Adding new vibrancy to the city – the Delius Arts and Cultural Centre opened its doors as a centre for cultural growth on Friday 16th October 2009.
The centre was originally a German church, named after Bradford composer Frederick Delius, whose parents were founder members 130 years ago. Following a £350,000 refurbishment the church has now been transformed into an arts and cultural venue, helping to keep creative talent alive in the city.
The Lord Mayor of Bradford, Councillor John D Goodward was delighted to officially open the Grade II listed building. Speaking at the official opening, Clare Lamkin Yorkshire Craft Centre Events and Exhibitions Manager, explained: “The building is owned by the German congregation. They didn’t want it to end up becoming another restaurant or nightclub so it’s wonderful that the rich and peaceful heritage of this historic building will be preserved through this cultural centre.”
The exhibition’s fusion of disciplines include: Painting, Drawing, Ceramics, Jewellery, Textiles, Photography, Printmaking and Sculpture. The lively exhibition reflects thoughtful, witty and striking art, design and performances from students and staff at Bradford College. Amongst those exhibiting was Bradford College’s very own great British talent – Christian McGrath, Staff Development Officer. When asked how it felt to have his work featured in the exhibition, Christian modestly replied: “I’m honoured that my work has been chosen to be shown at this wonderful centre.” Beating off stiff competition, Christian’s photography was specially selected by a panel of art experts and critics to be featured in the exhibition.
Over the years Christian has gone from strength to strength, producing work that is innovative, exciting and inspiring, exhibiting at venues across the country. The ingenuity of his creative mind never fails to impress. His photography is clever, conceptual and creative – and has been an instant sell out at the exhibition.
Commenting on Christian’s work, Yorkshire Craft Centre Manager, Clare Lamkin remarked: “I think Christian’s work is wonderful! It was a lovely surprise when Christian phoned me and said he wanted to put some photographs in the exhibition. When we saw them, we were delighted. We loved the modern, contemporary twist on London architecture that has been there for so many years.” Clare added: “Christian’s work has been purchased by a member of the German congregation, which is lovely!”
Remarkably Christian uses a compact digital camera to capture his outstanding photography. Elaborating further, Christian said: “I’ve always had a passion for photography and architecture. The images featured in the exhibition were taken during a trip to London in 2007. I’d been to an Andy Warhol exhibition at the Tate Modern. Whilst I was there I took the photographs from inside the Tate Modern and walking around near St Paul’s Cathedral. I don’t crop, manipulate or digitally enhance any of my photographs in any way - what you see, is what I saw on the day.”
During the opening celebrations, students from the Performing Arts Department at Bradford College, performed a short piece of original work inspired by the word ‘Peace’. The Grade II listed building has links with the peace movement, as Germans, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Niemoeller preached at the church and were both prominent in the resistance against Nazism during the Second World War.
Damien O'Keeffe, Performing Arts Curriculum Team Leader, observed the student performance and said: “They put together the piece they’ve performed today in four days. It’s a great opportunity for the students to show what they can do and be seen by a wider public audience.”
Yorkshire Craft Centre Exhibitions Officer, Helen Farrar also displayed work during the opening event. Amazingly, Helen had taken only two hours to create the beautifully illustrated portrait pencil drawing of Frederick Delius, which she kindly donated to the centre. Helen said: “I feel very, very proud to have been selected to show here today. It’s wonderful to remember a remarkable man and the theme of peace.”
Helen has natural artistic ability and follows in the footsteps of her Great, Great Uncle, famous landscape painter, William Shackleton. Explaining more about her famous relation, she said: “My Great, Great Uncle was also a former student of Bradford Technical College and attended circa 1882 to 1891.” Helen added: “Some of his paintings were accepted by the Tate during his own lifetime, which is a rare accolade.”
Nationally renowned guitarist and Bradford College lecturer, Darren Dutson-Bromley played a selection of solo pieces for the opening of the prestigious event. Darren is no stranger to success; his most recent CD was a BBC Radio 2 Album of the week. Speaking at the event, Darren said: “I’m doing a mixture of Jazz standards and some original pieces.” Darren smiled and added: “I feel very privileged to be here today to share in the wonderful celebrations.”
As an accessible city centre venue, the Delius Arts and Cultural Centre looks set to become a centre of excellence for arts, culture and heritage with visitors flocking from across the country to share in the rich cultural heritage and vibrant visual arts on display within the beautifully restored historical Grade II listed building.