WORK to transform Bradford’s former Odeon building into a live music venue has reached a key stage.

Developer Bradford Live, the group behind the redevelopment of the 1930s building, has been stripping out the steel and concrete partitions that divided the theatre’s original auditorium.

Now the work has reintroduced a vast space not seen since 1969.

For Mark Nicholson, the Odeon building’s official historian, seeing the “breath-taking” spectacle has been “a dream come true”.

Mark, who as a member of the Bradford Odeon Rescue Group long-campaigned for the former cinema building to be saved, said that each visit he has made to the building since the internal demolition programme began six months ago has never failed to surprise.

“As the breezeblock walls and lightweight false ceilings of the 1960s continue to be swept away, glimpses of the building’s former architectural splendour are revealed for the first time in 50 years.

“Some of the plasterwork is well-preserved, albeit tatty, whilst other pieces are tantalising fragments. However, the biggest thrill for me has been seeing the sheer vastness of the main auditorium.

“I always knew it would be mighty, but seeing it for myself has been a breath-taking experience. I can actually see the shape of the old Gaumont!”

Other areas which have been opened up as the subdivisions have been removed, include the former New Victoria Cafe in the tower next to the Alhambra. The space that had been the cinema’s upper foyer since 1969 has similarly been cleared away.

“That area used to house the projection room during the New Vic and Gaumont days and you can now see the portal windows that the projectors once pointed through,” added Mark.

The basement of the former Odeon is also being opened up.

“This part of the building is being prepared for additional use within the venue when it opens to the public,” said Mark, “and again experiencing the newly-created space down there is mind-blowing. I never fully appreciated just how huge this building is until now.”

The stripping-out work is expected to be completed shortly, and the main refurbishment is expected to start this summer.

The conversion of the former Odeon building will turn it into a 3,800-capacity live music venue, to be run by the NEC group.

It is due to open in late 2020 and is expected to create up to 50 jobs directly.

Last week the redevelopment project received a boost as a £959,500 National Lottery Heritage Fund was confirmed.

David Renwick, area director for the North, National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “Thanks to National Lottery players this grant will see an iconic cinema building reimagined as a world-class entertainment venue – putting Bradford firmly on the map. Together, with the other awards totalling £10 million made yesterday, this funding gives a clear message just how successful the North is in attracting investment, and how Northern Powerhouse cities are leading the way in heritage-led regeneration. We cannot wait to see these projects in action.”

Last month the NEC Group held a special event in Bradford to preview the plans to bring the 1930s building back into use.

Mr Mead, chairman of the Birmingham-based NEC Group’s arenas and ticketing company, said at the event: “The venue has seen legends play there, such as the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, and I’ve no doubt that we’ll see legends play there again.

“We are in preliminary talks with a number of promoters and event organisers to discuss the opening season and will announce this as our plans progress next year and construction dates are finalised.

“We’d love to run an opening season, with maybe a rock, family and classical night, rather than just one opening event, as we want to appeal to all demographics.”

He added: “As well as creating the full time equivalent of around 50 new jobs, the venue will play an important part in the ongoing regeneration of the city, led by Bradford Council and a range of partners.

“It will help to boost the night-time economy of Bradford, increasing footfall in the city which in turn benefits restaurants, bars and hotels.

“We’d like to encourage everyone in the Bradford area and beyond to start to share our enthusiasm for Bradford Live.

“We’ve just launched an iconic new brand for the project, which nods to the geometric shapes of the art deco era and gives a reflection of the impressive towers that crown the building.

“When I first saw the building, it reminded me of the Winter Gardens in Blackpool and The Playhouse in Edinburgh and I think Bradford Live can be even better than both of those.”