Reading is preparing a £25 million bid for Lottery funding to replace its Hexagon Theatre with a new flagship, environmentally friendly performing arts centre on the river Thames.
The venue, which could cost more than £30 million to build, would provide improved and enlarged performance and rehearsal facilities, studio, gallery and education space and it is hoped that the centre could run by harnessing water power from the Thames.
It will form the centrepiece of a proposed redevelopment of the Hills Meadow area of Reading, which is currently a car park. The new theatre would be equipped to host more high-profile productions and transfers from the West End.
Catherine Wilton, the councillor in charge of culture and sport, said: “We’ve been discussing the idea of a replacement theatre for the Hexagon for a few years and we are looking for this project to be completed over the next five to ten years. We want an innovative approach, combining a cultural vision with a green development. We believe we have the chance to do that.
“The presumption is that the Hexagon will remain open until this centre does – you don’t want to remove the customer loyalty the theatre has developed. The new site will be a much more flexible theatre space,” she continued. “We want it to be a regional cultural centre. Having this arts centre will give Reading the status it longs for. We have to find out where our cultural vision goes from now. We hope that the Lottery agrees with us. If we are unsuccesful, we’ll have to rethink our plans.”
The local authority believes that if its bid is succesful Lottery funding from the Big Lottery Fund under the Living Landmarks programme, would provide 75% of the cash needed, with the remainder raised through partnership funding.
A lottery submission will be made by the beginning of January and, in the meantime, the council are undertaking a consultation period with Reading residents to assertain the level of support for the scheme. If it is succesful with the bid, the council will then progress with more detailed planning for the project in the new year.