HUGE crowds of supporters gathered in Centenary Square this morning to remember the 56 people who lost their lives in the Bradford City fire disaster 34 years ago.

The fire occurred on May 11, 1985, during the final game of the season between Bradford City and Lincoln City, which was supposed to be a day of celebration crowning Bradford the champions of the Third Division

However a fire broke out in one of the stands, and 56 people were killed and more than 200 injured in the blaze.

The ceremony opened with a rendition of Abide With Me and You'll Never Walk Alone played on the City Hall bells, before Bradford City Chaplain Oliver Evans spoke to the hundreds of people gathered by the memorial.

He said: "We have come to remember the 56 killed and the 265 injured, and it is good to see so many young supporters here.

"Sadly tragedies are far too commonplace these days, such as in Christchurch and in Sri Lanka, but in all of these situations I say look for the helpers.

"The stars like Sir Paul McCartney who released You'll Never Walk Alone in aid of the appeal, and closer to home those who helped their family, friends and fellow supporters on the day.

"The club staff and the players, the neighbours around Valley Parade who opened their doors to help, the police, fire service and hospital staff.

"I was 14 and had promised to mow the lawn on the day of the final game. I was about to head off to the match but my father stopped me and told me I wasn't going anywhere until I had mowed the lawn.

"I was gutted I had missed this day of celebration because I had made this promise.

"But we carry a collective guilt for the fire, my father was a man of faith and went to North Parade to welcome the bodies. I had rarely seen him cry but that night I heard the sobs about what had happened and him telling my mother what he had seen.

"We will never forget that day."

The Lord Mayor of Bradford Councillor Zafar Ali said May 11 is “one of the most emotional and distressing days in the Bradford calendar”.

He said: "We remember our loved ones lost and injured on that Spring afternoon.

"Despite the passage of time, the loss is felt as keenly now as it ever was, and we remember the love and joy they brought into our lives.

"We stand united in grief as a community."

Rev Dr Jonathan Pritchard said the story of the fire is "etched in Bradford City's story, and in the story of Lincoln City".

He said: "We remember that day like it was yesterday, and we share that grief.

"They had come to support their club on the last day of the season, what happened was not right then and is not right now.

"The agony and ecstasy of football is meant to be played out on the pitch, not like this.

"This is our story, and we must keep sharing it and keep telling it; we do not forget and we will never forget."

Following the service Deputy Mayor of Lincoln Cllr Sue Burke said she was moved by the emotional service.

"It was very moving, particularly seeing all the families - some in tears - because they still remember their loved ones," she said.

"Also seeing so many children remembering loved ones they never got the chance to meet was very moving.

"Lincoln feels very close links to this event, I was at the ground last weekend to celebrate the club's achievements this season, but even then people were talking to me about the Bradford fire, and it is certainly remembered in the memories and hearts of Lincoln City Football Club, its supporters and the city of Lincoln."

Ahead of the Bradford Bulls vs Leeds Rhinos Challenge Cup fixture at Odsal Stadium this afternoon, there is a presentation being made ahead of the game to mark the anniversary of the fire, and a 56 second silence is being held before kick-off in respect to those lost in the disaster.

Players on both teams will also be wearing black armbands as a mark of respect.