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Green light to explore prison theatre plan

3 June 2018
Melvin Benn

ATTEMPTS to transform part of Reading Prison into a new theatre have moved a step closer, after the group behind the project was given access to carry out a feasibility study.

The Ministry of Justice (MOJ), owner of the Grade II building, which closed in 2013, had initially rebuffed efforts by Theatre and Arts Reading (TAR) to visit the site, but has now relented.

It is hoped the building could replace The Hexagon (1,970), with creating two performance spaces (cap. 1,450, 450), an art gallery, bar and museum. Reading Council, which operates The Hexagon, announced three years that its days were numbered, but it would not close until a new theatre was built.

“We have to be flexible and adaptable, not only do we want to make something the community wants, but also something we can get off the ground while still embracing the historical importance of the site,” says TAR chairman Melvin Benn, who is MD of Festival Republic, which runs Reading (90,000) and Leeds (80,000) festivals.

Arts Council England have pledged £20,000 towards the feasibility study, to take place at the start of June, and this has been match funded by Festival Republic and Trafalgar Entertainment Group.

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