‘We’ll run shows at the Futurist’

The tiered interior of the Futurist theatre in Scarborough, pictured this week.
The tiered interior of the Futurist theatre in Scarborough, pictured this week.

An attempt to save Scarborough’s Futurist from demolition with a programme of theatre, live music, comedy and seasonal shows has been welcomed by campaigners.

Leeds businessman Jamie Hudson – who helped to save the Royal Hall in Harrogate – has submitted a business plan to the borough council.

The 23-page document presents a model that could see the Futurist saved fom the wrecking ball and re-opened in early 2016 with a £1 million partial refurbishment.

Mr Hudson, who runs Futurist Sound and Light, which has historical links with the theatre, visited the Futurist earlier this week, and said it was in far better condition than he expected.

“The Futurist theatre is far too good to lose. It can be a vital tool for tourism, business and educational growth in Scarborough. Our proposal would be to refurbish the theatre gradually over three years, but an instant exterior, interior and backstage improvement would be top of our agenda.” Mr Hudson’s proposal details how the theatre could be run without financial support from the council through the use of grants, crowd funding and shares. It also gives detailed information on the types of shows and events the Futurist would produce.

“For the Futurist to re-open, it is going to have a very different business model to its previous management. We specialise in producing shows, so the majority of the productions that will be presented will be created in house,” he said. “We will also have a greater variety of entertainment including live music, comedy and maybe film.”

The proposal also outlines plans to produce a Summer Season of well known musicals which would attract new audiences to Scarborough. In year two, the theatre would produce a multi-million pound ‘Christmas Spectacular’ production, similar to that of the New York extravaganza. Mr Hudson said: “My business was started by Robert Luff who owned this theatre from the mid 60s through to the 80s, so naturally I have got a strong attachment to the place – it’s got a superb auditorium that Scarborough Borough Council need to save.”

The entrepreneur has a track record of saving theatres after being a member of the Royal Hall Trust in Harrogate and helping to raise

£2.6 million to save the theatre. He is also currently saving a large municipal town hall near Leeds. The proposal is to:

l Secure a long-term lease for the Futurist of around

50 years.

• Provide an immediate transformation to the exterior of the building.

• Project manage an eight-month refurbishment package of more than £1 million to provide essential repairs, updates and remedial works to allow the Futurist to reopen to an

acceptable standard.

• Technically fully refit the theatre to a first class standard.

• Programme a full year’s worth of theatre, live music, comedy, tribute and seasonal shows year on year.

• Complete a long-term restoration of the Futurist.

• Boost the local tourism market and re-establish the Futurist as one of the UK’s leading tourist destinations.

Futurist campaigner Cllr Janet Jefferson, who met with Mr Hudson on Monday, said: “Bearing in mind this still has to go before full council, it’s very encouraging that somebody wants to retain, restore and run the theatre. There has been no decision on the future of the theatre yet. It still has to go to full council and we won’t even know if it’s on the agenda until some time today. Members will have to decide which is the best proposition, taking on board the community’s views. The new proposal has thrown something else into the mix.”

Joint project manager Laura Glaholm, from Futurist Sound and Light, said they were surprised no-one had come forward sooner, which is the reason they stepped in at the final hour. She said: “We honestly thought an operator would come forward. We are in the middle of two other projects so we thought this would be ideal in a year’s time but we thought we have to do this now because a demolition date came out. It’s got our name on it after all.

“Our overriding argument is it’s going to cost £600,000 to knock it down and we don’t know what the effect on the cliff is going to be. We know we can save the Futurist for a significant amount less than that.”

Miss Glaholm said they would eventually explore taking off the cladding to expose the marble facade, however initially they planned to obtain a small grant from the council to refurbish the front of the theatre. She said: “It will be painted a light grey all the way across with a full colour LED screen. The sign will look like our logo and the theatre will be uplit with LED lights.”

Patricia David, from the Save the Futurist group, said the proposal gave campaigners a glimmer of hope. She said: “We would now like to start discussions with Mr Hudson’s company in an attempt to mould together the two organisations into one cohesive unit to take the project forward. The council has made it quite clear that they are legally not in a position to accept any new bids after the closing date of August 15 last year. However, this puts pressure on the authority.”

The fate of Scarborough’s Futurist theatre will be decided at a council meeting on February 27, although the council has been accused of wanting to get rid of the venue for many years. Flamingo Land is looking to turn the Futurist into a magic-pebble shaped building with rollercoaster, space shot tower and botanical gardens. A council spokesperson said: “All previous decisions made in relation to the Futurist and surrounding sites, including exploring proposals for ‘Flamingo Land Coast’, still stand.”