Reading Hexagon’s £25m replacement theatre on hold due to funding problems
Plans to build a new £25 million theatre in Reading are currently on hold due to “severe constraints” on funding.
Instead, Reading Borough Council has confirmed it will continue to support the Hexagon arts centre – which the new theatre would replace – while it “investigates future options”.
Discussions around a new theatre in the town go back a decade, with the council recently conducting a market consultation on the proposal.
The council said this had shown that Reading is an “attractive proposition” for a new theatre, but that dialogues with organisations such as Arts Council England and Theatre and Arts Reading should continue in order to “exploit all possible future opportunities that may arise to deliver a new theatre”.
However, it added that the council would need to “look creatively in the future at options for diversified sources of funding to meet the costs of building and running a new theatre”.
“Given the severe constraints of the council’s current financial situation, the new theatre would need to be funded by a delivery partner, rather than the council, who propose to facilitate the development by providing the land on which it can be built,” it said.
It continued: “Given the likely timescales and financial challenge to deliver the new theatre, the council will continue to support the delivery of the current programme from the Hexagon, whilst it investigates future options.”
The market report highlights that the “innovative solutions” for funding the new theatre would take time to develop, and warns that this is a “critical issue to address”.
It states that this would “determine to a large degree whether future stages of the procurement process are progressed”.
The Hexagon’s limitations as a venue, due to its design and age, have previously been raised as ongoing concerns. The new theatre would aim to accommodate large touring productions and seat approximately 1,500 to 1,700 people.
A spokeswoman for the council confirmed to The Stage that, although the theatre remains a project the authority wants to do, it cannot currently “action it”.
She said the plans were on hold at the moment to allow for further discussions to take place.