Open air theatre in limbo

The Open Air Theatre yesterday 120507a
The Open Air Theatre yesterday 120507a

SCARBOROUGH’S Open Air Theatre is in limbo today after the announcement of its summer programme was cancelled and a bitter war of words broke out.

It had been expected that the details of events, originally due last November, would be made public today by the venue’s operator, Apollo Leisure.

But the announcement has been cancelled and the company’s chairman, Paul Gregg, laid the blame at the door of Scarborough Council.

The local authority responded by expressing “surprise” at the statement, and said it was still awaiting the Apollo programme for the 2012 season when it had expected details to be have been available much earlier.

It is understood that growing public concern over the lack of the announcement of a single act, just months before the £3.5 million venue reopens, has increased public pressure and led to a deepening rift between Apollo and the council.

Graham North, chairman of Scarborough Forum for Tourism, said: “It isn’t good enough. We are very disappointed that there isn’t a plan in place being advertised and promoted for the summer season.

“Whatever the issues between the council and Apollo, they have got to be resolved for the benefit of tourism in Scarborough.

“At other venues, they seem to have it sorted out months ago and they were advertising their events well before Christmas. We have been appealing to Apollo to tell us what is going on since the autumn.”

Mr North added: “There are artists out there who would come to Scarborough and sell 6,000 tickets.

“The Open Air Theatre is a great venue and people will come to the right events.”

Janet Deacon, area director for Welcome to Yorkshire, said the delays meant the venue had already “missed the boat” in terms of advertising and marketing in some publications.

She said: “When there’s a good programme we have got something to shout about and we’ll tell people what’s on offer in Scarborough.

“It’s sad that it’s not out but as soon as it is we will make sure that it’s marketed as quickly as possible.”

Mr Gregg said that he was “extremely disappointed” that the programme, which he claimed was ready to launch, had not been announced but said Apollo was “forced” by the council to delay the announcement.

He said he was waiting until he received the “appropriate assurances” and “support” from the council, but a spokesperson for Apollo refused to go into further details.

Mr Gregg added: “It is the intention of both Apollo Leisure and Ingenious Media to continue to programme a wide range of entertainment into the venue and we are committed to working closely with the local community to ensure the venue is accessible to everyone.”

David Archer, the council’s strategic director, said: “The council notes with some surprise the statement which has been issued by Apollo and awaits their draft programme for 2012’s events.”