Futurist bites the dust after a century

Words and photos by Dave Barry

The enormous hulk of the Futurist Theatre, which dominated the seafront for over a century, has all but gone.

During the heatwave, workers clad in full body suits spent much of July painstakingly removing the asbestos roof.

Today, little of the theatre, once one of the biggest in the country, is still standing.

A few souvenir hunters obtained small but heavy pieces of the original faience façade, concealed with unsightly yellow cladding in 1969. Faience is a ceramic material, designed to imitate marble.

Many observers noted that several items could have been salvaged, to mitigate the £4.2m cost of pulling the theatre down.

A big photocopier was visible in half an office, exposed by the demolition squad. Lighting rigs appeared intact, prompting the comment: “They’ve bulldozed thousands of pounds of saleable stuff. Lights are still attached to the lighting bars”.

Old theatre seats realise good prices online but most of the Futurist’s were stripped of their red satin and padding. They were allegedly “toxic” which is why they couldn’t be saved from the skips. A big chandelier rested on the circle seats for a while.

One online commentator said: “All theatres that are closed to be demolished are stripped of such things, except the Futurist it would seem. Even the SJT was refused access. Many small venues and pub theatres across Yorkshire could have used the seats”.

Cllr Janet Jefferson, who campaigned to save the Futurist, said: “The council would not allow anything to be salvaged. Only the signage was removed. So sorry to everyone including the 6,800 residents and thousands of visitors around the world who loved and tried to save the Futurist. So heartbreaking”.

A spokesperson for Scarborough Council said: “Our contractor’s methods of safe demolition using long-arm machines, agreed with the Health and Safety Executive, prevent features from being salvaged. If the contractor was to attempt to salvage any features, it would require a change in demolition methodology and would incur additional cost and delay to the project.

“We have a legal duty to consider asbestos and it is a fact that the building contained large amounts of hazardous asbestos. Whilst the building was in use this did not present a risk, but once the building was scheduled for demolition, we had a legal obligation to undertake a destructive asbestos survey, which involved breaking out the structure to identify asbestos prior to the works commencing. This work caused much of the fixtures and fittings to be contaminated and made them unsuitable for public re-use”.

For fear of subsidence or a landslide, contractors Willmott Dixon have been checking the stability of the slope at the back of the Futurist three times a day.

Inside the main building, thousands of tons of cement have been poured into huge moulds to create a concrete buttress to stop the land slipping.

The demolition is due to be completed by the end of August.