This Article was by Sarah Freeman and published in The Yorkshire Post on Thursday January 25th 2018

The man who persuaded Britney Spears to play Scarborough's Open Air Theatre

Peter Taylor, co-founder of Cuffe and Taylor which now runs Scarborough's Open Air Theatre.

Peter Taylor is a born salesman and a born optimist. It's just as well, because each year he boards a flight to California with the aim of persuading some of LA's most influential music execs to bypass the O2, ignore flattering talk of playing Hyde Park and instead bring their acts to an island in a middle of a lake in Scarborough.

Not that he often mentions the name of the town. He knows few will have heard of it and even less will have enjoyed a fish supper in the Golden Grid. Instead, when Peter is lunching with those who pull the strings, what he sells is the chance to appear at "Yorkshire's answer to the Hollywood Bowl".

"Yes, most people laugh when they first hear those words, but I don't mind," says the 36 year old. "Aligning ourselves with that iconic venue is about creating an image which sticks in the memory. The agents of big music stars are inundated with offers of potential gigs. You have to be different. And we are."

While Peter's rebranding of Scarborough's Open Air Theatre, built on a natural amphitheatre, might be ambitious, it's clearly working. This week any lingering sniggers were silenced with the surprise announcement that in August Britney Spears will bring her Piece of Me tour to the Yorkshire coast.

Just one of five UK dates, it will followed by appearances in more well-known venues in London, Manchester, Glasgow and Dublin and it is nothing short of a coup for the theatre which was best known in the 1980s for staging It's A Knockout.

The news left most people wondering quite how Scarborough managed to bag the singer, who has recently finished a four year residency at the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino in Las Vegas - a show which sold one million tickets, won rave reviews and successfully secured her comeback after the turbulent wilderness years.

"We were helped a little by the fact one of Britney's people happens to have grown up in Leeds, so was already familiar with Scarborough," says Peter, who received confirmation in December, but had to keep the secret until this week. "But really this is the result of our determination to keep plugging away. We knew we had something great here, we just had to let other people know about it.

"While our amphitheatre might be unusual in the UK, there are a lot of similar venues in the US so I wasn't selling a completely alien concept."

Since the Britney announcement, Peter's phone has rarely stopped ringing. There has been a steady stream of requests for interviews, most though have been gentle offers from other local businesses keen to get on board the Britney bandwagon.

"We've had calls from hotels and B&Bs asking if we need accommodation for the crew, we've had restaurants ringing up offering Britney dinner, but you know what, that's great," he says. "If the Open Air Theatre is doing well then it should be good for the town as a whole.

"If you go to Manchester to watch a gig, chances are you will be there and back in the same day, but what we want to do is encourage people to stay the night, maybe two. They can come see Britney and then have a mini-seaside holiday."

"I fell into music promoting accidentally after organising a festival in my home town of Lytham St Annes," he says. "I've been at it almost 10 years now and I do believe these kind of events can help transform a place.

"The council couldn't risk the public's money trying to secure acts like Britney. It had a limited budget and it did its best with it. This I think is the best of both worlds. The council still owns the site, but it has given us a 10 year lease and we have come to it with a fresh pair of eyes."

Peter has also made some crucial changes. While one of the venue's unique selling points was that the stage was surrounded by water, it was also one of its downsides. The audience often felt disconnected from who they were watching, but now the lake can be covered for the biggest concerts.