Reading an Attractive Proposition for a New Theatre

Cllr Paul Gittings
Cllr Paul Gittings

FEEDBACK received as part of the Council’s recent market consultation shows Reading is an attractive proposition in which to build a new theatre.

A report going before the Council’s Policy Committee (16 January), sets out the findings from a preliminary market consultation launched in July 2016.

The key purpose of the market consultation was to provide a better understanding of the proposal’s commercial attractiveness, financial sustainability and to help shape future specifications to deliver and operate a new theatre.

The feedback confirms that Reading is an attractive proposition in terms of the market to sustain a new theatre, particularly with regard to a growing population, strong economy, cultural aspiration and excellent transport links.

The report recommends continuing dialogue with key stakeholders, including Arts Council England (ACE) and other interested parties, such as Theatre and Arts Reading (TAR), in order to be able to exploit all possible future opportunities that may arise to deliver a new theatre.

Following feedback from the market consultation, the Council will now 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 development by providing the land on which it could be built.

Given the likely timescales and financial challenge to deliver a new theatre, the Council will continue to support the delivery of the current programme from the Hexagon, whilst it investigates future options.

Cllr Paul Gittings, Reading’s Lead Member for Culture and Sport, said:

“The Council remains committed to our long standing ambition to facilitate the build of a new theatre for Reading and cement the town’s reputation as an artistic and cultural centre in the region.”

“Feedback from the market consultation shows there is a strong interest in Reading as a venue for a new theatre, which we were confident would be the case. It is also clear the Council will need to look at imaginative ways of delivering and funding any new theatre in the light of the severe budget constraints we face.”

Whilst still popular and attracting capacity audiences, the 1970’s built Hexagon Theatre has a number of limitations due to its age and design. The building is increasingly expensive to maintain and costs to keep the venue in good condition are expected to increase significantly in the coming years.

The full report can be viewed here: www.reading.gov.uk/article/9638/Policy-Committee-16-JAN-2017 (Item 10)

Ends

Notes for Editors:

Savings totalling £65 million have been made by Reading Borough Council since 2011, due to unprecedented cuts in Government funding and increased demands on services. A further £42 million in savings need to be identified by 2020.

A Policy Committee report published in November 2015 recommended that the Council set in motion the start of a procurement exercise to find a development partner that will fund and deliver a new theatre for Reading. The Policy Committee report can be found at:

www.reading.gov.uk/media/4130/item08/pdf/item08.pdf