Stephen Joseph's 1963 Ultimatum To The Libraries Committee

In the 1965 document Reasons For Closing The Library Theatre, Stephen Joseph specifically refers to a document from 1963 setting out the issues facing the Library Theatre and the near certainty it would close if these issues were not addressed. The 1963 document, intended for the Library Committee, is held in the Stephen Joseph Theatre Collection at Scarborough Library and is one of several important documents from the first 10 years of the theatre's existence. When Stephen Joseph decided to close the Library Theatre in 1965, it was directly as a result of many of the issues raised in the 1963 document - reprinted below - and also the Library Committee's lack of response to this document.

Theatre In The Round (Scarborough 1963)
The current season of theatre in the round at the Library is likely to be the last, unless further help is offered by the Scarborough Corporation. The reasons for this situation can be indicated best by glancing at the story of the theatre's activities.
The Studio Theatre company presented its first season of theatre in the round in 1955 at the Library. A substantial remission of rent left a small deficit, which was met by the company's directors.
In subsequent seasons the Libraries Committee has generously continued to remit a large proportion of the rent, and actual losses have been accounted for by guarantees or grants from the Arts Council From the start, the company has had at least two important ideas firstly, to present theatre in the round, which was pioneered by the company and has now come to influence almost every theatre building planned in this country; secondly, to present new plays and plays of reasonable quality in a town where professional performances of good plays are otherwise rare, and at a time when new playwrights throughout the country have been contributing importantly to our way of life. These two points in the company's policy not only helped to earn the Arts Council's approval, but have also built up steadily a reputation which is now international.
After the second season in Scarborough, the Company began to plan for a permanent theatre in the round. Several schemes have been submitted to the Corporation for consideration. In addition the Company undertook a touring schedule, made possible by a capital grant from the Pilgrim Trust, for equipment, and a revenue contribution from the Gulbenkian Foundation, with added funds from local councils, television companies, and private persons. In most of the places visited by the touring company, proposals for a permanent theatre in the round were put forward. In 1962 a cinema in Stoke was converted into a permanent theatre in the round (for the cost of about £l0,000)
The conversion of the cinema took all the energies of the Company.
The Gulbenkian grant for touring was now expended, and the company decided to devote its limited resources to the permanent theatre. An appeal to the Arts Council for extra money to meet the Scarborough season was unsuccessful. The Company therefore decided not to undertake the next summer season. In view of the good will in Scarborough, and the value of the summer season, immediate measures were taken to ensure at least one further season. A new company was formed with separate responsibility.
A new budget, to meet the lower resources, was prepared. A further appeal to the Arts Council has been submitted.
The Arts Council seems to base its rejection of Scarborough on the principal that York is providing enough drama for this area, and York gets the grants. There is more to it than that, of course, but at present there is no sign of further help from this source.
The present company at the Library Theatre is very small. There is a good deal of voluntary work. The artists are mostly underpaid and overworked. Production costs and publicity_have been kept at a minimal level. Much equipment has been borrowed. It is unlikely that the benefits will be available again. The directors are not prepared to plan any further seasons without improvement of these circumstances.
There are a number of improvements which would help the company, and make further seasons possible:

1. The present rostrum units may not be available again. The set being collected by the DBL is not yet able to make adequate conversion of the Concert Room; expenditure of a further sum of approximately £675 is necessary. Storage of rostrums is difficult and if they are stored away from the Library, transport costs are involved. Obviously a desirable facility would be storage on the Library premises.

2. The erection and dismantling of lighting facilities is an expense that could be avoided if permanent provision were made. During the last three years steady progress has been made in this direction. Small adjustments could now save much money.

3. The Theatre is difficult to find. The fascia can only he seen from the pavement immediately in front of the Library entrance. The fascia ought to he seen from the top of Vernon Road. Booking for a small theatre is always tricky and much could be done to help if booking facilities were available at the Information Centre. The Corporation might also lend its weight to the publicity which at present is original but not widespread.

4. Dressing room facilities have to be brought in, and are unsatisfactory. Improvements might be devised.

5. Catering is difficult. Theatre in the round refreshments have earned a reputation, but all washing up and preparations have to be done away from the theatre which is inconvenient and involves transport expenses. A theatre kitchen might be considered.

6. There is no space for a theatre office. Improvisation leads to untidiness and inefficiency.

7. Most importantly, a new budget must be worked out, and it will depend on subsidy. The average income from ticket sales can be roughly anticipated (though the weather will affect it from year to year). The expenditure can be fairly anticipated and exactly controlled. These figures are given in the appendix.

8. Finally, it seems sensible to suggest that the corporation through the Libraries Committee, takes control and deals with improvements, including subsidy, as well as general administration. The precise way in which this should be effected must be discussed, but it should not be difficult to arrange. The future should not be simply static. The theatre in the round could be made more remunerative. There is a clear connection between the interests of this company in the summer and many of the amateur companies in the winter; the BDL [British Drama League] might be asked to co-operate in the running of a permanent theatre. A suitable building, properly equipped, might serve both these purposes.

Copyright: Scarborough Theatre Trust.