Future of the Futurist under the spotlight

A cloud of uncertainty continues to shroud the Futurist theatre.
A cloud of uncertainty continues to shroud the Futurist theatre.

Scarborough Council will endeavour to keep the Futurist theatre open until a developer comes forward despite claims the historic venue is “unsustainable”.

Senior officers have stressed that the cash-strapped authority does not have the funds to keep injecting money into the struggling theatre, where The Beatles once took to the stage.

The council currently pays an annual subsidy of £80,000 to the Futurist, which has been run for the last 11 years by Barrie Stead, whose operating agreement is due to expire on December 31.

Recommending councillors plough ahead with the redevelopment of the site, officers have warned if further negotiations with the current operators fail or an alternative solution can’t be found, the venue will close.

Nick Edwards, director of business support, told the council’s cabinet on Tuesday: “I think the time has now come for a decision to be made about the future of the Futurist. The theatre is no longer sustainable.

“Officers will continue to negotiate with the current operator to see if there is scope to continue to operate within the current boundaries. Appreciating this may be difficult we will look at other options available to us. But failing that, this decision may lead to the doors being closed at the Futurist until a developer comes forward.”

But while cabinet members agreed that regeneration was the way forward - which could eventually lead to the closure of the theatre - they argued the venue should remain open in the meantime.

Cllr Derek Bastiman, cabinet member for regeneration, said: “I don’t think any members of the cabinet want to see the Futurist closed and it should stay open until we get something more positive on that site.”

Councillors agreed to authorise officers to carry out soft market testing on the redevelopment of the wider site, which is earmarked for redevelopment.

The area under consideration runs from St Nicholas Street, through the King Street car park and Futurist building to the Foreshore Road, and is approximately 4.2 acres including part of the town hall site.

The council’s leader, Tom Fox, said the decision was important as members had to look how to take the site forward in order to maximise it.

“It’s not about there being no Futurist theatre, it’s about having something sustainable there. If the theatre is an option it will come forward in development applications,” he said.

“If it isn’t, unfortunately other considerations will have to be taken. But we’re determined it will remain open until a final decision is made.”

However, Patricia David, who has been campaigning to keep the Futurist open, believes the death-knell has now been sounded.

She said: “I don’t believe the council wants to keep it open. If they wanted to, they would have gone down that route 15 years ago and we would have had a flagship venue on that site.

“There’s a commitment there from some councillors but it’s to late now. The opportunity to restore it has passed because nobody took the opportunity when it was made available to them at the time and it makes me so angry.

“It means the death of the Futurist and the death for businesses in the hospitality sector in the town.”

Last month a consultancy firm hired by the council concluded that the 92-year-old building ”beyond the point” of refurbishment.