The  Jewel In The Crown Of Bradford

by Norman Warwick


The Alhambra Theatre is the jewel in the crown of Bradford. Built in 1914 and refurbished in 1986 with stunning results.

Today, the Alhambra is regarded as the North’s premier touring venue and hosts the best in large scale entertainment from ballet and opera to variety and comedy, musicals, drama and, of course, the annual pantomime.

Regular visits are made from prestigious companies such as the Royal Shakespeare Company, Northern Ballet, Disney Theatrical, the National Theatre, Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures and David Ian Productions.

Enjoy a pre-theatre meal at the sumptuous Restaurant 1914 or upgrade your booking for any Alhambra Theatre show and gain access to the VIP Laidler Room.

The facilities of the building and high quality of the programme ensure that the Alhambra Theatre is popular with patrons throughout the region as well as being a source of pride in Bradford.

TMA National Award Winners 2009 for Most Welcoming Theatre. Bradford Theatres welcome people with access requirements. If you require specific assistance or advice in advance of your visit, please contact our House Managers on 01274 432375. Or please ask for a copy of our leaflet, Access to Bradford Theatres. Wheelchair access There are six wheelchair spaces at the Alhambra. Level access via Great Horton Road for the Alhambra. Please let us know if your requirements at the time of booking. Wheelchair accessible toilets are available at the Alhambra. Hearing enhancement The auditoria at the Alhambra and St George’s Hall are equipped with infa-red audio systems. Headsets available from confectionary kiosks. Signed / Captioned performances for deaf / hoh patrons. There are sign language interpreted performances and captioned performances at stated shows. Our Minicom Number is 01274 305592 or fax your booking on 01274 431033. Visually impared There are audio described performances at stated shows. Brochures are available in large print and Braille. Call 01274 432375. Guide dogs are welcome.

 might be a theatre in Bradford, West Yorkshire, England, but it is named after the Alhambra palace in Granada, Spain, which was the place of residence of the Emir of the Emirate of Granada. It was built in 1913 at a cost of £20,000 for theatre impresario Francis Laidler, and opened on Wednesday 18 March 1914. In 1964, Bradford City Council bought the Alhambra for £78,900 and in 1974, it was designated a Grade II listed building. It underwent extensive refurbishment in 1986. Today it is a receiving house for large-scale touring theatre of all types and the main house seats 1,456.

Francis Laidler, who already owned two music halls in Bradford, opened the new Alhambra Theatre in 1914. The architects were Chadwick and Watson, who described it as “English renaissance of the Georgian period”.

The building is recognisable for its large domed turret with giant-paired Corinthian columns an iconic landmark on the Bradford skyline together with the complementary domes on the adjacent, disused Bradford Odeon. Behind this, the building is stepped up, culminating in tall square towers with smaller domes.

It is situated on a sloping site amongst other Bradford landmarks – the National Media Museum, aforementioned Bradford Odeon, the former Windsor Baths building and Bradford City Park. The entrance to the building is on the corner on the other side of the building to the dome and has a distinctive iron and glass canopy.

Elsewhere, the exterior is faced in white faience, which has now been painted white and grey. The faience was produced by Gibbs and Canning of Tamworth.

Inside, the auditorium consists of two tiers, a balcony and an aisle. It is highly decorated with plasterwork. There is moulded plasterwork to the curved balcony fronts and elliptically bowed balconies to the boxes, which are situated in round arched openings with giant fluted Corinthian columns. The circular auditorium ceiling is decorated and has a small rectangular dome to centre. There is a rectangular proscenium arch.

The Alhambra is part of the Bradford Theatres group, which also includes St. George’s Hall and King’s Hall, Ilkley.

The theatre is also a member of the Dance Consortium, a group of theatres who collaborate to bring international dance theatre to the UK

The 1,400 capacity main house is a major touring venue and hosts a wide range of stage shows from ballet and opera to variety and comedy, musicals, drama and, of course, the annual pantomime. Regular visits are made from prestigious companies such as Opera North, the Royal Shakespeare CompanyBirmingham Royal BalletNorthern Ballet TheatreMatthew Bourne‘s New Adventures and the Royal National Theatre to complement spectacular West End musicals such as GreaseMiss SaigonWhistle Down the Wind and The Phantom of the OperaWicked started its world tour at the Alhambra Theatre in 2016

The complex also houses a smaller studio theatre, with seating for 200, or standing room for 300. This is mainly used for new comedy, including tours by Alun CochraneTom Stade & Patrick Monahan.

In 2012 a new restaurant, called “Restaurant 1914” was opened at the top of the Alhambra theatre, with views overlooking Bradford City Park. This new restaurant, headed by head chef John Monkhouse and senior bars and catering manager Marc Johannson, was constructed at a cost of £250,000 and has more than doubled the dining capacity of the theatre.

When my wife, Dee and I, were trustees of Can´t Dance Can (nee Spiraldance) in Rochdale our Chair organised a trip over the Pennines to see the Alvin Ailey dance group, from the USA perform at The Alhambra. That was many years ago now, but the sight of the theatre lit up against the dark sky as we approached is as vivid now as it was then.

As the title of show promised, the performance was one full of Revelations.

The dance routines, a look at the ante-bellum, were using African-American spirituals, song-sermons, gospel songs and holy blues, Alvin Ailey’s Revelations fervently explores the places of deepest grief and holiest joy in the soul.

More than just a popular dance work, it has become a cultural treasure, beloved by generations of fans. Seeing Revelations for the first time or the hundredth can be a transcendent experience, with audiences cheering, singing along and dancing in their seats from the opening notes of the plaintive “I Been ’Buked” to the rousing “Wade in the Water” and the triumphant finale, “Rocka My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham.”

Ailey said that one of America’s richest treasures was the African-American cultural heritage—“sometimes sorrowful, sometimes jubilant, but always hopeful.” This enduring classic is a tribute to that tradition, born out of the choreographer’s “blood memories” of his childhood in rural Texas and the Baptist Church. But since its premiere in 1960, the ballet has been performed continuously around the globe, transcending barriers of faith and nationality, and appealing to universal emotions, making it the most widely-seen modern dance work in the world.

The whole evening was incredible and the sense of inspiration as we then left the theatre was almost tangible.

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