair – with the gigantic spaces inside in need of a complete overhaul.
The plan to re-open the building as a music venue has been welcomed by some of the country’s top bands.
The Kaiser Chiefs said: “We’ve played a lot of great old theatre venues. Beautiful old buildings are perfect for rock ‘n’ roll shows – it can make a real difference performing in these characterful rooms compared to plain black box type venues. The Bradford Odeon would make a brilliant venue for the north, especially as there isn’t a room of that size in either Leeds or Bradford. It’d be a regular on the touring circuit.”
Francis Rossi, of Status Quo, said: “What the country needs is more places that can host concerts, so that people can get out and hear great live music. We’ve toured up and down the country more than most and we know that places like this are essential. The Bradford Odeon has a great history and should be brought back into service.”
Kirsten England, chief executive of Bradford Council, said the developments would change the landscape of the city centre and bring it in line with recent developments around City Park. She said: “We are absolutely made up. This is another example of Bradford’s tenacity and determination to create a city centre that the people of Bradford can be proud of.”
England added that the NEC Group’s investment and ability to draw in big acts would drive up visitor numbers to the city, as the building would become the only mid-sized venue of is kind outside of London. “There will be something for everybody,” she said.
As well as the main auditorium, the 1930 art deco ballroom will be fully restored to host weddings, banquets, corporate and conferencing events and other live performances.
Phil Mead, managing director, NEC Group Arenas, said the building would have a 3,500-4,000 seat capacity in its main auditorium and they would seek to keep as much of the original decor as possible. He added: “This is a unique proposition for us and our first venture into Yorkshire. We will bring local, regional, national and international acts to make sure we cater for everyone and help to promote Bradford a destination of choice.”
Mead added that the venue will have “pre-show experiences” in its immediate vicinity to provide a real escape for audience members. He 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.”
Lee Craven, director of Bradford Live, said: “Bradford Live is delighted to announce NEC Group International as our operator partner for the Odeon. They bring a wealth of experience and resource and the work they did to win the bid was hugely impressive. They understand the building thoroughly and what its transformation will mean for the City.
“The 30-year commitment NEC has made allows Bradford Live to unlock a majority of the funding needed to restore the building and we are now working closely with the Council to ensure the full funding package is secured. Bradford Live looks forward to partnering with NEC Group and Bradford Council to ensure that Bradford will soon have one of the very best live music/event venues in the UK.”
Bradford Council leader Susan Hinchcliffe added: “Bradford Live has done a great job. NEC Group International is a major brand and one of the leaders in its field. They have played a pivotal role in the regeneration of Birmingham over the past 40 years.
“They have the ability to create a fantastic live events venue at the heart of our city in the historic Odeon. We are working closely with Bradford Live to secure the remaining funding needed. For example we have already announced that we’ll be pitching for the Northern Cultural Regeneration Fund and are working on other funding sources too.”