THIS year Bradfordians have been sharing their memories of the city’s former Odeon building - from going to concerts when it was the Gaumont to working in the cinema in its later years.

Now a selection of memories and memorabilia are on display in Bringing the Beat Back to Bradford, a nostalgic exhibition celebrating the much-loved building. Running at the Impressions Gallery in the city centre, the exhibition features photographs, programmes, posters and tickets, as well as cinema seats and signs, and a prop used in the Odeon auditorium when Star Wars opened.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Star Wars poster on display Star Wars poster on display (Image: Mike Simmonds, Newsquest)

Items have been loaned by people following a call-out by gallery, which held drop-in events as part of a programme commissioned by Bradford Live, funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, exploring the building as a cinema, dance hall, music venue and bingo hall.

The exhibition spans each stage of the building’s history, from when it opened as the New Victoria in 1930 - a grand entertainment palace with a ‘super cinema’, a stage, ballroom, Wurlitzer organ and 200-seat restaurant.

It went on to be the Gaumont, and posters and souvenir programmes on display reflect its pop heyday of the 1950s and 60s.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Some of the images on display Some of the images on display (Image: Mike Simmonds, Newsquest)

Odeon memories captured in the exhibition include queuing round the block to watch blockbusters in the 1970s and 80s. The Star Wars opening weekend, December 1977, was legendary thanks to a mirrorball installed in the auditorium for the exploding Death Star scene. Odeon projectionist Tony Cutts created a shattering planet effect from the mirrorball, which is displayed along with his handwritten guide for the sequence.

Among the artefacts on display are posters, programmes and tickets loaned by regular T&A contributor DAVE WELBOURNE, and a review of a package show he saw at the Gaumont as a teenager.

Silver Writes Dave: When I was in sixth form at Prince Henry’s, Otley, I did a study of pop music for the Duke of Edinburgh Award. As part of it I wrote a review of the Chuck Berry concert at the Gaumont. This was when I was 17 in 1964, and it was probably the start of my writing career.

I have very fond memories of the Gaumont. It was a dream to see so many stars performing there. I was lucky to have collected the autographs of many stars at the time: Billy Fury, Marty Wilde, Joe Brown, John Leyton, Bobby Vee, Bill Wyman, the Tornados etc. I still treasure them, along with the programmes and ticket stubs, which form part of the exhibition. The Gaumont played an important part in my teenage life, and it will be good to see the old building come back to life. The memories will stay forever.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Dave's souvenir posters which he has loaned to the exhibition Dave's souvenir posters which he has loaned to the exhibition (Image: Mike Simmonds, Newsquest)

Here’s my review of the Chuck Berry gig, from May 15, 1964:

‘This concert was one of the first appearances by Chuck Berry in Britain. The Bradford gig was the seventh on the tour which began in London on the 9th May. There were two ‘houses’: 6.20 and 8.45.

This review is for the first performance, and although it was not packed, it proved to be a very appreciative audience.

Chuck Berry was a hit visually with his stage movements, and vocally as he covered his major hits. He opened his act with Johnny B Good, Sweet Little Sixteen then Maybelline and Nadine. Throughout his performance he was backed very effectively by the Dominoes. He then slowed down the tempo with Wee, Wee Hours and then went into a beatier, faster number, Guitar Boogie, before closing with No Particular Place to Go.

His distinctive movements across stage playing his guitar, were amazing. Apparently, he could be awkward with his backing musicians, and insisted on being paid upfront before performing.

The other American on the bill was Carl Perkins, and he was better than I thought he would be. Accompanying himself on guitar, he opened with What I’d Say, Big Wheel, Match Box and Mean Woman Blues. He closed his act with his big hit, Blue Suede Shoes. This was ‘rock ‘n’ roll’ at its best, and was very entertaining.

The Animals proved to be a very promising British group. Their first hit, and after this showing, not their last, Baby Let Me Take You Home, gained loud applause, but probably the most outstanding number was a superb, long, version of House of the Rising Sun, which I think they should record.

King Size Taylor, I felt, was not as good as I expected him to be. He performed some rhythm and blues, Stupidity and Heebie Jeebies, but was very poor on Sherry.

The Nashville Teens, who opened the show, could have been good but the backing was too loud. However, Tobacco Road left an impression and roused the audience.

Finally, the Other Two, a girl duo, were exciting in their performance and deserved the applause they received.

The Swinging Blue Jeans, who had not been popular in the earlier stages of the tour, had withdrawn but, nevertheless, a very successful package remained..

This show was one of the most enjoyable I had seen. I was very impressed by Chuck Berry, Carl Perkins and he Animals, and going by the audience reaction, the rest of the audience were too.’

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Old sign from the Odeon on display in the exhibition Old sign from the Odeon on display in the exhibition (Image: Mike Simmonds, Newsquest)

* Bringing the Beat Back to Bradford is at Impressions Gallery in City Park until March 11, 2023.