Wednesday, 30 September 2020

Work starts on theatre

Work starts on theatre

CONSTRUCTION work has begun on a new theatre which will open in Reading next spring.

Reading Rep Theatre is converting a former Salvation Army hall in King’s Road into its first permanent base.

The theatre company, founded in 2012, had outgrown its current residence, a 60-seat studio space at Reading College.

It launched a successful campaign to raise £500,000 to pay for the project with funding coming from trusts and organisations as well as the public.

But the likely total cost will be closer to £600,000 due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic so fundraising is continuing.

Reading Rep founder and artistic director Paul Stacey and executive director Nick Thompson are leading the project. Paul said: “It’s really exciting to be on site, breaking ground on Reading’s first new theatre in a generation. Doing so at a difficult time gives me renewed hope and excitement for the future. We can’t wait to invite the community we serve into this cultural hub to experience live entertainment again.

“The difficulties suffered by many during this epidemic have been immeasurable. Live entertainment has been shut down to an extent not seen since the war.

“We want to be part of inviting the public back into these venues to share in the magic of storytelling and to celebrate the Reading community.”

The new arts hub will include a 168-seat theatre, a permanent education and learning centre, backstage areas, new front of house facilities and a café/bar.

The building is being converted from a 1927 Salvation Army building by Total Projects and is designed by David Hughes, the architect of the award-winning Park Theatre in London.

Paul said: “Reading Rep has always operated out of a 60-seat studio space, which is closer in size to a shed than a theatre.

“We have been going for eight years, starting without any real funding or resources, and our productions have won awards and started to sell out over the last few years. We really have no option but to expand and create the best possible work we can do.

“We hope once the pandemic is over we can use the new space to celebrate being together again.”

Reading East MP Matt Rodda and Reading councillor for culture Karen Rowland are supporting the project.

Mr Rodda said: “Reading Rep is an exciting project which could offer huge benefits for Reading and the surrounding area and I was impressed when staff showed me round the site before the lockdown. I wish them every success for the future.”

Councillor Rowland said: “I was delighted to be invited to the ground-breaking of the new Reading Rep home, to envision the site in real life and not just on paper.

“Few things make me happier than looking at re-using older buildings for the arts. It is the right ethos. It’s greener. It’s more accessible and once covid-19 is behind us, the winning crew of Reading Rep will be ready to deliver us some bang-up theatre again in a re-imagined space.”

Reading Rep is Reading’s only year-round professional producing theatre and also delivers outreach opportunities to those with least access to the arts.

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