Wanted – Bradford, Dead or Alive

We went over to Bradford today, in order to visit the National Media Museum,

The museum is a marvel. Containing a cinema (including an IMAX screen), this modern building has galleries dedicated to computer games, the development of photography and television, and spaces allocated to more short-term exhibitions and education. When we visited today, the special exhibition spaces were taken up by an intimate look at the people of the Varmland in the west of Sweden by photographers Anders Petersen & JH Engstrom, ‘From Back Home’, and the powerful images of British landscapes by Fay Godwin, ‘Land Revisited’. In the other spaces, the gaming gallery is notable for having several pristine examples of early arcade games, including Defender, Space Invaders, Galaxians and Gauntlet, as well as some of the early gaming consoles and home computers – there is a working Nintendo Super NES system and a ZX Spectrum for you to get your hands on, for example. I also rather enjoyed looking around the gallery dedicated to TV production, as it has many examples of the hardware used in studios over the years and also contains props from popular TV shows – where else can you find George, Zippy and a Dalek in the same space? If you’re visiting Bradford this is definitely worth a few hours of your time.

What else is notable about the city? Well it does have two popular and architecturally important entertainment venues in the form of the dramatic Alhambra Theatre, and St Georges Hall just across the street from the main railway station, but what you’ll also come across are the derelict and empty spaces in the city centre. Right next door to the Alhambra is the crumbling shell of the old Odeon cinema, a structure as massive as the theatre itself but which showed its last film some 11 years ago. Just across from that is the temporary ‘Urban Garden‘, which covers a couple of acres right in the heart of the City Centre. This was finally ‘unveiled’ by the City Council last year after the land had lain empty following the collapse of plans by Westfield to build a new shopping centre all the way back in 2004. What’s also rather telling are the number of boarded up shops you’ll find right in the heart of the main shopping district – clearly Bradford had seen better times. All told, I have to say I found it a rather sad and forlorn place – it has none of the energy and optimism that seems to characterise Leeds, just up the road.

From Bradford March 2011
About Pete Stean

Pete Stean is a London-based writer and photographer. He can also be found on Twitter and on Google Plus.

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