Seafront: Stark choice over Futurist

RE Futurist Theatre, Scarborough.

The headlines this week have been “Is this the end for the Futurist”, and “There is no future for the Futurist”. This now is the culmination of over a decade of lobbying and fighting to persuade Scarborough Council that the Futurist has an important place in the full spectrum of entertainment provision for both tourists and residents, all year round. Also it helps to provide a substantial annual contribution to the local hospitality economy.

Since 2002 the council has made only minimum “sticking plaster” style repairs and maintenance to the theatre, having at that time decided that the land can be put to better use for other commercial developments, flats, shops, hotels, with or without a theatre. Given that the land on the whole of the Scarborough/Whitby Coast is subject to erosion and landslip on a daily basis, this piece is shored up by concrete terraces installed by the architect in 1921 at the time of building in order to protect the new theatre, and it has. For this reason, over the years when funding was readily available, and indeed councils throughout the country were applying for and receiving it, Scarborough Council did not, because, in their view there was no requirement for it. No forward creative thinking in terms of theatre regeneration and appropriate leisure development for the site. What was a community asset for 85 years, has now become a community liability, and is “beyond repair”. The latest sum of money, required to bring it up to an acceptable standard, as published by Scarborough Borough Council, £7m. Certainly about £1.5m plus a further £2-£2.5m to extend it (on to the derelict land next door) to enable larger touring shows to have easier access, and to make other internal improvements. Requests, including Freedom of Information for a line-costs breakdown of the £7m have not been answered over a period of four months. We assume it is a figure made up by the borough council and expected to be taken as fact by people. This then is a summary of what the people of Scarborough are up against.

Now the borough council is saying there is absolutely no money available for the Futurist. It stands on a prime site on the seafront in the South Bay. Therefore they have a stark choice, demolish it immediately so it is no longer a drain on funds, and leave a gaping hole on the sea front for the foreseeable future. Or, alternatively, the very talented and lively entertainment professionals, (and amateurs and business entrepreneurs) in Scarborough be given this community liability together with Planning carte blanche to run it as appropriate, to enable and empower them to provide entertainment and other leisure facilities in keeping with what the population of Scarborough need and require for their tourism livelihood and residential well-being.

Finally, the last of the five consultancy reports states that as York, Sheffield, Leeds, Bridlington and Hull are within commuting distance, and collectively have a lot of theatres available, then Scarborough tourists and residents have no need of the Futurist anyway (no late trains and very poor road communications). That begs the question as to why, if this is the case, Scarborough Borough Council spent collectively £8m+ in the space of two years 2010-11 on developing the Open Air Theatre, (not doing spectacularly well in terms of number of performances and attendances and only a three-month availability, due to weather) and the Spa Grand Hall, limited in its offerings with very difficult sight-lines with a lot of restricted and severely restricted views, and anyway cannot cater for large touring shows.

How to destroy a seaside town, its economy and well-being in one easy step: encourage everybody to go elsewhere!

I hope to be able to follow with the good news that, the Futurist is being kept. Watch this space...

Patricia David

Save the Futurist Campaign

Filey Road