The year the theatre took its biggest leap yet

Status Quo play the open air theatre.
Status Quo play the open air theatre.

It’s hard to think that under two years ago, the vultures were beginning to circle Scarborough’s Open Air Theatre.

No major acts in place, at a multi-million pound venue that was in grave danger of becoming an instant white elephant.

Enter Sant’Angelo Resources.

The West Pier troubleshooters were brought in by Scarborough Council to deliver a summer line-up that would save its blushes, which it did with a line-up that featured both X-Factor losers and a hall of famer.

Now, one year later, the company has finished its second season booking acts for the near-6,000-seater venue.

Despite a couple of flops, attendances are comfortably up on 2012. And most importantly for all involved with the venue, the theatre is now receiving exposure on a global scale.

“On the back of Status Quo’s tour T-shirt, Scarborough is there, just between Belgium and Switzerland,” said Tony Viney, who, along with Mike Lynskey, is responsible for bringing the starts to Scarborough,

“We had the venue on the back of Olly Murs’ European tour T-shirt too. That’s massive.”

It may not seem a huge deal, but for Viney, having the venue’s name on the back of the T-shirt is priceless.

It’s symbolic of how far the venue has gone in such a short period of time, and just how big 2013 has been in terms of the theatre becoming a major national venue.

“If you stack up all the acts that were here in the first year, then the step up is massive,’ he said.

“The venue is now well and truly on the map, which was our ambition from day one,”

In the summer just gone, the theatre played host to eight major acts.

For some, the return of chart-topping pop star Olly Murs was an undoubted highlight.

The Troublemaker star sold out the venue for the second year in a row.

However, the summer will most likely be remembered as the year guitars took centre stage in Scarborough.

For the past few years, locals have picked fault with a line-up that’s focused heavily on teen pop.

They demanded that “real” bands be brought in, and organisers duly obliged.

McFly, Status Quo and The Happy Mondays all rocked the venue, to varying levels of success.

The Quo sold the theatre out, while McFly were on the cusp of packing the venue out.

However, along with girl group The Saturdays, the Happy Mondays was an undoubted black mark on the season.

Both shows bombed, failing to sell a third of tickets – even with big name support.

However, Mr Viney defended the bookings. He said the Happy Mondays show was part of a bigger project, incorporating the subsequent Hacienda club night at The Spa.

He said the fact the show is returning before Christmas shows just how successful that aspect was.

And as for The Saturdays?

“It was absolutely crazy how that didn’t do well,” he said.

“When we booked them, they were number one in the charts and to be honest, I thought it could sell out. I still don’t understand that one.”

However one thing that they do understand is the impact rock music has in bringing people into the venue.

And if all goes to plan, guitars, drums and amps cranked all the way up to 11 are going to play a big part in the line-up next year.

“We are definitely looking at more bands, as you just have to look at Status Quo and McFly – they smashed it,” said Mr 
Viney.

“There’s clearly a demand for it, but you have to experiment with demographics to see just what works.

“We’ve tried things such as classical. It did well, but bands have done very well.

“You have to learn from that and see where the demand 
is.”

Acts are now being looked at, with feelers being sent out to see just who is available, and who wants to play.

And with the public purse being used to fund the venue through Scarborough Council’s involvement, then getting the right acts in is vital to it being a success – especially with a recent investigation finding that the theatre has chalked up huge losses since it opened.

Cllr David Chance is the portfolio holder with the task of overseeing the running of the venue.

He says that he’s “very pleased” with the performance of the venue this summer, and hopes that within the next “two to three” years the deficit will start to reduce.

And he added: “We are looking at hopefully having the first act announced in November. We have an idea of the acts that we want, but it all depends on who is touring and their touring schedule.”

However, success for those involved isn’t just about sell-out shows.

“You have to think that all these people are booking hotels and buying food and drink when they visit,” said Mr 
Viney.

“That secondary spend is massive.”