Letters of the week

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Scarborough needs this venue

Recent local headlines have included “Is this the end for the Futurist?” and “There is no future for the Futurist”. This is the culmination of more than a decade of lobbying and fighting to persuade Scarborough Borough Council that the Futurist Theatre has an important place in the full spectrum of entertainment provision for both tourists and residents, all year round. It also helps 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 decided that the land could be put to better use for other, commercial developments.

Given that the whole of the Scarborough/Whitby coast is subject to erosion on a daily basis, this piece of land is shored up by concrete terraces installed by the architect in 1921, at the time of building, to protect the new theatre. For this reason, when funding was readily available over the years, and councils throughout the country were applying for and receiving it, Scarborough did not – because, in the council’s view, there was no requirement for it.

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 the council, is £7 million. Requests, including freedom of information for a costs breakdown of this sum, have not been answered over a period of four months.

Now the council is saying there is absolutely no money available for the Futurist, which stands on a prime seafront site. Therefore it has a stark choice – demolish it immediately so it is no longer a drain on funds, and leave a gaping hole on the seafront for the foreseeable future, or give the talented and lively entertainment professionals in Scarborough carte blanche to run it as appropriate, to enable them to provide entertainment and leisure facilities in keeping with what the population of Scarborough needs and requires for its tourism livelihood and residential well-being.

The last of 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. That begs the question as to why, if this is the case, Scarborough council spent more than £8 million over two years (2010-11) developing the Open Air Theatre and the Spa Grand Hall.

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
North Yorkshire


Let’s take more positive steps

Simon Albury, in his letter headlined “UK dearth raises fears for future” (Stage Talk, June 27, page 8) notes the recent YouGov poll in which the majority of opinion formers and members of the public agree that widening access should be a top priority for arts funding, and believes there is a lack of ballet in large parts of the country.

Northern Ballet has the most extensive touring schedule of any of the large ballet companies. We perform more new work, reach more towns and cities and give more performances. I would like to reassure Simon that Northern Ballet is doing all it can to extend both its geographical reach and its audience engagement.

We are one year into a three-year project to tour short ballets created for children. In 2012, we created Ugly Duckling – a 45-minute ballet that we toured to 17 new towns in many of the “hard-to-reach and smaller venues” that Simon refers to. Ugly Duckling was created through funding from Leeds City Council’s Leeds Inspired fund, and the tour, which was accompanied by an extensive education programme, was supported by Arts Council England. The BBC made a television adaptation that was broadcast on CBeebies and watched by hundreds of thousands of people. It received excellent feedback.

Our next ballet, Three Little Pigs, is in production and will embark on a similar-scale tour in 2014. Sales figures and audience feedback have shown us that there is a demand for this work, and we have responded positively to it.

We are also working towards developing a mid-scale tour where we can perform a reduced version of one of our full-length narrative ballets, and a more contemporary ballet piece from a mixed programme. Although funding is not in place for this yet, we feel it is important to try to reach new audiences, widen our engagement and hopefully provide a pathway through ballet which will last a lifetime. I hope that in this response we can raise hope, rather than fear, for the future of ballet.

Mark Skipper
Chief executive
Northern Ballet
Quarry Hill


The audience is in Palmer’s hand

I always try to see any production that involves Michael Palmer, as I believe him to be one of the finest actors of today. I was so reassured to see a small theatre – Blackwell’s Bookshop in Oxford – putting on such a high-standard production of Jekyll and Hyde (Reviews, June 20, page 19), with brilliant acting from Michael in a one-man performance.

There’s a very limited time to see this production – its run has been extended to July 13. Catch it if you can.

Sylvia Young OBE
Email address supplied


Come on, Beeb, put plays on TV

With regards to Honour Bayes’ article on recorded stage shows (Is onscreen theatre still second best, June 6, page 10), I recall seeing live relays from London theatres on TV when in my teens – I’m now in my 70s.

I specifically remember a play called Plaintiff in a Pretty Hat. I cannot recall much about the play, the author or who was in it, but I do recall a line about “little pink drinks” and a character in the play saying something like: “I don’t care for the colour, I always expect to hear the dentist say, ‘Rinse, please’.”

But in later years I often asked myself, why has the BBC stopped doing these wonderful relays? They broadcast the West End theatre to people in the regions who could never go there, but would love to see what was going on in the capital.

I bet the answer is commercialism. Plaintiff in a Pretty Hat struck me as a charming play, which I was very grateful to have had a chance to see – on TV.

Michael Walters
Mark Street
County Antrim


So where is it you go, Michael?

Michael Rolfe (Stage Talk, June 20, page 8) claims never to have heard a request in a British theatre to turn off mobile phones.

Extraordinary! I go to the theatre some 35 times a year, and can recall no occasion when such a request was not made, either by announcement or a collage of ringtones.

Peter Mair
Savernake Road
London NW3


Here’s to musical heavyweights

It looks as if the golden boys of musical theatre will soon be back in the West End, where they are much needed.

Tim Rice will lead with From Here to Eternity at the Shaftesbury in September, followed by his old collaborator, Andrew Lloyd Webber, with Stephen Ward at the Aldwych in December. Not far behind, in May next year Cameron Mackintosh has the return of Miss Saigon.

Good luck to them, with three top-class productions from our leading men.

Tudor Williams
Brymore Close