Photographer Leslie Overend captures the beauty of Bradford and Morley life from the 1920s

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As a press photographer Leslie Overend was to capture a rare snapshot of Yorkshire’s history, documenting the daily details of small town and city life from the 1920s on.

Now, more than three decades after his death, his work is brought to the fore once more as it helps explore the history of one of Bradford’s best-loved buildings.

Mr Overend was 25-years-old when he attended the 1930s opening of the then New Victoria Theatre, so beloved as the The Gaumont and then as Bradford Odeon.

His surviving photographs of that day are among those featured in an exhibition called Bringing the Beat Back to Bradford, at the city’s Impressions Gallery.

Leslie Overend close to retirement (he retired in March 1983, aged 78) freelance press photographer (Bradford, Dewsbury Doncaster) from the 1920s, Leslie Overend, who when he died left 30,000 glass plates and negatives to a colleague, covering things like the Queen’s visit to Morley in 1964 As a young lad he had covered the 1930 opening of Bradford’s New Vic Theatre (would go to be known as Gaumont, Odeon) Now his old photographs of the opening feature as a new exhibition looks back on the building’s history (Impressions Gallery).

To former colleague Stephen White, left Mr Overend’s vast glass-plates and negatives in his will, it’s a poignant moment to see his friend’s work recognised once more.

He said: “It’s quite emotional to see these photographs used. It’s just nice for the old boy really. He was very well known, so enthusiastic about his work. That was the key to it all.”

Born Herbert Leslie in Eccleshill in 1905, Mr Overend had wanted to be a photographer since taking his very first picture.

At the age of just 13, he had climbed to the top of Bradford Town Hall to capture the crowds celebrating the end of the Great War in 1918.

Opening day pic of the 3,318-seat auditorium at the new Victoria Theatre, Bradford, 1930 freelance press photographer (Bradford, Dewsbury Doncaster) from the 1920s, Leslie Overend, who when he died left 30,000 glass plates and negatives to a colleague, covering things like the Queen’s visit to Morley in 1964 As a young lad he had covered the 1930 opening of Bradford’s New Vic Theatre (would go to be known as Gaumont, Odeon) Now his old photographs of the opening feature as a new exhibition looks back on the building’s history (Impressions Gallery).

A month later he was offered employment. Eventually, he would set up his own agency with his father, becoming unofficial press photographer for titles such as the Morley Observer.

It was here that he met Mr White, then a trainee reporter, who said his talent shone in those everyday images, from jumble sales to school photographs, weddings and cricket.

When Mr Overend died, in 1989, he left his archive to his old friend. Mr White said: “He had all these life stories, from negatives and glass plates. There’s a huge collection on film. I’m guessing, but I reckon there will be 25,000 to 30,000 negatives.

“They are all catalogued. If someone calls and says ‘have you got a football team from 1956’, I can figure it out.”

The Queen and Prince Philip with the Mayor and Mayoress of Morley, Ald Joseph Rhodes and his sister Miss Alice Rhodes, on Morley Town hall steps in October 1954. freelance press photographer (Bradford, Dewsbury Doncaster) from the 1920s, Leslie Overend, who when he died left 30,000 glass plates and negatives to a colleague, covering things like the Queen’s visit to Morley in 1964 As a young lad he had covered the 1930 opening of Bradford’s New Vic Theatre (would go to be known as Gaumont, Odeon) Now his old photographs of the opening feature as a new exhibition looks back on the building’s history (Impressions Gallery).

All these riches, housed in a battered box, had been filed away in little brown envelopes. For years, Mr White has been documenting them, on a website at leslieoverend.com.

He has since published three books, featuring photographs and Mr Overend’s work from the 1960s onwards.

They include 15 glass plates that survived from the opening of the New Vic Theatre in Bradford in 1930.

Ahead of the building’s reopening as the music venue Bradford Live, Impressions Gallery embarked on a major project to uncover the many memories made within its walls.

A young Leslie Overend at work in his darkroom; freelance press photographer (Bradford, Dewsbury Doncaster) from the 1920s, Leslie Overend, who when he died left 30,000 glass plates and negatives to a colleague, covering things like the Queen’s visit to Morley in 1964 As a young lad he had covered the 1930 opening of Bradford’s New Vic Theatre (would go to be known as Gaumont, Odeon) Now his old photographs of the opening feature as a new exhibition looks back on the building’s history (Impressions Gallery).

Bringing the Beat Back to Bradford is a new exhibition, looking back on the history of the building previously known as the New Victoria, The Gaumont, and Bradford Odeon, and derelict since 2000. It runs until March 11.

Through a 65-year career, Mr Overend had taken pictures from the tops of buildings, churches, on football pitches, at hundreds of weddings and even more teas and dinners.

“He used to tell us stories from the olden days,” recalled Mr Write. “He was a pioneer of aerial pictures, leaning out of a Tiger Moth over Pudsey or Doncaster.

“He saw quite a lot and did such a lot in his life.”

Opening day pic of the exterior of the new Victoria Theatre, Bradford, 1930 freelance press photographer (Bradford, Dewsbury Doncaster) from the 1920s, Leslie Overend, who when he died left 30,000 glass plates and negatives to a colleague, covering things like the Queen’s visit to Morley in 1964 As a young lad he had covered the 1930 opening of Bradford’s New Vic Theatre (would go to be known as Gaumont, Odeon) Now his old photographs of the opening feature as a new exhibition looks back on the building’s history (Impressions Gallery).
Leslie Overend with press photographer colleagues at a rugby match freelance press photographer (Bradford, Dewsbury Doncaster) from the 1920s, Leslie Overend, who when he died left 30,000 glass plates and negatives to a colleague, covering things like the Queen’s visit to Morley in 1964 As a young lad he had covered the 1930 opening of Bradford’s New Vic Theatre (would go to be known as Gaumont, Odeon) Now his old photographs of the opening feature as a new exhibition looks back on the building’s history (Impressions Gallery).



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