Hockney joins battle to save derelict cinema

Bradford-born artist backs campaign to preserve 'splendid' Art Deco building in his home town

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The Independent Culture

In the long list of architectural treasures gracing Britain's towns and cities, Bradford Odeon, a derelict Art Deco cinema, is not one that immediately springs to mind. But plans to demolish the building that once played host to The Beatles and the Rolling Stones have sparked an angry campaign led by prominent artists and performers, including David Hockney, Michael Palin, Jenny Agutter, Alan Bennett and Barbara Windsor.

Bradford-born Hockney, who has maintained strong connections to the West Yorkshire city, has condemned proposals by developers to tear down the 1930s building and replace it with a glass-fronted office and shopping complex.

In a message to the Bradford Odeon Rescue Group (Borg), the artist said: "They should not pull anything more down in Bradford, especially that splendid building which could be used for many imaginative things."

Ironically, the subtitle to one of Hockney's paintings, "One Landscape, Many Views", has been adopted as the slogan for Bradford's regeneration plans.

The Homes and Communities Agency, which has responsibility for the building, says it is bound by a legal agreement made between the quango's predecessor, Yorkshire Forward, and developers to build the new shops and office complex.

Other campaigners against demolition include George Clarke, who restores architectural treasures in his Channel 4 programme Restoration Man and who was last month appointed David Cameron's adviser on empty homes.

Mr Clarke said: "Historically, we have seen the lives of some iconic buildings cut short and then lived to regret it. There have also been success stories. Imagine, for example, if Sir John Betjeman hadn't campaigned to save St Pancras. What a tragedy that would have been.

"I feel that losing this building, although smaller and more humble, would prove to be a similar loss not only for the people of Bradford but also the nation as a whole."

The actress Jenny Agutter said: "The Odeon is the epitome of British cinema at its greatest. It is a symbol of possibility and it would be a real loss if that was taken away."

The proposed demolition also clashes with Bradford's Unesco status as a City of Film, say campaigners.

The architect Jonathan Foyle, chief executive of World Monuments Fund Britain, said: "The people of Bradford seem fiercely and rightly proud of their forefathers' contributions to the city's historic architecture. Bradford should now be expected to follow a policy for preservation on behalf of its citizens, and reject the wastage of further demolition."

Among the musical giants to have played at the Bradford Odeon are the Rolling Stones, Tom Jones and The Beatles. After a performance in 1964, John Lennon autographed the dressing-room wall. The cinema closed in 2000 and its future has been the subject of bitter wrangling since.

During 2007, nearly 1,000 people opposed to the plans encircled the perimeter of the building in a show of mass public support. The demonstration – Hug the Odeon – was organised by the campaign group Borg.

It stepped up its efforts to save the cinema in March after the building was shrouded in plastic sheeting. Last month, it gathered 1,000 signatures to use the building as a northern arts centre and music venue dedicated to the memory of the late DJ John Peel.