EVERYONE from Houdini to Freddie Mercury has appeared at St George’s Hall over the years - but did you know it was once used as an airport check-in lounge..?

This weekend an open day offers the chance to re-discover the historic venue, which re-opened earlier this month following a £9.5m restoration. Visitors are invited to tour the building and learn about its story, from Victorian times to the present.

Discover how it has evolved over 165 years from a classical concert hall to a cinema, rock and pop venue - even an airport departure lounge. Back in 1964, in the early days of package holidays, air passengers were invited to St George’s Hall to check in, leave baggage and relax in the lounge, before taking a coach to the airport in Yeadon. Anyone remember doing that?

Saturday's open day, from 11am to 3pm, is an opportunity to browse heritage displays of more than 200 archive items, including old tickets, programmes, sweet wrappers and cigarette packets found down the back of seats during the refurbishment. Some objects, including an 1871 handbill for a Saturday night variety show, a Daily Express front page from January 10, 1928, sweet packets from the 1930s, 40s and 50s and a turn-of-the-century beer bottle are on permanent display.

Family activities at the open day include dressing up as famous faces who have appeared at St George’s Hall. From its official opening in 1853 to big rock concerts of the 1970s, 80s and beyond, Bradford's 'People's Palace' has seen the likes of Winston Churchill, Charles Dickens and Suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst take to the stage, as well as rock giants Queen, Genesis, Motorhead, Bowie, The Kinks and Bryan Adams.

The new-look Dress Circle Bar is a musical memory lane. On the walls are framed tickets for the Stranglers, Ian Dury, Blondie and Queen to name a few, and posters signed by stars such as Dionne Warwick, David Essex, David Bowie, Boy George, Petula Clark, Morrissey, Tom Jones and Sugababes.

The concert tickets on display were donated by the public, following an appeal in the Telegraph & Argus. Archive items are displayed across all four levels of the venue and the public are invited to add to the collection with their own tickets, programmes and other momentos.

Alongside a curved ‘magic mirror’ is a display paying tribute to illusionists at St George’s Hall over the years, including Paul Daniels, Derren Brown and Houdini, who thrilled Bradfordians there in 1905.

The Grand Tier Bar has a People and Politics theme, with images of Suffragettes at the venue. And in each bar is a screen showing footage of Bradford from the early 1900s.

In the ground floor café, with a beautifully restored mosaic floor and mirrored ceiling, are framed posters and programmes of shows from over the years, with a comedy theme in the bar area.

The extensive refurbishment has included major works to the roof, windows and stonework (around 1,000 stones were replaced, the largest one the size of a double bed). Access to the venue is via a new glass foyer on Bridge Street, and entrance doors on Hall Ings on show nights, and there’s improved disability access, with the installation of a lift and more wheelchair spaces. Front-of-house is a stylish open-plan area, and seating in the auditorium has been upgraded.

The1,350-seat concert hall re-opened with a concert by Barbara Dickson, and a few days later the Halle, the venue’s residential orchestra, opened Bradford’s 151st International Orchestral Season

“We’ve increased leg room as much as we can without reducing capacity. You can't attract artists without the right capacity," said Bradford Theatres general manager Adam Renton. "Restricted view seating is down from 350 to 70."

“In the past whenever this place had a refurbishment it was reasonably quick, and it’s always been in the shadow of the Alhambra. This time the original remit grew; it was like the building was more of less telling us what was needed.

“The restoration is first-rate, it brings the venue and facilities up to date. The stage can be extended for a full orchestra and the acoustics are wonderful, as they always have been.

"The heritage of the building is very important to us, and we want people to get involved. We'll be holding regular heritage tours and inviting school parties in. There's space for more souvenirs to add to what's already on display."

The anniversary of the official opening will be celebrated with a weekend of events on June 1 and 2. The Saturday will see a variety show with a yet-to-be-announced headline singer and on the Sunday a community event will be open to local amateur dramatic societies and other organisations, with tickets costing 1853 prices.

Sitting in the cafe lounge area, where lunch is served daily, Mr Renton said he felt "exhausted, excited, nervous, confident and very proud". He added: "Now the hard work begins - this place has got to live. These are difficult financial times, and it has to give a return. We want it to be busy, we want people to feel that it is for them."