AS the Town Hall’s plans to demolish the Futurist Theatre move towards their final conclusion, it seems odd that a council which thinks it knows the cost of everything, but actually know the value of nothing, should be so keen to spend millions of pounds destroying a valuable asset.
Looking back to where we were in 2013, when the first serious moves were made by the council to knock the Futurist down, and where we are now, the situation could not be more different. It is true that in 2013 it was easy for the Town Hall to make the case for demolition. The Town Hall’s finances were desperate.
The Futurist Theatre was stuck in the vicious circle of lack of investment, going back decades, which had resulted in the fabric of the building falling apart. The ever higher running costs resulting from outdated facilities were adding further financial burdens. Moreover, because the council had failed to buy the property on the Blands Cliff side of the building props and staging could not enter the building thus debarring this lucrative entertainment.
With all these problems it is not difficult to understand that the Futurist was unable to attract big name acts, could not facilitate popular shows and, because it was cold and damp in the winter, even had difficulty attracting customers to blockbuster films. Therefore, with no hope of the Town Hall paying for renovation, demolition was seen as the only answer to the council’s Futurist problem. However, how things can change.
Not owning the property attached to the theatre on Blands Cliff, the old Mermaid pub, was a major stumbling block and ruled out the possibility of staging profitable big touring shows such as Cats, Lion King and War Horse. Fortunately this obstacle has now been removed. In 2015 the council bought the property next door, using £500,000 of our money, and so now we own the whole site.
It cannot have escaped the notice of those in power that in the last 10 years the popularity of all forms of live entertainment has grown hugely. Towns and cities up and down the country are reaping the rewards of large audiences using their theatres. Venues such as the Spa in Bridlington, theatres in Harrogate, Blackpool, and many other places, are hosting huge concerts, putting on spectacular shows, laughing at comedians and staging vibrant pantomimes.
While we may be sure of the present day demand for live entertainment the argument of long term sustainability, which the Town Hall will inevitably use as an excuse to demolish the theatre, cannot be answered with such certainty.