Bradford Odeon Rescue Group (BORG)

Summary of our efforts to save the unique
New Victoria / Gaumont / Odeon Theatre.

The work of BORG has been long and complex and to help you assimilate our efforts to save and restore this fine building, this webpage has been constructed in sections which you can select from the Contents links below . . .

Contents and links to sections on this page . . .


Ever since the Odeon (former New Victoria/Gaumont Theatre) closed on 2nd July 2000 and placed on the market for sale and redevelopment, there has been endless speculation and much interest shown in its future or even its demise by members of the public.

Its past history had already been researched and documented by Bradford cinema historian Colin Sutton and a version placed on the Bradford Cinemas History website. It soon become obvious that there was a lot of interest and feeling for this popular landmark building.

Previous interest suggested three proposals to develop a hotel/bar complex by Grange Estates; a Heritage Museum in existing building by Andrew Bolt (T & A 27/1/01) and a Spice Centre by Jan Smithies all failed for various reasons notably lack of local support and financing.

The interest took a dramatic turn in 2003 when it became known that Yorkshire Forward had bought the building and the adjacent car park area for circa £2 million in order for Bradford Centre Regeneration (BCR) to develop the site (ie. demolish) in line with BCR's commissioned and highly controversial Will Alsop Masterplan.

This angered local people who remembered the catalogue of mistakes of the past by demolishing such architectural gems as Swan Arcade, Kirkgate and Rawson Markets, Mechanics Institute and many more beautiful old buildings which could have been restored and updated. Remember also the Alhambra Theatre faced threat of demolition until an eleventh-hour decision was made by the Council to refurbish in 1985. The last twenty years have proved beyond doubt how wise that decision was in putting Bradford back on the theatre map.

The current threat of demolition of the former New Victoria/Gaumont/Odeon building has prompted a continuous flow of several hundred letters to the Telegraph & Argus and Yorkshire Post and heated public debates at meetings of various Council sub-committees together with several radio and television discussions on the same topic.


Council's Position re Odeon Building
In Members Question Time at the full Council Meeting on Tuesday 15th January 2002 the Council Leader (Cllr. Margaret Eaton) stated the Council's view on the future of the Odeon building in answer to questions put by Cllr. David Ford.

From item 4 of 'Document J' available for inspection on the Council website . . .

4. Councillor Ford
Could the leader of the Council tell us what steps are being taken by Bradford Council to secure the future of the former Odeon building on Prince's Way?

There are currently no steps being taken by the Council to secure the future of the former Odeon building on Prince's Way, as the building is not listed and is not owned by the Council. The planning permission granted by the Area Planning Panel late 2001 related to a total redevelopment of the site and demolition of the building in question.

Supplementary Question
Given the importance attached to the design of the Alhambra Theatre some years ago the make it in keeping with the current Odeon building, could the Council consider a more proactive response than has been given in this answer and would you consider not absolving yourself in this matter?

Absolution, as I am sure Councillor Ford is aware, is something which isn't in the gift of this Council. However, more importantly, I think the issue that we have here relates to questions about the planning processes and put quite bluntly the Council has two options in such circumstances. One is, as he is aware, the Planning Panel, of which I am not a member, made the decision in respect of an application from the owners of that particular site which involved demolition and I know they made various comments about the design that was proposed subsequent to that and bearing in mind the answer to the question earlier makes it quite clear, the Council has relatively little or very little power in respect of that. But on a more substantive note, the question is if we were to have done something in the realms of, say, a compulsory purchase or something like that, I struggle to see (1) where we would have found the finance and (2) having got hold of a white elephant in the centre of town, precisely what we would have done with it. I say that regret because I do not think that there are elements of that building that were worth retaining but the decision was taken in the light of the rules that exist as far as planning is concerned and I don't think there is anything much more that the Council could or should have done.

BORG note that the planning permission for demolition granted to the former owners Grange Estates (App No. 01/01721/FUL) was received by Planning Dept on 24 May 2001 and will expire in 2006.

In 2003, Cllr. Eaton was to become a director of Bradford Centre Regeneration.


Public Meetings with Bradford Council Committees
It is interesting to look back at these meetings and note what happened and, more importantly, what did NOT happen as a result of the meetings from which you can draw your own conclusions. The full Minutes can be read here on the Council website where they are in PDF format and will require the Adobe Acrobat Reader installed.


First Public Meeting with the . . .
Overview and Scrutiny Committee (Regeneration and Culture)
Tuesday 10th February 2004 at City Hall (meeting room).

Cllr. Andy Mudd in the Chair.

Minute 70 - Started with a DVD/Video presentation and overview by Maud Marshall, Chief Executive of BCR, on Will Alsop's URC Masterplan. Members of the public then voiced their views on the Odeon building. Council members present requested a site visit to the building.
Maud Marshall responded "There was a need to re-visit the Odeon to find out what it is capable of".

The meeting Minutes record that is was resolved -

(2) That efforts made by members of the public in their campaign to have the Odeon Building listed be supported and the Executive be urged to look into the possibility of having listed building designation made on the Odeon.

(4) That a report on the outcome of the condition survey being undertaken on the Odeon building be submitted to this Committee.

Action: Chief Executive Urban Regeneration Company, ie Maud Marshall of BCR.

BORG have no knowledge of anything actually happening as a result of this meeting. The saga of the 'condition survey' is covered later in the 1st Private Meeting with Maud Marshall/BCR.


Second Public Meeting with the . . .
Regeneration and Economy Improvement Committee
Tuesday 5th October 2004 at City Hall Council Chamber.

Cllr. Val Slater in the Chair.

Minute 22 - Maud Marshall of BCR with a PowerPoint presentation of an update to issues relating to future of the Odeon site. BORG noted several factual/historical errors about the building in the presentation showing inadequate research.

Much lively debate and questions were directed to BCR and their adviser Mike Osborne of Arup's - consultants to BCR. The costings for possible options were questioned, in particular the cost of refurbishment to a single auditorium said to be £30-40 million. BCR said "there would be capacity issues".
BORG's request to enter the building was refused as Ms Marshall explained "The building was contaminated with asbestos".

The meeting Minutes record that is was resolved -

(2) That a working group be established including members of the public present at this meeting, to work with the Urban Regeneration Company (URC) to develop further options for the Odeon before commencement of the designer/developer competition and the comprehensive public consultation exercise.

(4) That the Committee recommends that the outcomes of the working group and comprehensive public consultation exercise are discussed at a future meeting of the full Council before any decisions are made on the future of the Odeon.

As a result of resolution(2) a working group was set up within days and the six members of the public invited later became known as the Bradford Odeon Rescue Group (BORG).


Green Group Motion to Full Council Meeting
BORG were pleased to learn that the Green Group were to put forward a Motion to the full Council Meeting in April 2005 as follows . . .

Bradford Centre Regeneration
To be moved by Cllr. Martin Love.
Seconded by Cllr. David Ford.

"This Council believes that for the proposed regeneration of Bradford City Centre to be successful, it must have the support of a clear majority of the people of the people of the district in order that the mistakes of the past are not repeated. Therefore this Council wishes to make it known to Bradford Centre Regeneration and Yorkshire Forward that it is totally opposed to any scheme that involves the demolition of the Odeon building."

At the full Council Meeting . . .
Tuesday 19th April 2005 in City Hall Council Chamber.

The Lord Mayor (Cllr. Irene Ellison-Wood) in the Chair.

Minute 140 - showed that three Amendments to the motion had been tabled. Interestingly, one amendment from the Labour Group was moved by Cllr. David Green and seconded by Cllr. Ian Greenwood; whilst another Amendment from the Tory Group was proposed by Cllr. Simon Cooke and seconded by Cllr. Margaret Eaton. BORG note that Cllrs. Eaton and Greenwood are directors of BCR and Cllrs. Cooke and Green are alternate directors of BCR. The Councillors did disclose their interest (Minute 128) prior to the meeting but as their interests were not prejudicial they remained on the meeting when the item was considered.

The Chair (The Lord Mayor) decreed the Amendment(s) go straight to vote without any discussion. The Tory Group amendment moved by Cllr. Cooke was carried as the substantive motion.

Resolved - That this Council:
(2) Notes that the former Odeon has always been privately owned and is not in the Council's ownership.

(3) Urges Bradford Centre Regeneration to make potential developers aware of local concerns about the former Odeon's future and to expedite decisions about the building's future following the conclusion of the current designer/developer competition; and

(4) Believes that any development must be to the highest architectural standards in keeping with surrounding heritage buildings and that any end use or uses should be sustainable without public subsidy.

Action: Regeneration and Housing Director.

BORG see this as favouring BCR's long held plan to demolish the building.


Third Public Meeting with the . . .
Regulatory & Appeals Committee
Wednesday 27th April 2005 in City Hall Council Chamber.

Cllr. Stanley King in the Chair.

Minute 61 - City Planning Department (Dave Preece and Stewart Currie) asked Committee members to adopt a draft brief (Document 'AR') for the Odeon site and referred to the Council resolution opposing the demolition of the building and the strong local opinion against demolition.

Members of BORG expressed their views. Significantly, concern was raised by questioning the statement in paragraph 2.3 of Appendix 1 of Document 'AR' which clearly implied that there was something structurally wrong with the building. BORG pointed out that that NO survey had actually been done on the whole building. The Arup report was based solely on the towers on the instruction of BCR brief. There was a wrong assumption that the rest of the building was in exactly the same state. This perpetuated misunderstanding had already misled a great many people including the press.

It came to light that the Planning Department and the Regulatory & Appeals Committee currently considering the subject had not even seen the Arup survey report. Some Councillors expressed concern at this apparent major cock-up.

The Planning Department confirmed BRC and the Council were working on a feasibility study for a concert hall which would include the Odeon site and would report "late in May or early June" - BORG know nothing further on this as at Dec 2005.

Councillors felt a full independent survey report of the Odeon building was necessary, but who would pay? It was suggested this should be BCR's responsibility.

This meeting resolved -
(3) That a further report be presented to the Committee, once the feasibility of concert facilities in the City is complete, that relates the feasibility study to the development brief.

(4) That the Committee urges that a full and independent structural survey of the building on the site be sought.

Action: Transportation, Design and Planning Director.

BORG would welcome resolution(4) but, as of July 2006, nothing has happened.


Formation of Bradford Odeon Rescue Group (BORG)

N. Littlewood

Norman Littlewood had earlier become well known for his pioneering efforts to get the Odeon building listed by the Department for Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) and he had already become the public face of the rescue with his many appearances in the local press, radio and television.

Following resolution (2) at Regeneration and Economy Improvement Committee (5/10/04) it was only proper that Norman Littlewood should select (say) five people to join him to meet privately with BCR, Council and others. He chose people who represented different background experiences to be useful to a rescue group believing that a small group could be more coherent and effective than a large disparate group.

The Bradford Odeon Rescue Group (BORG) was formed in October 2004, though to be very accurate it did not have a name at first and the BORG title was 'coined' in mid-2005.

The six invited members of the group are . . .
(in alphabetical order)

Michael Bottomley - Local photographer with technical theatre and cinema interests. Knowledge of the Odeon building layout. Member of the Cinema Theatre Association.

John Buffham - Former City Councillor involved in local community projects.
Lifelong patron of the New Victoria/Gaumont/Odeon.

Norman Littlewood - Building contractor with special knowledge of the Odeon's construction. Prime mover of the 'Save the Odeon' and DCMS listing campaigns. Chairman of the Group. Member of the Cinema Theatre Association.

John Pennington - Businessman and entrepreneur well known for saving and restoring the Midland Hotel and later converting the former Mecca Ballroom building into Pennington's Variety Club. Past President of Bradford Chamber of Commerce.

Colin Sutton - Former college lecturer. Bradford & Shipley cinemas historian. Freelance technology writer and columnist. Knowledge of the Odeon building before and after its 1969 conversions. Member of the Cinema Theatre Association. Member of Mercia Cinema Society.

John Wilkinson - Former Bradford Council Clerk of Works and assistant Clerk of Works for the Duke of Devonshire Estates.

and, most importantly . . .
Julie Littlewood - as the Group Secretary with phone, fax, email and internet communications with other interested parties and our anchor person for coordinating Group activities. Member of the Cinema Theatre Association.


Private Meetings with Bradford Centre Regeneration (BCR)
First private meeting with Maud Marshall/BCR
Tuesday 2nd November 2004 at Midland Hotel (Conference Suite).

Maud Marshall, Chief Exec. BCR in the Chair.

BCR - Maud Marshall and Marc Cole plus Mike Osborne (of Arup's).
Bradford Council - Cllr. Michael McCabe.
BORG - M Bottomley, J Buffham, N & J Littlewood, J Pennington, C Sutton, J Wilkinson.

It was clear from the start the BCR had plans to redevelop the Odeon site and were not going to shift from that position. It was established that Ms Marshall and Messrs Cole and Osborne were not familiar with the long history of the New Victoria/Gaumont/Odeon building or its special interior/exterior features. They had never been in the building and did not intend to do so.

Maud Marshall repeatedly stated that the building was in a bad/derelict state and structurally unsound following a survey by Arup.
BORG strongly challenged this and a breakthrough came when Mike Osborne (Arup) finally clarified his opinion by saying BCR's brief was for Arup's to survey only the towers and the report based on this only. The remainder of the building had not even been looked at.

BORG requested entry to the building to see for themselves and take photographs/video of the claimed condition - this was promptly refused on safety grounds of alleged problems: no services connected, trip hazards, hanging obstacles. BCR emphasized that asbestos was present throughout the building.

Maud Marshall claimed "a concert hall could not be shoe-horned into the site" as BCR had been advised that such a hall could only seat approx. 600 people and much less than St. George's Hall. BORG responded that this was unbelievable as the original New Victoria auditorium originally held 3,318 people.

It was agreed with Ms Marshall that an embargo be placed on making discussions public knowledge at that time to allow investigations by both sides to continue.


Second private meeting with Maud Marshall/BCR
Monday 13th December 2004 at Midland Hotel (Conference Suite).

Maud Marshall, Chief Exec. BCR in the Chair.

BCR - Maud Marshall, Marc Cole and Trevor Lewis.
Bradford Council - Cllr. Michael McCabe and Cllr. Hawarun Hussain.
BORG - M Bottomley, J Buffham, N & J Littlewood, J Pennington, C Sutton, J Wilkinson.

BORG challenged the various reasons (asbestos and public liability insurance) given by BCR/Yorkshire Forward for not allowing entry by anyone into the former Odeon building. These were felt to be yet another obstacle placed in our way to prevent our checking that the building was, in fact, in a sound structural condition and not derelict as some press reports had indicated. BORG had knowledge and photographic evidence of its 'behind the scenes' condition in non-public areas taken in 2000.

BORG also questioned the maths and/or regulations which now allowed only 600 seats in a previous 3,318 seat auditorium space. Something very wrong!
Marc Cole explained now 675 seats on three tiers (as original auditorium) and based on 1 seat per 7 sq. metres of floor space and casually mentioned a cost figure of £27 million. BORG again questioned '1 seat per 7 sq. mtr.' - matter remains unresolved.

Cllr. McCabe made the startling revelation that "70% of Councillors want rid of it (Odeon)". BORG questioned how this 'poll' had been conducted - no answer received.
[ This particular point also challenged again by several others some months after the meeting. ]

The gap between BCR and BORG was as wide as ever and it was felt that Ms Marshall 'was digging her heels in' to ensure that BCR's plans went ahead. As in the previous meeting, Ms Marshall suggested continuation of the 'radio silence' and not to release any details to press or public. BORG, however, were beginning to have doubts about this 'silence' suggestion.

When questioned about her many statements to this and other meetings and her quoted comments in the press, Ms Marshall commented "And your point is?" The point was that they did not square with one another with too many contradictions. The expression 'moving goalposts' and 'tilting playing field' spring to mind here.

No progress and no agreements made at the meeting. Indeed, Ms Marshall stated she "saw no purpose in having further meeting". BORG felt we had reached an impasse.


Private Meetings with other Interested Parties

Meeting with Cllr. Val Slater
(Chair: Regeneration and Economy Improvement Committee)
Monday 14th February 2005 in City Hall (meeting room).

BORG - M Bottomley, J Buffham, N & J Littlewood, J Pennington, C Sutton, J Wilkinson.
Also Bob Watson.

The informal, round the table, meeting was for Cllr. Slater to receive progress reports on the two private meetings of BORG with Maud Marshall/BCR.
BCR did not attend this meeting but sent a short unsigned briefing note (dated 10/2/05) which was read to BORG. The BCR note said a further meeting would be organised when Yorkshire Forward had replied to BORG request to enter the Odeon building - this contradicts Ms Marshall's comment at the private meeting 13th December 2004 that she "saw no purpose in having another meeting"!

BORG reported that NO progress was being made and had reached an impasse with Maud Marshall. Various BCR obstructions, contradictions and delays were highlighted to support BORG's feelings on the attempts to get BCR to take on board our views.

No reports were read from Cllrs. Hussain or McCabe.
[ Note, as a result of other separate conversations, the views and welcome support of Cllr. Hussain and her Green Party colleagues were already well known to BORG. ]

BORG have heard nothing further from this particular meeting. However, Stan Kidd, Head of Service Improvement, in his Annual Report (Document M) to the Regeneration and Economy Improvement Committee on Tuesday 10th May 2005 on the subject of "The Odeon Site and Rebranding Bradford" said . . .

"The outcome of the meeting (R&EIC 5/10/04) was innovative in so much as it was agreed to set up a working party comprising Elected Members (two Coucillors), Bradford Urban Regeneration and a representative group of members of the public (BORG team). The working party has met on a number of occasions and the debate about the future of the Odeon continues."
[Note: words in brackets have been added for clarity.]

Sadly, Mr Kidd's report did not indicate the difficulties or impasse situation experienced by BORG members.
Click here to see the full report (PDF format) on the Council website.

In a separate Document Appendix 1 - Theatres Service Improvement Plan Update - Theatres Service it is noted that in Recommendation 1 that the Department of Arts, Heritage and Leisure have a Concert Hall/Conference Centre feasibility and options analysis already underway and its Report is due March 2005. BORG have not yet (Nov 2005) been able to see this report which was, according to Cllr. Simon Cooke, to include consideration of the Odeon site.


Meeting with Cllr. Simon Cooke (Regeneration Portfolio)
Wednesday 9th March 2005 in City Hall (office).

BORG - M Bottomley, J Buffham, N & J Littlewood, J Pennington, C Sutton, J Wilkinson.

Cllr. Cooke started by saying that he had no feeling for the Odeon building and had never liked it. He went on to explain the Council's position stressing that it did not own the building or the land on which it stands as the raison d'être for Council lack of interest.

BORG asked why Maud Marshall/BCR were so focused on the Odeon and their urgency to develop the site. Cllr. Cooke explained that the Broadway project was already under way and likewise the Rawson Market site development - both having been started long before Maud Marshall's arrival in the City. The Odeon development was a start for the Alsop Masterplan and was the only area in the City centre which BCR/YF owned and had power to deal with.

BORG also had several pre-prepared questions including . . .
Q. Has there been a full survey of the entire building?
A. Not that Cllr. Cooke is aware of.

Q. Is Cllr. Cooke aware that an Act of Parliament requires The Theatres Trust (and Cinema Theatre Association) to be notified of any demolition?
A. No.

Most answers to other questions simply stated the (already known) Council's stand on the matter. However, Cllr Cooke did make it clear that the Council does have the final 'say' on any BCR decision. Cllr. Cooke also confirmed the Council had commissioned a study into the future of St George's Hall and a possible new concert hall, including looking at the Odeon site, adding that Leeds are also looking at a new concert hall idea.

BORG members voiced their personal viewpoints and at the end of the meeting Cllr. Cooke said he "had changed his views somewhat" in the light of new information he had received from us.

It was noted that Cllr. Cooke did not, at any time, mention that he was an alternate director of BCR which might explain why, one year later (March 2006), nothing has happened.


Meeting with Yorkshire Forward
Tuesday 29th March 2005 at YF Leeds HQ (meeting room).

Yorks Fwd - Martin Havenhand and Chris Hilton.
BCR - Marc Cole.
BORG - M Bottomley, J Buffham, N & J Littlewood, J Pennington, C Sutton, J Wilkinson.

Martin Havenhand explained his position at Yorkshire Forward and its connections with Bradford Centre Regeneration.

BORG explained its position and the difficulties being encountered. Repeated our request for access to the building to see for ourselves the alleged derelict state which we have always disputed. Yorkshire Forward to take (legal) advice on their position in this due to claimed health hazards and inability to get insurance cover.
BORG pointed out that meetings with various Council committees, Cllr. Simon Cooke and Maud Marshall had produced no results.

Maud Marshall and BCR have been the subject of much criticism by members of the public in both the local press and on various internet discussion forums on the Odeon topic. Martin Havenhand was not at all surprised by this and agreed to look at Norman Littlewood's scrapbooks of press cuttings which collectively give a poor PR image to BCR.

Mr Havenhand would report back to us with his findings regarding access to the building.


Meeting with The Theatres Trust
Wednesday 6th April 2005 in Alhambra Theatre (stalls bar).

The Theatres Trust - Mark Price (Planning Adviser) and Michael Sell (Theatre author/writer).
BORG - M Bottomley, J Buffham, N & J Littlewood, J Pennington, C Sutton, J Wilkinson.

Starting with a walk around the exterior of the Odeon building where Messrs Price and Sell were surprised to find it in such a good solid condition compared with many old theatres they usually inspected. Like many other visitors they commented on its huge size and its design complementing and yet almost dwarfing the Alhambra.

BORG supplied photos, history and plans of the former New Victoria theatre building in the hope that The Theatres Trust would take it on board as a case study.

Mark Price suggested that the Cinema Theatre Association (CTA) also be involved and he was to discuss it with Richard Gray, Chairman of CTA Casework Committee. Mark Price is also Planning Advice Officer to the CTA.


Meeting with Katie Bishop/Yorkshire Civic Trusts.
Thursday 5th May 2005 at Weatherspoon's Sir Titus Salt bar.

BORG - M Bottomley, J Buffham, N & J Littlewood, J Pennington, C Sutton, J Wilkinson.

This meeting followed from exchanges of several emails about the 'Save the Odeon' campaign.
The BORG team escorted Ms Bishop around the exterior of the Odeon building and she was surprised by its size and solid construction - not crumbling or derelict as she had previously been led to believe.

Discussion followed which was helpful and constructive and she pointed out that the formation of Bradford Civic Society may be useful for additional support for preserving the City's heritage as well as promoting its future.
[ A Civic Society has, in fact, now been set up and is currently in the process of formalizing its structure and priorities, Oct 2005. Details can be found on Yorkshire & Humberside Civic Trusts website. ]

Katie Bishop suggested the 'Save the Odeon' rescue group should have a clear and proper name in order to be more easily recognised. It was at this point that the name Bradford Odeon Rescue Group (BORG) was coined.
Katie impressed the BORG team with her businesslike and forthright approach.


BCR Design & Developer Competition for New Building

Stage One
On 1st March 2005 BCR launched a Design & Developer Competition for the redevelopment of the Odeon Site. Around 800 international companies were invited to show 'Expressions of Interest' for designing an innovative and sustainable proposal for the site.

The colour brochure (page 01) made use of an old photograph of the Odeon tower showing weeds growing out of the ledges - a misrepresentation indeed as the towers and façade had been cleaned and weeds removed only several months earlier at a cost of £61,000. BORG ask why use an old photograph after spending that money unless it was to present an image of being neglected and derelict? Click here and see for yourself on the BCR website then download the 'Odeon Brochure'.

Page 05 of the brochure 'The Location' used a photograph of the Mughal Water Gardens two miles away in Lister Park and absolutely nothing to do with the Odeon's landmark location!

Page 06 'The Brief' specified "Acceptable land uses on the site include cafes, bars, restaurants, residential, offices, hotels, limited retail, educational, cultural and leisure" Note that there is no opportunity for refurbishment of the existing building to, say, a concert hall/conference centre.

Stage Two
On 30th June 2005, BCR announced that 18 expressions of interest had been received from the 800+ invitations. These had been shortlisted to 10 for them to now each present more detailed proposals. The T & A (30/6/05) in a double-page spread chose to use a large and old photo of the Odeon again with weeds showing and taken well before the late 2004 exterior cleaning.

Stage Three
BCR announced in Yorkshire Post 13th September 2005 the further shorlisting down to 3 who between them offered a mix of apartments, hotel, offices, cafes, shops plus Eco studios and education centre.

Public Consultation is promised and a "vote" on these final three proposals. Meanwhile, Bradford College is in talks with BCR about using the site "as a gateway to its Westbrook Campus" and to offer hair/beauty salon and training kitchen on the site - before the public consultation.

BORG did ask BCR if any of the 18 Expressions of Interest had offered any refurbishment of the building in whole or in part - BCR did not reply to the written question. Similarly, BCR were asked if any of the shortlisted developers had offered refurbishment in their more detailed proposals - likewise BCR did not reply. So we will never know the answer.


Publicity to Save the Odeon Building

Letters to Editor - Telegraph & Argus

(details to add)


Telegraph & Argus Feature Articles

(details to add)


Green Party Support
The Shipley Green Party in its 'Shipley Green Action' Newsletter No 30 (Summer 2005, page 3) gave BORG their support . . .

"The Green Group fully supports the campaign to save the Odeon building from demolition.
This Bradford landmark once boasted a marvellous auditorium, a restaurant and a ballroom. Many fine original features are in tact - if sympathetically restored, Bradford would have the finest concert hall in West Yorkshire.
We agree with the Bradford Odeon Rescue Group who say that this historic 1930 building should be a key part of the cultural regeneration of central Bradford. It makes social, economic and environmental sense to invest in its restoration rather than tear it down to make space for an inferior replacement.
We will push for a committment from the Council to protect the Odeon and restore it to its former glory."


Radio & Television Coverage

Calendar Interview

Norman Littlewood has always been the BORG spokeperson in all media interviews having first come to prominence in the media in connection with his first attempt to get the Odeon building listed with DCMS in 2003.


Extensive and repeated coverage of the campaign to list and save the building has been regularly broadcast by . . .

BBC Radio Leeds (with BBC website feedback)
Bradford Community Radio (BCR)
ITV (Yorkshire) Calendar News


Big Screen TV Presentation
Saturday 4th June 2005 in Centenary Square.

Big Screen TV promotion

BORG were very fortunate to be able to use the services of BIG-TV.CO.UK by using a large 22 feet 16:9 ratio widescreen mobile LCD TV for a full day publicity event outside City Hall in Centenary Square. It was claimed to be the biggest and most powerful mobile LCD TV in the UK.

A specially compiled DVD (produced by BORG members) of photos of the original New Victoria/Gaumont/Odeon building showing some of its original and remaining classical artistic interior and exterior features was shown at regular intervals interspersed with our 'Save the Odeon building' message.

This attracted the attention of both press and television with the ITV (Yorkshire) Calendar news team filming an interview with Norman Littlewood. The interview was subsequently played out on several Calendar editions on the following Monday 6/6/05.

During the day several hundred signatures were collected to add to the already huge 5,000+ list of supporters to both retain and hopefully get the building listed.


National and Worldwide Publicity
The long running saga of the future of the Odeon building has been . . .

Published in . . .
Bradford Target
CTA 'Bulletin' magazine
Holly International (Buddy Holly fanzine)
Mercia 'Bioscope' magazine
Private Eye (April 2005) magazine
Telegraph & Argus (the longest running topic)
Yorkshire Evening Post
Yorkshire Post
Yorkshire Today

Discussed many times on . . .
BBC Radio Leeds
Bradford Community Broadcasting (BCB)
ITV (Yorkshire) 'Calendar'
Virgin Radio

Worldwide Web internet coverage . . .
BBC - Bradford
Bijou Worldwide Cinemas (USA)
Bradford Cinemas History
Cinema Organ Society
Cinema Theatre Association
Cinema Treasures (USA)
Communigate - Odeon Forum
Ian Hodgson Odeon photos (Denmark)
John Leach Photography
Mercia Cinema Society - Save the Odeon
Mercia Cinema Society - re Public Consultation
Mercia Cinema Society - Cinema under Threat
National Museum of Photography, Film and Television - Film Forum 2004
National Pipe Organ Register (Cambridge University) - Wurlitzer.
Mark Nicholson - Odeon photos
'Scatter' Odeon Rescue
Dr George Sheeran: Bradford - A New City for Old
Shipley Green Party
Theatre Organ Association (Australia)
This is Bradford - Telegraph & Argus
Virgin Radio (Rock Pilgrimage - The Beatles)
Yorkshire Soul - What will become of Bradford Odeon?


Save the New Victoria audio CD
In a unique and enterprising initiative, a local indie band 'Scatter' have written and recorded a song 'Victoria' whose words are sympathetic to BORG's wish to restore the building. With the launch in January 2006, Mark Nicholson of the band and BORG chairman Norman Littlewood achieved a hatrick of three major publicity items in less than a week. First a prominent article and band photo in T & A (Fri 20/1/06) then an interview on ITV1 (Yorkshire) Calendar with several playouts (Mon 23/1/06) followed by an extended interview (Bob Walmsley's show, Tue 24/1/06) on BBC Radio Leeds and more media coverage was to follow.

BORG believes that such continued high profile publicity is something of an embarrassment to BCR and their grandiose yet unpopular plans. More details of the Victoria CD on Scatter's Odeon Rescue webpages or see Scatter's Odeon photos.


DCMS and English Heritage Listing Applications


1996 - by Bradford Council

(details to add)


2002 - by David Ford
Application to DCMS dated 9th February 2002.
Details of submission not known.
Rejected by DCMS 30th April 2002 for the reason . . .

"The building has been assessed by English Heritage which has commented that the Odeon Cinema was designed in 1929-1930 by William Illingworth. It has seemingly grand exterior which has unfortunately been altered on the ground floor. Internally, it has been radically altered and redesigned and now only retains the most vestigial fragments of its original decoration and plan. English Heritage have concluded that this once important local cinema is too altered to merit listing as a building of architectural or historic interest."


2004 - by Norman Littlewood
Application dated 16th April 2004 to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport submitted by Norman & Julie Littlewood included a portfolio with . . .
Location Plan.
History of the New Victoria/Gaumont/Odeon building.
Various correspondence.
3,500 Petition signatures.
Interior and exterior photographs.
File of Press cuttings.

The DCMS duly sought advice from English Heritage. The resulting rejection was based on the fact that the building "has been too altered to merit listing".
BORG then twice asked DCMS when the internal inspection had taken taken place; their response on 25 February 2005 stated . . .

"With regard to the question on whether if and when a site visit was conducted, we are waiting to speak to the inspector. Once we have his comments will will contact you again."
BORG have not heard anything further on this.


2005 - by Norman Littlewood / BORG
Application dated 1st August 2005 to English Heritage submitted jointly by N & J Littlewood and the BORG team.
A similar portfolio was included with appropriate updates to information and an increased (4,500+) petition list.
The formal reply dated 12th September 2005 stated . . .

"The building has been subjected to several changes of use which necessitated internal alterations on each occasion, the interior has been radically altered and redesigned and now retains only the most vestigial fragments of its original decoration and plan. This once important example of 1930s cinema has been too altered to qualify for inclusion on the list. Whilst it is clear that there is strong local feeling for the building, this is not a reason which we are permitted to consider when assessing buildings."
An appeal, 6th October 2005, was lodged questioning when and if an internal inspection had been carried out. The Theatres Trust had not been consulted by English Heritage. Could the façade be considered separately as this is not mentioned in this or earlier rejection letters?
BORG note there is no mention of the separate wing of the building containing the former restaurant and ballroom (later Odeon 3) for which so much of the original fabric and decoration still remain in tact. No reply received as of May 2006.


2005 - by Andrew Bolt
Submitted to English Heritage 20/7/05.
Application based on the building history (from Bradford Cinemas History website) with emphasis on William Illingworth, the cinema architect and former Lord Mayor. The New Victoria building is seen as a monument to Illingworth's work for the City. A Building Preservation Notice was recommended to halt demolition. The Application was supported by a brief report with photographs of its construction.

English Heritage rejected the application as "this once important example of a 1930's cinema has been too altered to qualify for inclusion on the list". No appeal was made.

Related links for newspaper story . . .
Yorkshire Post - Details of Application 29/8/05, and
Yorkshire Post - English Heritage Rejection 16/9/05.


BCR Public Consultations

BCR Public Consultation No 1 - October 2004
Following the meeting of the Regeneration and Economy Improvement Committee (5/10/04) the BORG working group was set up to "work alongside Maud Marshall/BCR" to find a suitable solution for the Odeon building; but the 'work alongside" bit (T & A 6/10/04) never had a chance.

BCR, based on an Arup feasibility study, had 'jumped the gun' to a public vote in the Telegraph & Argus before the meeting with the Council sub-committee who expressed their surprise.

BCR proposed three options with public voting via the BCR website, Telegraph & Argus coupon or by telephone to a premium rate number.

The options were . . .

Option 1 - . . . to see the creation of an outstanding new building with two towers retained or replica towers built if cheaper.
Option 2 - . . . to see an outstanding new building which contains some design features reflecting the two towers which were once on the site.
Option 3 - . . . to see an outstanding new building on the site but without the towers.
Any option to restore the original building to its former glory as a 3,000+ seat concert hall/conference centre, for example, was not even offered. The public were thus denied the opportunity to vote for this!

The T & A (4/10/05 p3) carried an "experts view of the cinema" based on the Arup report. It came light later (private meeting with BCR 2/11/04) that the Arup report was based solely on the towers as instructed by BCR. The theatre/cinema main structure and former restaurant/ballroom wing had NOT been surveyed. It does not follow that the condition of the towers represents the condition of the entire building - the main body of the building being of substantially more solid construction than the towers.

The T & A 7/10/04 carried the same voting coupon and for several nights later with additional information on the costings for each option, i.e.
Option 1 - £3.6 million
Option 2 - £3 million, and
Option 3 - £1.44 million (total demolition of towers).

The T & A 19/10/04 announced the result of the public vote with majority wanting Option 1 to retain the towers. The T & A exact words were "readers have voted overwhelmingly to keep the Odeon's famous twin towers".

To be precise, a total of 689 people voted by T & A coupon, phone and BCR website with 81% supporting Option 1. Now 689 people out a population of circa 300,000 is certainly not a representative figure and hardly compares with Norman Littlewood's BORG petition of 5000+ names of support for refurbishment of the entire building.

Some Facts You Weren't Told
Arup's feasibility report contained information which was not mentioned in the so-called public consultation vote though a copy (in PDF format) was on the BCR website, if you knew where to find it. The differences were brought to the attention of Maud Marshall (on 18/10/05) following which the report disappeared promptly from the BCR website. More recently (Nov 2005) it has been found at an obscure location deep with their website - click here to download the PDF file.

An important part of the Arup report was the opening up of the Bradford Beck at the point where it runs under part of the Odeon building in order to make an open water feature for the new development. The cost figures quoted in the T & A each included a significant amount for, to use Arup's own words, "making good the site including opening up Bradford Beck".

Further, the voting public were NOT told that the report's costings for all three options actually included, again in Arup's words, "demolition of buildings and rotundras" - which means the towers were to be demolished along with the rest of the building.

When Ms Marshall was questioned privately (18/10/04 at Yorkshire Forward's AGM) about these discrepancies, her response was to dismiss the suggestion adding that it was "to keep it simple and not confuse the public".

So, BORG ask just what were the public actually voting for?
BORG regarded the whole exercise as a farce and quite meaningless as a public consultation and a disaster from a PR point of view.

More recently (T & A 17/9/05 p11), Mike Priestley in his regular 'North of Watford' column concludes his comments of the first consultation exercise "in which the basic question was rigged to exclude any restoration option, it seems to be (BCR) an organisation that claims to seek the views of local people and then promptly ignores them".
BORG have realised and experienced precisely this for nearly two years.


BCR Public Consultation No 2 - May2006
After a delay to give more time to the final three developers to complete their proposals, it was announced in the T & A 11th May 2006 with the briefest of description and minimal computer images giving the public just three weeks to inspect a minimalist display at the NMPFT and pass comments. The public display comprised only large illustrations and an anonymous (i.e. no name or address) comment form. The display was staffed by students from a marketing course at Bradford College and clearly they had no background knowledge of either the Odeon building or the new proposals and could not answer any questions.

The cheapness of this so-called consultation and the paucity of information attracted much criticism. Another PR disaster for BCR in dealing with what has now become the City's most controversial building. Click here for details of the proposals on the T & A website. Another interesting viewpoint can be seen on the Visions of Bradford website.


Civic Society: Public Debate on Odeon building
NL and JP The newly formed Bradford Civic Society (BCS) hosted its first public debate about the Odeon's future on Thursday 1st June 2006 in a packed lecture theatre in Bradford (Macmillan) College.

BCS brought together Bradford Odeon Rescue Group (BORG) and Bradford Centre Regeneration (BCR) for each to make a presentation of their views to be followed by questions from the audience. The debate was chaired by Anthony Mann, chairman of BCS.

Maud Marshall (BCR) commenced by simply describing the three offerings up for public consultation following her rather inaccurate version of the history of the Odeon site from its early brewery days.
BORG then showed its PowerPoint presentation on the large screen using authentic photographs and researched facts to show the building is worth restoring to a 3,000+ seat concert hall etc, followed by John Pennington (BORG) with a dynamic oration highlighting the difficulties encountered by BORG and the questionable facts and tactics used by BCR (and Yorkshire Forward) to keep BORG out of the building and portray a wrong impression of the building condition to the public.

Maud Marshall

Questions and opinions from the public flowed with passion and rapidity with most directed at BCR where Maud Marshall and Marc Cole struggled to respond with convincing answers. It was soon clear that Ms Marshall had 'lost it' completely. BCR indicated they had to leave the debate to attend the (more important) 'opening' of a giant TV screen in the City centre. This did not please the meeting and Marc Cole did walk out without any apology. Ms Marshall agreed to stay a little longer - the debate was planned to end at 9.00pm. The audience were able to witness BCR's contempt for the public views with their unconvincing and contradictory answers. Another spectacular PR disaster for BCR and all captured on video.

More reactions to the public debate at T & A website and Visions of Bradford website. The Bradford Civic Society have since (T & A 15/6/06) been quoted as giving their support for refurbishment of the building to its former glory.


Offical: Odeon building can rot!
There has been much evidence of scandalous neglect of the building during the six years since it closed. Roof doors and windows have been left open. Despite 24-hour surveillance and security, the building has been broken into many times and obvious entry points left insecured for many months. It is known that copper/lead piping and other fittings have been removed. Squatters are said to have taken up residency along with the pigeon population making it the City's largest pigeon loft.

On 9th June 2006 the T & A reported that "Odeon weeds can take root" in which David Custance, Head of Strategic Development and Property at Yorkshire Forward and also on the Board of BCR said "further work to remove weeds is not the best use of public money". Yorkshire Forward are clearly quite happy to let it rot. BORG see this as allowing it to become a visual embarrassment to strengthen BCR's case for demolition.


Contact Bradford Odeon Rescue Group (BORG)
Letters by Royal Mail post to . . .

Bradford Odeon Rescue Group (BORG)
c/o Norman Littlewood,
Westcroft House,
628 Huddersfield Road,
West Yorkshire.
BD12 8JR

Telephone: 01274 670292
Fax: 01274 670292

This document is copyright ©2004-06, Bradford Odeon Rescue Group.
Copyright of document/newspaper extracts, trading/business names and links are duly acknowledged.
May not be copied or reproduced without permission.


Go to Part 1 - New Victoria/Gaumont Era 1930 to 1968, or
Go to Part 2 - Odeon Film Centre Era 1969 to 2000, or
Return to Bradford Cinemas History Index Page.

This BORG webpage last updated on 16/7/06.