SINCE it was built in 1873 - in Venetian Gothic style, with its bell tower inspired by the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence - Bradford’s City Hall has been the seat of local government.

It was also central to policing and criminal justice in Bradford from the early 19th century. Home to the city’s police station until 1974, its Victorian courtroom and cells were in use until 1990.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: City Hall in 1989, with the old bridge across Hall Ings City Hall in 1989, with the old bridge across Hall Ings

Over the years City Hall’s grand chambers have witnessed dramatic scenes unfolding, from heated council discussions and public protests to classic films and global hit TV shows shooting in wood-panelled rooms, corridors and staircases.

Now the history and heritage of City Hall has been explored in very different ways by three Bradford creatives.

For five months, architect and designer Shiraaz Ali, poet and writer Harry Jelley, and Rosie Freeman from art collective The Brick Box have immersed themselves in the Grade I-listed building to learn about its history and day to day workings and to explore ways of expressing its story, past and present.

Over the past week, the artists have been showcasing their interpretations at the historic building. Harry Jelley worked with vegan chef Sonia Sandhu to create a multi-sensory experience of City Hall and its heritage. Part feast, part installation, ‘Eating City Hall’, paid tribute to the building, through food and poetry, as a place of celebration and banqueting.

Guests were also treated to a sound piece called Heart, produced by Rosie Freeman, which uses field recordings, interviews and mythic tropes to explore the building. It draws on City Hall’s environmental heritage, its civic purpose, democratic ideals, and place in the public imagination.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Rosie Freeman has created a sound piece to explore the building's past Rosie Freeman has created a sound piece to explore the building's past

The event concluded with the presentation of a colourful mosaic paving artwork connecting City Hall to Centenary Square and the wider community the building serves. Designed by Shiraaz Ali, the striking installation celebrates the district’s diversity and is inspired by the variety of languages, food and people that Bradford is home to. Languages featured in the design are the most spoken in the region from the last Census, and include Punjabi, Latvian, Polish, Kurdish and Bengali. The mosaic will be on display at City Hall over coming weeks.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Shiraaz Ali with his colourful mosaic paving on the City Hall steps Shiraaz Ali with his colourful mosaic paving on the City Hall steps

Councillor Sarah Ferriby, Bradford Council’s Executive Member for Healthy People and Places, says: “We look at City Hall every day and I think sometimes we can take the beauty and impressive nature of the building for granted, but the Artists in Residence have reminded us what a stunning building it is - and offered a new respect for all it has done and delivered over the years.”

City Hall is home to council business, and is the place to register births, marriages and deaths. But it is also a magnet for film-makers, thanks to the building’s many beautifully preserved features including its Victorian courtroom, where Coronation Street and Emmerdale often film dramatic trial scenes, and the impressive council chambers, Lord Mayor’s rooms, entrance hall and staircase - all familiar locations to fans of Peaky Blinders.

Other TV dramas filmed in City Hall include Victoria and The ABC Murders, and movies shot there include The Duke, Official Secrets, Bollywood blockbuster Gold and 1959 Jack Clayton classic Room at the Top.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Bradford Town Hall pictured in 1969Bradford Town Hall pictured in 1969

“This Grade I listed building has doubled as many things,” says Bradford UNESCO City of Film director David Wilson, who leads popular film heritage tours around the building. “The courtroom was the Old Bailey in Keira Knightley thriller Official Secrets, and used earlier this year for serial killer Meena’s trial in Emmerdale, the council chamber was the House of Commons in a BBC drama, King Charles III, and the committee room was Rupert Grint’s office in The ABC Murders. The Lord Mayor’s rooms were turned into a hotel room in Peaky Blinders and London’s Savile Club for Official Secrets. In a courtyard outside is a window where Jim Broadbent escaped from the National Gallery in The Duke.”

Also popular are the sweeping corridors of City Hall. David says location managers’ eyes light up at these atmospheric spaces; perfect for scenes in schools, police stations, hospitals. CGI is all very well, says David but directors love authentic period detail.

Beneath City Hall is the Bradford Police Museum and its cells, where prisoners have included children, German airmen from a plane that crashed in Idle in the Second World War, and illusionist Harry Houdini, who escaped from one of the cells in a stunt while he was in town appearing at St George’s Hall.

Staffed by volunteers, many of them retired police officers, the museum has old police uniforms and equipment on display and holds ghost nights and guided tours of the city’s history of law enforcement. Tour locations include the City Hall steps where, in April, 1891, the Lord Mayor read the Riot Act to mill-workers during the Manningham Mills strike. The museum also owns a fleet of historic police vehicles, including a Mini Metro police car, a black Ford Consul with blue light and a vintage Velocette motorcycle.

The museum highlights Bradford’s pioneering police work, including the first conviction by fingerprint evidence outside London, in 1905; the first colour photograph of a crime scene, from the 1930s; the first short wave radio transmission to a police vehicle, from Northowram to Bradford, in 1936; and a copy of the first tape recording of a murder confession used in court, in 1964.