A very Bradfordian protest

As we wait for a decision on the Odeon, a look back at the incredible efforts of the people of Bradford who have brought us this far.

In 2007, Beryl Robinson, a caring Bradfordian who wanted to save the Odeon, had an idea for a protest that would become the template for Odeon protests for years to come. She wanted to create a circle of people around the building and give it a hug.

She approached the 6-strong membership campaign group BORG – publishers of the Odeon Observer newspaper – with the idea and, along with the generous help of Bingley councillor John Pennington, people who remembered the Odeon when it was more than just a cinema were gathered together to circle the building.

Then in 2009, with the building still under threat, a series of protest events began which were spontaneously organised by even more members of the public, who had never met before, and who had often never protested before.

They set up websites like saveourodeon.com, pitypoorbradford.com, Voteodeon.com and cityoffilm.co.uk all dedicated to the cause, as well as Twitter accounts, Facebook groups and hashtags to spread the Odeon campaign online in a way it hadn’t been seen before.

This movement – being open, unstructured and collaborative – really drove home the message that a great number of ordinary Bradfordians cared about this building, at least enough to begin working together regularly over the next four years on protest events which also showcased the friendly and creative spirit of Bradford.

Save The Odeon Christmas Switch-On from Jennifer Morris on Vimeo.

These events were usually organised on Facebook, because someone had an idea, nobody could remember who, and everyone got carried away. Sometimes the events were reported as being organised by students, so eventually, when pressed, people called it simply the ‘Save Our Odeon’ or ‘Save The Odeon’ group.

Using social media, cameras, elbow grease and very little cash, some brilliant ideas became reality. People came to events with their families, treating them as celebrations of the Odeon rather than angry demonstrations.

Through these online and offline events, the public campaign has been ongoing and, best of all, good natured and creative.

These events provided a backdrop for the very beginnings of what would later become the community bid, as regular faces got to know each other and began to think about what would happen if the building were saved.

Alongside this protest activity, members of the public gathered support from stars such as Imelda Staunton, Terry Jones, Terry Gilliam and David Hockney, raising the profile of the cause at a vital time.

Founding members of Bradford One met either by organising or taking part in online or offline protest events, and were encouraged by the incredible spirit of the people we met. This is why we felt we needed to come up with a plan which would allow those people to own the building that they had fought to save, and to create a bid which listened to them.

We’d like to capture some stories and pictures showing the unique and brilliant way you have protested during the fight to stop the Odeon being demolished. It’s been touching, funny, passionate and creative. It’s been a very Bradfordian protest.

Perhaps you’re a seasoned activist, perhaps you’d never protested about anything in your life. What made you come to an event? How did you hear about it? How did it make you feel?

We want to hear from anyone who came to any of these events and has any photos or memories to share. Please leave your comments below, or contact us.

We are not Zombies

The 2009 protest on Halloween. People dressed up, chalked messages on the building and in Centenary Square and listen to speeches from Chris Howson and John Pennington.

How Clean is Your Odeon

Noticing that the Odeon was not being maintained by then owners Yorkshire Forward, a small group gathered one weekend with buckets, brushes, cloths and detergent, and cleaned what they could reach of the building, filling up with water from a protester’s nearby flat.

The Alternative Christmas Switch-On

The Christmas lights were being switched on in Bradford city centre complete with a party, and our Odeon was due to be in darkness. Instead, a brass section performed carols and a full acoustic band played outside, as people decorated the building with tinsel and lights, pinning on Christmas cards thoughtfully written to ‘Victoria’ – as the Odeon is also known.

Eyes on the Odeon

The City Park opening was due to be a big event right across the road from the Odeon. This protest saw a crowd of people wearing 3D glasses, facing the Odeon during the finale of the opening, with stickers on their backs. As it grew dark, people lit up the Odeon with torches from across the road, while a painstakingly-assembled projector unit gave the building eyes, a batman symbol, and a few choice film quotes.

Get Well Soon, Vicky

As she began to undergo basic maintenance, people brought Victoria cards and flowers, wishing her a speedy recovery.

Have we missed any? Leave a comment below or contact us.



Bradford One June 3, 2014 Blog, Featured