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The landmark building was originally designed in 1936 in the Streamline Moderne style by Robert Arthur Bullivant as an Odeon Cinema but was closed during the 1990s. When it was first opened, the Odeon was one of the most extravagant and largest buildings in the region with a huge cinema screen holding up to 3000 people. It was then subdivided in the 1960s into four different screens. The building was then restored in an Art Deco style as a venue for corporate and social events with a capacity of over 1300 guests.
"The Great Hole of Leicester" is the unofficial name given to the terracotta and brick circle which stands by West Bridge. Originally formed only of the top half, the lower part was added, to form a circle in 1981. The top was the design over the entrance to the former wholesale fruit and vegetable market (1972) in Rutland Street, which stood opposite Athena. The terracotta panels, which feature mermaids, were hand-moulded by William Neatby at the Lambeth premises of Doulton and Co.
Athena has now been open for more than a decade, being restored to its former glory as it was in 1936 retaining much of the original decor around the building. It has since been hosts to artists including Olly Murs, Roy 'Chubby' Brown and Jim Davidson.