Driving through Middleton the other day and I came across this derelict building, which I thought was an old disused warehouse or factory. Until I saw this big sign on the rear of the building that read ‘Cinema’. I thought to myself what is a cinema doing in the middle of Middleton?
This historic building and unique landmark was the remains of the famous Tivoli Cinema on Acre Road. It was designed by Pudsey architect James Brodie, opened on 21st May 1934 as a 1,152 seater cinema and the first screening was ‘A Bedtime Story’ starring Maurice Chevalier. Who? I hear you say, he was famous for singer and actor who sang the song ‘Thank Heaven for Little Girls’. This was a very catchy song with proper lyrics, no bass line, no rapping or beat box.
But the Tivoli Cinema closed on 1st May 1960, its final screening was ‘I was a Teenage Werewolf’, although the children’s matinees continued for another year. The Tivoli Cinema was the first in Leeds to be converted into a Bingo Hall. It had been a sanctuary for devoted ‘dabbers’ for almost half a century.
In 2009 the St Albans-based owners Top Ten Bingo Limited, put the Bingo Hall up for sale as a going concern with offers in excess of £300,000. It was an end of an era for residents at the time living on the Middleton estate, which had also lost its main pub The Middleton Arms around the same time.
Comments at the time of the closure included Jean, 69, who worked as a machinist:
“Us three have been coming here since we were young women. They used to know us as The Virgins! Everything’s closing now – there’s nowhere for people like us to go.”
Cashier Tracey White said:
“I’ve worked here about 12 years, on and off. Most of the people who come in I know from the estate – half of them have changed my nappies! I’ve known them all of my life and my daughter Sam also works here.”
Manager Andy Wood locked the Tivoli Cinema doors for the final time on Sunday 22nd March 2009. He said:
“I started here when it was Walkers Bingo. It was the first club I’d run for them. I’m afraid it’s another casualty of the current financial climate. There are more clubs opening up like the Mecca in Hunslet and the Gala on the Ring Road.”
The Tivoli was the Centre of the community. It is even mentioned in Keith Waterhouse’s first novel ‘There Is A Happy Land’ – Waterhouse was born in Hunslet and grew up in Middleton. The book looks back on his childhood in the 1940s and 50s.
Do you have memories of the Tivoli – either as a cinema or bingo hall? Tell us about them in the Comments section, below.