Mixed crowds at the theatre after rescue

Scarborough’s Open Air Theatre enjoyed mixed crowds despite the success in bringing in new acts and performances.

Just over half of the seats for the five council funded shows this year were filled.

Freedom of Information figures relating to the venue’s performance show:

• Only one complete sell out - despite JLS falling only a few dozen tickets short

• Hundreds of free tickets - with around one in seven tickets for the Big Night Out show given away

• Only 1,000 people turning out to watch legendary singer Dione Warwick in June when there was heavy rain before and during the show.

Three of the five major shows at the venue this summer would have failed to sell out Scarborough’s Futurist theatre, which has a capacity of 2,150, says campaigner Patricia David.

She has long championed the need for investment in the historic building rather than the rejuvenation of the “passé” Open Air Theatre, and believes that the figures prove the point.

She accused the council of “spin” over the venues performance. “These numbers are derisory, and sooner or later, the council are going to have to admit this, and it’s typical of the council to think that if they say something is good, then we are going to believe it.

“They say that it’s a success, but clearly it’s not. It’s been a dismal failure.”

But initially, the season was nearly over before it began, after on ongoing legal wrangle with bookers Apollo Leisure threatened to jeopardise the whole line-up.

However, at the 11th hour, Scarborough Council stepped in and booked five marquee acts – with John Barrowman also hiring out the venue for his own show.

The council’s strategic director David Archer said that in the circumstances, the season was a ‘success’.

However, Cllr David Chance admitted that mistakes were made this year most notably the booking of Warwick, who dressed in jeans and baseball hat and whom he described as an act “not at the top of her game”.

And Cllr Chance, who is the recently appointed Portfolio Holder for Tourism and Culture for the council, said that the authority will look to learn from this next summer.

He said: “It’s year one, and the programme was put together at very, very short notice with nothing really in place, and we had to get every thing together very quickly.

“It could have been slightly better yes, but I still think for the little time we had, it came out well.

Overall, figures obtained exclusively by The Scarborough News show that, for the five council funded shows this summer, just over 55 per cent of the seats were sold at the venue.

In total, 15,094 tickets were either sold or given away for the theatre.

Out of these, 754 tickets were handed out to promoters and Welcome to Yorkshire for VIP’s, the media and for competition winners.

Out of that allocation, 50 tickets were handed to JLS’ management at their request.

A request was also made by The Scarborough News to find out how much the council had spent on securing and staging each of their acts this summer.

However, this request was rejected by the authority on the grounds that it may prejudice the commercial interests of the artists.

All figures for John Barrowman were exempt as the venue was privately hired.