The New Pavilion: A Walk Through Time

Commissioned by Leeds City Council and Morley Town Council as part of Morley Towns Fund. 

Behind the design

I aimed to bring back the rich history of the New Pavilion to the people of Morley through their own words and memories. 
By reaching out to local people and listening to their stories, I wanted to showcase the building’s past in a way that embodies the identity and history of the town.

A ripped cinema ticket, a couple in love at the cinema, a little child’s head peeping at Grandma’s bingo card. All are snippets of stories and details shared by the community of Morley.

The building itself is included in the designs too: original stained-glass windows, ornate gates and the sculpted façade are reflected in the design’s large abstract shapes.

The front door and the windows on the far side showcase Morley today. The characters are based on people who walked past while I was drawing on location.

A brief history

The New Pavilion has been the heart of entertainment in Morley since 1911.
One of the earliest acts to grace the stage was Vulcana the Strongwoman and her partner Atlas. A feminist icon of her time, Vulcana championed exercise for women and lobbied against restrictive corsets. With just one hand, she could lift a man!

In 1938, 12-year-old Ernie Wise, later of comedy duo Morecambe and Wise, delighted Morley audiences with his tap dancing and jokes.

In the 1950s, the theatre became a cinema, full of youngsters and couples watching Roy Rogers movies. It was an era of smoking indoors, couples ‘courting’ in the back row, and cheeky children tucking into ice cream. On the way home, they enjoyed fish and chips as a special treat for tea.

The cinema transformed into First Star Bingo in 1968 and later Walker’s Bingo in 1984. The hall was alive with calls of “Two Little Ducks” and “Cup of Tea” for over 20 years.
In 1990 the building became the After Dark nightclub, which hosted world-famous Orbit techno nights. At its peak, Orbit was on a par with the Berlin scene and attracted star DJs and clubbers from across the country.

The New Pavilion’s final chapter was as an Italian restaurant that closed in 2009.

Special thanks to Clive McManus of Morley Community Archives.

A mischievous cat used to make unexpected entrances on stage to watch productions. Can you spot the theatre cat?

Photographs by: Hove & Co