End of Futurist looms closer in latest report

The Futurist Theatre
The Futurist Theatre

The operator of Scarborough’s Futurist Theatre will have to agree negotiations with the council or the historic venue will be closed.

That is part of a plan of action being proposed by Scarborough Council in a report to be determined by councillors at next week’s cabinet meeting.

Councillors are being recommended to accept that the continued operation of a theatre in the current Foreshore Road site is “unsustainable”.

The reports asks councillors to agree to instruct officers to enter into negotiations with the present operators of the theatre acknowledging that “redevelopment of the Town Hall and wider development site, including the theatre, is the preferred option”.

If negotiation cannot be agreed with the operator then the report suggests council officers should be instructed to seek alternative, interim solutions to operate the theatre, of failing that close the theatre.

The council currently ploughs £80,000 every year into the Futurist, which has been run for the last 11 years by Barrie Stead, whose operating agreement is due to expire on December.

Nicholas Edwards, director of Business Support at the council, said: “It is acknowledged that the current situation provides a difficult backdrop for the operator, and officers will enter into negotiations with the operator to identify a mutually acceptable solution to permit the continued operation of the venue whilst the development opportunities are explored.

“Negotiations with the operator are for temporary use of the theatre; the future is around the redevelopment of the Futurist Building and the wider site.

“There is a risk that the operator may not continue, and in that eventuality officers will consider alternate provision, however it should be noted that if such provision cannot be identified then the Futurist Theatre may have to close.”

However Mr Stead, who has operated the theatre with his wife Brenda since 2002, says the venue is sustainable but an annual subsidy of at least £250,000 would be required to keep it running.

He said: “Money needs to be spent on the building. We have persevered for 11 years and have tried and tried, but if the funds aren’t available there is nothing I can do.

“My family and staff have done everything possible to keep this theatre going but at the end of the day it belongs to the council.

“We are always willing to talk as we have done for 11 years, and that is why we are still open today.

“We will do everything we can to try and keep the theatre open but there is a limit to what we can do.

“We would be very sorry to see it go because we have put 11 years of our lives into keeping it open, so have the staff.

“Until the final curtain falls who knows what will happen. Its unpredictable.”

Last month a consultancy firm hired by the council concluded that the 92-year-old building will not be fit for purpose without major investment - a move that cannot be justified by the cash-strapped authority.

Patricia David, who has been campaigning to keep the Futurist open, said: “We need to make as much noise as possible about this, and get as many people as possible to ask questions or just to be there at the Cabinet meeting.

“This will sound the death-knell for businesses in the hospitality sector in the town.”

The council’s Cabinet will meet on Thursday 16.