A NORTH Yorkshire theatre where stars ranging from the Beatles and Cliff Richard to Sir Thomas Beecham and Sir Malcolm Sargent have performed has been given a boost towards securing its future.

Harrogate's Royal Hall needs £11.2m spending on its crumbling structure to save it from demolition. Now a new organisation, the Royal Hall restoration trust, has been formed to raise £1m for matching funds to support a national lottery bid.

Trust chairman, Mrs Lilian Mina, who is also chairman of Harrogate civic society, said: "This new status should open doors to all sorts of funding which would otherwise not have been possible.

"It is a tremendous challenge, both daunting and exciting. We are looking for widespread public support because this grand old building is much too important to lose."

A string of events is being organised to boost the hall's fortunes, and recently film and television star Edward Fox joined the fight to restore the theatre.

Mr Fox, who has offered to give practical help to the campaign, joined members of his family in travelling from his home in the South to give backing to the scheme at the Grade II* listed building.

His great grandfather, Samson Fox, who became an internationally famous industrialist, was mayor of Harrogate from 1889-92.

Sir Hubert Parry performed at the opening in 1903 and since then many famous names from the musical and entertainment world have graced its stage. They include Sir Edward Elgar, who has a walkway named after him in Harrogate's Valley Gardens, and Sir John Barbirolli.

Gracie Fields, Paul Robeson, Nigel Kennedy and Lesley Garrett are among others who have topped the bill.

The theatre seats 1,275 people and has been dubbed Harrogate's "village hall" because of its versatility. It has served not only as a theatre and concert hall but dance hall, cinema and exhibition venue.

Last year the upper circle was closed to the public amid safety fears after serious structural problems were found in the building. This has reduced seating capacity to about 800.

The Royal Hall was created by Victorian theatre designer, Mr Frank Matcham, regarded as the greatest theatrical designer of his time. Fred Willis