A COLLECTIVE of artists and leading cultural figures have urged the Government to back the restoration of Bradford’s former Odeon building by awarding the project a share of a £4 million funding pot.

The Odeon revamp was chosen by the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership Board last year as its preferred scheme to receive financial support from the Government’s Northern Cultural Regeneration Fund, with a final decision set to be made this month.

It was announced yesterday that Bradford-born actor Timothy West and award-winning director Clio Barnard were among 30 prominent figures in entertainment and the creative industries who have signed an open letter to Culture Secretary Matt Hancock MP, calling on him to back the Odeon bid for funding and support creative industries locally.

The letter has also been signed by representatives of the district’s leading cultural institutions including the National Science and Media Museum, Impressions Gallery, and Bradford Theatres.

The letter states: “A rejuvenated Bradford Odeon will become the beating heart of a city that is synonymous with the arts, yet has not benefited from investment in the creative industries in recent years when compared to other areas.”

In September last year, plans were announced to re-open the Odeon by autumn 2020, with NEC Group International signing a 30-year lease as the operator.

Transforming the currently derelict cinema into a 4000-seat music venue is predicted to bring around 270,000 visitors a year to the city centre, delivering a £10m annual boost to the district’s economy.

Bradford Council has agreed to support the £20m project by backing its developer, Bradford Live, with a £12m loan from the Public Works Loan Board, which it states will be repaid using rental income from the NEC Group.

Among the signatories of the letter is comedian Dara Ó Briain, who has praised the project in his capacity as a trustee of the Theatres Trust.

He said: “At a time when so many towns and cities are losing their iconic venues, it’s so encouraging to see Bradford bringing its magnificent Odeon back to life. You only have to look at the neighbouring Alhambra and, my usual haunt, the grand old St George’s Hall nearby to see that this is a city with a rich performing arts heritage that we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to build on.

“It’s particularly exciting to see how this campaign has the backing of the people of Bradford, the wider region, a whole host of performers, the Theatres Trust and many more. Now I would urge the government to back it too, and show what can be done with a little imagination.”

Also supporting the project is Bob Hardy, the Bradford-born member of indie rock band Franz Ferdinand.

He said: “As a teenager it always felt as if Bradford was missing a significant live music venue. We’d often have to make a journey into Leeds or Manchester to see touring bands, which is a shame considering Bradford’s size and cultural legacy. To take the derelict Odeon and bring it back to life would attract touring bands as well as audiences from areas surrounding the city.

“As a touring musician, I know the value a live music venue can add to a city’s stature. Most importantly, as a Bradfordian, I know how exciting and inspirational this development would be and the positive impact it would have on the next generation of musicians and artists to emerge from the city.”

The bid to reopen the historic venue has previously attracted the support of high-profile names including artist David Hockney, actor Dame Judi Dench, Settle-born musician John Newman, Kaiser Chiefs frontman Ricky Wilson, and Status Quo’s Francis Rossi.