Bradford Live, led by local businessman Lee Craven, have been in regular talks with Bradford Council for many months with regular updates regarding the plans.
Estimated to cost £18 million, the new venue is scheduled to open early 2018 and hopes to attract the elite of world music performers.
With the Westfield project on course to open in December 2015, these are very interesting times for Bradford.
Meet the man behind Bradford Live and their bid to convert the former Odeon building into a state of the art concert venue.
At a time when development is in full swing and the overall ambience is positive within the city of Bradford, it is down to political spearheads, business and community leaders, residents and certain individuals who are dedicated with the notion of creating a more vibrant and cosmopolitan city to live in.
One individual is Lee Craven, a proud Bradfordian, who like many of us, has been frustrated by the constant salvo of negative press and general criticism the city has endured over the last few decades. Born and raised in Bingley, Mr Craven has a vision, and that vision is to convert the old Odeon building into a fully operating multi-functional concert venue with the hope of enticing the elite of global performing stars to the streets of Bradford.
Currently at the helm of a long running successful Bradford based business, Mr Craven reflects on when the seed was planted with the idea of taking on such a gargantuan challenge.
“Funnily enough it started with an innocent post-it note on my desk one morning. It was from somebody at work who said there was a guy next door who ran a bingo hall that joined our business premises in Great Horton and that he wanted to sell it,” he tells Urban Echo.
After purchasing the bingo hall in 2007 to save it from falling into the wrong hands, Mr Craven realised that the building had many of its initial features as a cinema when it was originally built in 1914. After restoring it back to a cinema whilst working closely with a local charity, the Joshua Project, as well as local cinema historian, Colin Sutton, the seed was planted when a conversation between the two took place.
He says, “Colin [who passed away a few years ago] liked what we were doing with the former bingo hall and express his frustration and sadness as to why nobody was doing anything with the old Odeon.”
By 2010, Mr Craven’s inquisitiveness about the dilapidated building had reached a point where he knew he had to do something as the building had been legally permitted for demolition. Though he wasn’t convinced by the demolition proposals and could not see a financially viable outcome if it was to be demolished, he quickly formed a team of architects and engineers with the aim of looking at how the building could be saved from obscurity and transformed into a fully functioning concert hall that would be commercially beneficial to the city and its residents.
After Bradford Live won the bidding process over two other proposals earlier this year, Mr Craven is far from complacent and realises that there is still much work to do. He states, “Parts of the building has been stripped out but many parts are surprisingly very well preserved. The council have been very helpful and we are in constant dialogue informing one another of developments.”
The critics will argue whether Bradford can support a venue that size? Mr Craven responds by saying, “It’s not just Bradford. You’re talking about a regional sized venue that covers the entire West Yorkshire region and will hopefully pull in people further afield. Just like how the Greater Manchester area can support the large arena as well the smaller Apollo Theatre. ”
Mr Craven is confident that the finished project will come into fruition with a planned completion date in 2017. Musical and movie artistes from the UK and India are already relishing at the thought of performing at the new venue. “As a proud Bradfordian, I feel these are very exciting times for the city and I am pleased to be a part of the redevelopment that will hopefully create a city for future generations to enjoy and be proud of,” he concludes.