Is this the end for the Futurist?

The Futurist theatre, foreshore Road, Scarborough. Picture by Andrew Higgins   sn122822j  11/07/12
The Futurist theatre, foreshore Road, Scarborough. Picture by Andrew Higgins sn122822j 11/07/12

Scarborough’s historic Futurist Theatre is “probably beyond the point” of refurbishment, according to a damning new report.

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.

Competition from nearby venues, such as the Spa, dwindling audience numbers and difficulty attracting large-scale productions are impacting on the ailing venue, the report says.

Scarborough Council currently ploughs £80,000 into the Futurist each year, however the operator has estimated that an annual subsidy of at least £250,000 is needed to keep the venue running.

Cllr David Chance, cabinet member for tourism and culture, said there were no plans to close the theatre but the “nature of the beast of entertainment had changed”.

“I’m not in the business of closing down theatres because it’s an anathema to me, I’m a theatre man. But it’s about value for money for the people of Scarborough. It will only be on that basis that any decision is made down the line,” he said.

“From my personal point of view I think it’s an uphill battle. I say that because the fabric of the building has deteriorated to such an extent that the amount of money required is quite significant and the council is being squeezed every which way at the moment. We will take a realistic view, but one thing we can’t do is just pour money into it because it’s not our money, it’s the people of Scarborough’s.”

Barrie Stead, who has operated the theatre with wife Brenda since 2002, disagreed with the report, stressing that Scarborough’s “jewel in the crown” was not beyond repair.

However, he admitted significant investment was needed to safeguard its future.

“We have got to the stage now where we can’t carry on anymore without major investment. We need the big guns.

“I think it’s a very sad state of affairs. It’s down to the fact that money hasn’t been spent on the building over the years when it should have been,” he said.

“If the funding isn’t there then Scarborough has got to say goodbye to the Futurist. This will be one of the resort’s biggest ever regrets.”