No Future for The Futurist

No Future for The Futurist

As the fate of the huge variety theatre in Scarborough has now been announced, UK Cabaret managing editor Mark Ritchie reports on what appears to be the end for The Futurist Theatre, as well as revealing some personal reminiscences.

At a recent meeting of Scarborough’s local council, a decision was made to grant demolition plans for the towns Futurist Theatre. Already a theme park operator has expressed an interest in re-developing the seafront site and creating what they describe as; ‘a year-round tourist attraction’.

The Futurist opened in 1924, built as a cinema and on the same site previously occupied by The Arcadia Theatre. Its 2000 seater auditorium is one of the largest outside London and I have visited the venue many times over the years.

During its 60’s and 70’s heydays, the venue played host to show business and pop music greats, from Shirley Bassey to The Beatles.

I have seen so many great shows in the venue, from a stage version of the TV sit-com It Ain’t Half Hot Mum, to Cannon and Ball (when they were at the height of their fame) and featuring American star Clarence ‘Frogman’ Henry as their special guest. I had been booked at a late-night cabaret function near Scarborough in 1988, where the star was Cilla Black. After the show, and keeping her promise she made, Cilla arranged for tickets to her summer season show at The Futurist to be sent to me. The lovely Cilla was sharing star billing with ventriloquist Keith Harris in the summer season show and a great night was had by all.

At that time, Scarborough also had The Floral Hall Theatre, which is now an indoor bowling facility. What remains in the East Yorkshire resort for variety fans is The Spa theatre and The Spa Ocean room, in which UK Cabaret subscriber Tony Peers has enjoyed a long and successful association. There is also The Stephen Joseph Theatre, but that is famous for its drama and play productions. The Open-Air Theatre also exists in Scarborough, with major names from the pop world, such as Little Mix and Sir Elton John appearing, since the venue was re-developed over four years ago.

Incredibly there is no room then, for a 2000 seater seafront theatre which was, in its day, a major variety venue. The theatre has sat unused and seemingly unwanted as a variety venue or even as a cinema, since 2014. Perhaps a symbol of the lack of demand for seaside summer shows. Demolition and redevelopment are now inevitable, but the memories will linger.

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