Scarborough Open Air Theatre: The council war of words that referenced Maggie Thatcher and 'cloth ears' as a review into its benefits is commissioned

Kylie's show was a sell-out at the venue
Kylie's show was a sell-out at the venue

Local children could be given the chance to perform at Scarborough’s Open Air Theatre in a bid to increase the venue’s social benefits to the borough.

The proposal was revealed at a meeting of Scarborough Borough Council yesterday as councillors were also made aware that an external review into the theatre’s economic impact on the area had been commissioned.

The authority’s cabinet member for legal, democratic and governance, Cllr Tony Randerson (Lab), said that following some visits to the venue and meetings with its operators he now has “a better understanding of its significance to the borough”.

IN PICTURES: Lewis Capaldi at Scarborough Open Air Theatre, see HERE
He told councillors: “I have asked that an external review is done to establish the full economic impact [of the theatre], in particular, all the areas that benefit.”

This will include the media advertising the borough receives and associated benefits to businesses including taxis, pubs, restaurants and accommodation providers.

The Scarborough Council owned-venue is operated through a contract with promoter Live Nation via its subsidiary Cuffe & Taylor.

Cllr Randerson also told councillors that once this year’s figures were finalised he would be meeting with Cuffe & Taylor to discuss the theatre’s financial performance in 2019.

Cllr Randerson’s comments in the meeting drew surprised responses from opposition councillors, who accused the cabinet member of being a critic of the Open Air Theatre before May, when Labour took control of the council with the support of independents and Greens.

Conservative David Chance said he wanted to “congratulate Cllr Randerson on finally getting the message”.

Former cabinet member Bill Chatt (Cluster of Independent Members) added: “I should have brought a neck brace from the amount of turn Cllr Randerson made in those statements.

“He’s spent years dogging this project, saying how bad it is, how rubbish it is and now all of a sudden, since May, it’s his best friend. He’s hardly Maggie Thatcher as he’s for turning and turning and turning.”

In response, Cllr Randerson said the councillors had “selective memories” and “cloth ears”, saying he was on the record as praising the Open Air Theatre but had questioned its financial returns.

Any profits from the 8,000 capacity venue are shared between the council and the operator, though last year no profit was made.

In 2019 the theatre hosted acts including Biffy Clyro, Kylie Minogue and two sold-out shows from Lewis Capaldi.

Cllr Randerson said he was now conscious of how the council could improve the “community and social benefits” the “impressive venue” brings the borough.

He added that he had raised the possibility of local children being given chance to perform on the venue’s stage on set days in addition to existing summer shows and this request had been received “favourably” by Cuffe & Taylor.

He also told Cllr Michelle Donohue-Moncrieff that there was “no guarantee” that the council would see any profits in 2019 when she asked about the authority’s expectations on the venue’s performance.