Halfway along a leafy street in Manningham stands a grand Victorian building which was once the hub of Bradford’s Hungarian community.

Rooms were filled with chatter, laughter and song. The aroma of home-cooked goulash wafted from the kitchen, children practised traditional dances and men gathered around chessboards.

Now the building stands empty, filled with an eerie silence.

Bradford’s Hungarian Club closed last year, after more than half a century, due to dwindling membership.

The committee sold off its contents – including chairs, tables, pots, pans and an industrial-sized cooker – for charity, and the few remaining members now meet at the nearby Estonian Club.

Hungarians settled in Bradford after the Second World War. Following the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, there were around 2,000 Hungarians here.

Diane Bielik’s father, Attila, was among them. Attila was a freedom fighter in the Hungarian revolution, and when the revolt was overthrown by the Soviets, he fled Budapest and settled in Bradford. That same year – 1957 – the Hungarian Club was established.

News of its impending closure prompted Diane to photograph its interior, before the doors were finally shut. The result is a striking exbibition – Makeshift Monuments – which opens this weekend as part of Bradford’s Ways of Looking photography festival.

Former members of the club will gather there on Sunday for a launch party.

“I wanted to record it before it was gone,” says Diane, a photography teacher. “I came here as a child for Hungarian lessons. There was always something going on; concerts, parties, meetings, discussions.

“For Hungarians, this was a little piece of home. Like a lot of people, my dad left family behind and he didn’t go back to Budapest for 20 years.

“This club existed because thousands of Hungarians came to Bradford for work. Industry was thriving in the 1950s. Dad says if you lost your job, you could walk across the street and get another one.

“Now people have moved away and the community is ageing. By the time the club close,d there were a few men playing cards, using just two rooms.”

Diane now lives in London but spent two years coming to Bradford, capturing final images of the club. Her photographs have been transferred on to huge billboards, plastered on to walls throughout the building.

Walking into the hallway, with its ornate tiled floor and sweeping staircase, the first thing I see is an image of the Danube, Budapest’s famous river. Diane photographed a poster for the Danube hanging from a coat rail in the club. “Danube pictures were all over the place,” she says. “And there was a lot of red, white and green – the Hungarian flag colours.”

There’s a sense of transition in Diane’s photographs, some of which depict items stacked up as the club neared its closure. In the ladies’ committee room, on a huge billboard covering one wall, is an image of a pile of chairs. Another image, of a stack of pans on a cooker, can be seen through the hatch between kitchen and cafe. The hatch is visible in the picture.

Through the same hatch, from the other side, there’s a floor-to-ceiling image of a cabinet with Hungarian flags draped over it. At first it looks as though the cabinet is still there.

Wandering around each room, I’m met by images of the club’s former contents in these same rooms. Above a fireplace in the billard room hangs a photograph of the same fireplace, with a chessboard on top. In the dance hall, where Diane remembers her mother’s 50th birthday party, hangs a photograph of the bar’s seating, with chess pieces stuck between cushions.

“Chess is very popular in Hungary and was a big part of the club,” says Diane. “At first, I was photographing everything in a panic, trying to document it all, but this gradually changed to staging images of things left behind.”

“I’m interested in the urge to hold on to disappearing parts of life, even though to attempt this for real would be impossible. Photography can act as a cushion to time’s movement. It can ‘fasten down’ the present, or preserve the soon-to-disappear, but doesn’t save it.

“This work and its installation represents the tug-of-war between photography’s ability to capture and life’s necessity to move on.”

She adds: “Here you get a real experience of the club – it’s not just a gallery. Visitors will be guided through.”

There’s a sense of sadness in these empty rooms, once so full of life. The words ‘Goodbye Magyar Klub’ are chalked on to a blackboard next to the pool table in the bar. On the wall, there’s an image of a party sign propped against a pile of boxes of remnants.

At one end of the bar, there’s an image of a stack of records which were played at social events, and another photograph of a little table, hand-painted with pictures of traditional dancers. Disco lights are strewn across it.

“They used to take tickets for dance nights on that table – Hungarians came from across the region. Later, younger members introduced discos,” says Diane.

“My memories are of hanging around playing pool, drinking pop. Towards the end, the bar pumps were empty. They just had bottles and cans.”

Diane came on her own to take photographs, but was occasionally joined by her father.

“In a way, it was me saying goodbye to a place where I had a connection,” she says.

“There are mixed feelings about its closure. In the end, although it was sad, there was a sense of relief. Only older members were left, and renting and running the building was too much responsibility.

“Melancholy is almost part of the building’s fabric but, although you can capture the past, you can’t cling to it.”

Makeshift Monuments, at the former Hungarian Club, Walmer Villas, Manningham, will be open every Friday, Saturday and Sunday throughout October, noon to 5pm. The launch event, open to the public, is on Sunday from 2pm.