Open Air Theatre: Not one single booking

One of the successes: Sir Elton John plays the Open Air Theatre to a sell-out, record crowd of 8500
One of the successes: Sir Elton John plays the Open Air Theatre to a sell-out, record crowd of 8500

THE operator of Scarborough’s Open Air Theatre has admitted that no acts have yet been booked to perform in the summer season.

Paul Gregg, the chairman of Apollo Leisure, said yesterday that while negotiations were ongoing with a number of entertainers, nothing had been signed with just months to go before the £3.5 million venue reopens.

David Jeffels, a senior Scarborough councillor and tourism portfolio holder, said that Apollo Leisure had initially promised that a programme of events would be revealed by November.

He accused the company of “not delivering the goods” for Scarborough.

He said: “Council officers have had several meetings with Apollo and underlined the importance of a quality programme of entertainment. Apollo have a very good national reputation, I would have hoped that by this stage they would have come forward with a programme.

“It’s in everyone’s interests for some names to be put into the public domain. I’m sure artists are quite prepared to come to Scarborough and this iconic venue.

“We had confidence in them coming up with the goods and they haven’t done so so far. That’s a disappointment to hoteliers, the tourist industry and the whole of Scarborough.”

Mr Gregg said that some of the events which will take place in the summer would be announced at the end of this month.

He added that early plans to host a number of shows, including the English National Ballet’s production of Swan Lake, had not come to fruition as additional permanent seating and a stage extension had not been installed as had been planned.

Apollo Leisure now hope that the permanent seating, similar to the temporary seating installed at Elton John’s show last year, will be ready for the 2013 season.

Interest in the summer programme grew yesterday after a number of people commented on a statement on Apollo’s website which said that a number of events, including Swan Lake, Olympic screenings, a repeat of the ‘80s Rewind concert and a classical spectacular, were set for Scarborough in the 2012 season.

However, Mr Gregg confirmed that the information was months old and inaccurate.

He added: “We’re always waiting for artists’ decisions and it’s not easy to get people to commit this far in advance.

“The statement was put on in anticipation of the stage being extended this year. We hoped that the council could have delivered this for the summer, but unfortunately for logistical reasons they have told us it isn’t possible.

“There’s a huge difference between 6,000 seats and 8,000 seats. We’re still in discussions with big names, but I can’t reveal any of them.”

Mr Gregg added that an increased number of shows would be announced for the summer months, and vowed that the venue would be in use on at least 20 nights this year.

The council’s strategic director, David Archer, said the local authority were as “keen as anyone” for the summer programme to be announced.

A council spokesperson added: “We are still awaiting confirmation of the 2012 programme from Apollo Leisure.”

A spokesperson for the English National Ballet confirmed that discussions over a show in Scarborough had taken place, but said they had been unsuccessful.