Reasons For Closing The Library Theatre

Having publicly announced the summer season of 1965 would be the last at the Library Theatre in Scarborough, Stephen Joseph published a detailed response for supporters of the Library Theatre via Scarborough Theatre Trust. This sets out in length the issues which had afflicted the company over the past several years and Stephen Joseph's perception of the attitude towards the company. One of the original documents is held in the Stephen Joseph Theatre Collection at Scarborough Library and is published below.
As can be seen, this statement confirms Stephen Joseph's belief that any possible future for Scarborough Theatre Trust would not be in Scarborough itself.

Scarborough Theatre Trust: Future Plans (November 1965)
1. The decision of the Council of the Scarborough Theatre Trust not to arrange a summer season at Scarborough during 1966 has caused distress to a number of people who have enjoyed performances here in the past; it may also cause anxiety, to those people who have helped the company, as to the future, which must show whether this help should be continued. For both these reasons, a short statement about the closure of the summer theatre and about the company's future, should be made. A full statement is difficult to make both because the circumstances are extremely complicated, and because they are still fluid.

2. It is very important to make quite clear there is a single overall reason for the closure. It is that during the ten years that summer seasons have been played at the Library Theatre the company has grown from small beginnings and has now developed the potential for operations on a larger scale. The attendance figures have grown and it is perhaps ironical that we must close the Library Theatre after a season of record returns.

3.Balancing this positive achievement is the fact that the Concert Room at the Central Library, which was an ideal home for such beginnings, is unsuitable for the scale of activities now required.

4. Explanation of both these facts is necessary. Our experiments with the central stage have now reached the point where the makeshift facilities at the Central Library are no longer acceptable.
Exploration of acting techniques must continue, and the present facilities merely offer opportunities of going over familiar ground.
A larger theatre is now necessary to keep pace with public interest and give the company a more substantial budget. Technical problems have now been solved and an opportunity is needed to apply the solutions efficiently even if still on a modest scale.

5. There have also been a number of administrative difficulties at the Library Theatre. Since the premises are Corporation property, and since the Corporation has contributed grants to the company, there has been some concern on the Council for the company. But this has been met by a good deal of opposition, possibly because the Corporation has its own entertainments department (which may look on the theatre in the round as a rival), and possibly because the various by-laws that forbid new poster sites, the handing out of leaflets in the street, street banners, loudspeaker vans, prominent fascias and so on, simply add up to a bog that no ordinary theatre manager can pass through. The general effect is that the Corporation has blown hot and cold at the company, and, though much energy has been used up, little progress has been made to develop the company's potential.

6. In particular, the difficulties of working at the Library became apparent after a few years of experience, and improvements were sought. Some of these have been made, but there are many important improvements that have not been made: but they are improvements that could only be made on behalf of the theatre and might even mark the premises clearly as a theatre - and there is no indication that the Libraries Committee is prepared to endorse its transformation in this way. Alternatives have been considered for a number of years. Another hall to convert, or a new building have been discussed. A new theatre seemed likely until the person who drove the idea along (Mayor Kennedy) died. Many other premises have been looked at, but the Corporation has been unwilling to accept the fact that no such premises are likely to be ideal, except as a reason for taking no further action.

7. The company finally put its point of view to the Libraries Committee in 1963, in a
report that began: "This is likely to be the last season of theatre in the round at Scarborough, unless . . . " A small sub-committee met the director of the company to discuss each of the points raised in this report. Agreeable noises were made. But in 1965 it had become quite clear that helpful action was not intended and at that time the Corporation had the various statements of government policy towards the arts to back up their good intentions and their inactivity.

8. The directors therefore decided to look elsewhere before planning another season.

9. It is unfortunate that the company's plans prepared in 1964, to make a tour of the north after the 1965 summer season were not sympathetically considered by the Arts Council, which has long claimed to be interested in such a proposal. But the Arts Council was apparently taken so much by surprise when the proposal came that their delays eventually put the plan out of consideration. This tour was to have included a visit to the new theatre at the University of Manchester, which might have been a good home for the vigorous policy that this company pursues, and a good base from which to launch tours.

10. Instead, the company itself must lapse into inaction for a time, until an alternative place is found. The finding of such a place, and the preparing of plans, will take time. Places that might be considered now include Hull, Leeds and Newcastle-on-Tyne; although there is theatre in each of these places (as indeed there is in Scarborough) it is of a different sort from what we offer and there should be no conflict of interests in any important way. The time taken to open up any of these places may be at least a year.

11. Positive plans will be announced when they are clear.

Copyright: Scarborough Theatre Trust.