Wednesday 24th April 2019,
North Yorks Enquirer

O.A.T. ~ Opening At Times?

O.A.T. ~ Opening At Times?

  • an “In My View” article by NIGEL WARD, examining the profit-sharing potential for SBC’s Open Air Theatre 2019 season.

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While everybody’s attention is turned to the on-going mysteries of the £9M SBC/BLL/Alpamare relationship, mine has been drawn to a rather disturbing silence on the subject of the Council’s £5.5M stab at show biz – the Open Air Theatre.

Granted that there have been a couple of headline announcements (Kylie and Cliff), and granted that the Council will be hoping to avoid the national criticism attendant upon ticket privileges (as reported in Private Eye, here and here), and granted that the Scarbados climate limits the OAT ‘season’ to June thru August, and granted that the much-vaunted profit-sharing deal has thus far yielded no dividends, and granted that the running costs keep falling to the Borough, I have been looking forward to a scintillating 2019 program that, rain or shine, would fill every seat at every gig – and thereby finally begin to defray the taxpayers’ £5.5M ‘investment’ which, year after year, has been looking more like a total loss.

In 2018, a total of 90,000 bums filled the OAT seats to witness performances from:

  1. Lionel Richie
  2. The Script
  3. Gary Barlow
  4. Nile Rodgers and CHIC
  5. Steps
  6. Alfie Boe
  7. Emeli Sandé
  8. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds
  9. Stereophonics
  10. Pete Tong’s Ibiza Classics
  11. Il Divo
  12. Bastille
  13. Texas
  14. James Arthur
  15. Britney Spears
  16. James

90,000 spread over 16 gigs averages out at 5,625 bums per gig – 70.312% capacity crowds (the venue seats 8,000). That’s pretty good – and, given the vicissitudes of the Scarbados climate, it probably made a good few bob for the operator of the rain poncho retail outlet, too. Right, L?

But we have all been hoping for a full program of present-day and ‘standard’ big names for 2019, to push those attendance figures all the way up to 100%, in the forlorn hope that the OAT might (at long, long last) begin to repay that, er, £5.5M ‘investment’.

I visited the Scarborough Open Air Theatre website with high expectations, only to be hugely disappointed to see that only the Kylie Minogue and Cliff Richard gigs are listed – nothing else:

Aware as we all are that SBC web details are not always up-to-date, I headed over to the Cuffe & Taylor website in search of up-to-date bookings of A-grade artistes.

No joy.

Oh, dear. It certainly seems that, four months away from the three month ‘season’, the cupboard is otherwise bare.

This is grim news indeed. Can it really be true? I Googled “Scarborough Open Air Theatre Events 2019”. Surely this would at least divulge some of the star attractions pencilled in for the coming season?

But no:

I think we can safely assume that Cuffe & Taylor have not booked UB40 for an early-season residency, with Madness and Jess Glynne filling in. The spectre of chaos looms.

Perhaps one of our diligent Opposition Councillors could ask Leisure Portfolio Holder Councillor Martin SMITH [Con.] what his expectations are for the OAT in 2019?

Failing that, a polite enquiry to Corporate Investment Portfolio Holder and Deputy Leader Councillor Helen MALLORY [Con.] might elicit an up-date – ideally before the May elections?

On present appearances, it rather looks like the OAT will soak up another year’s overheads with no return at all.

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