South Square is based within a Grade II listed building originally built as a courtyard of workers’ cottages in 1832 in Thornton village, Bradford. The unique U shaped building is one of the last surviving examples of this courtyard feature in the region.
Following a period of dereliction, in 1982, Thornton and Allerton Community Association Ltd was formed and pioneered the building’s restoration in partnership with Bradford Metropolitan District Council and the Manpower Services Commission. 30 unemployed people and graduates from Bradford College came together with funding from Manpower Services to transform the building, knocking through the cottages to form bigger room for galleries and community spaces.
The centre opened in 1982 as South Square Centre and was opened by the Lord Mayor Oliver Messer.
In the years following the centre hosted many large community events. This one was ‘Titanic’ themed with the centre turning into the famous ship, the windows becoming portholes, and a funnel being built in the centre of the courtyard.
For many of these events, the community came together in the spirit of creativity to make the props and decorations.
Another event was Paris Thornton, on the same year which the film Paris Texas was released. The event saw the whole centre turned into ‘Paris’ with a large scale Eiffel Tower being built in the courtyard. The founders of South Square Centre went on to found the Little Germany Festival and worked on the Bradford Festival.
We now host regular exhibitions, classes, workshops and live music events. South Square Centre has a history of offering opportunities to emerging artists as well as traineeships and internships.
Thirty years later, South Square has developed as a thriving visual arts centre run as a sustainable enterprise comprising workshop rooms, artists’ studios, local history archive, fine art framer, vegetarian cafe, and at its heart, a celebrated art programme.