Thursday, 22 April 2021

‘First step’ in quest to replace Hexagon

MOVES are afoot to create a large new performing arts venue in Reading, it has been confirmed.

MOVES are afoot to create a large new performing arts venue in Reading, it has been confirmed.

The new theatre is envisaged as a long-term replacement for the Hexagon in Queen’s Walk, where Henley Symphony Orchestra stage many of their concerts.

No site for the venue has yet been selected, but a number of possible options are thought to exist.

In the meantime, Reading Borough Council said the first steps towards finding a “partner provider” had been taken with the launch on July 29 of a preliminary market consultation.

A spokesman said: “The key purpose of the market consultation is to establish market interest to deliver and operate a new theatre serving Reading and the wider region.

“The proposed new theatre would need to be funded by the delivery partner, rather than the council, who would facilitate development by providing the land on which it could be built. This initial process will allow a better understanding of the proposal’s commercial attractiveness, financial sustainability and help shape future requirements and specifications.

“At this stage no site has been selected for the potential new theatre. There is a parallel process where sites will be examined in detail to help identify the most viable venue.”

Whilst still popular and attracting capacity audiences, the Seventies-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.

Paul Gittings, the council’s lead member for culture and sport, said: “This represents the first step in our long-standing ambition to build a new theatre for Reading which would cement its reputation as an artistic and cultural centre in the region. The start of the procurement route is a key landmark in what will be a lengthy process.”

He added: “The severe financial limitations the council is under means we need to look at creative ways of delivering modern new local facilities and finding a delivery partner to fund a new theatre is one way of doing that.

“The council, for its part, would provide the land for the new theatre to be built.”

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