The Wokingham Paper

MP helps break ground for new theatre in Reading

Reading Rep
MP for Reading East Matt Rodda with Paul Stacey of Reading Rep

A NEW theatre in neighbouring Reading has taken a step forward thanks to a special ground-breaking ceremony. 

Reading East MP Matt Rodda teamed up with Reading Borough Council’s leader councillor for culture, Cllr Karen Rowland, to help launch the transformation of Reading Rep Theatre’s new home. 

When completed next year, the Kings Road venue will become a 168-seat theatre. 

As well as the auditorium,  there will be a permanent education and learning centre, backstage areas, new front of house facilities, and a café/bar. 

Its launch builds on the success of the Reading Rep, which was launched eight years ago by Paul Stacey. 

The Rep is Reading’s only year-round producing theatre, and has an aim of providing support to some of the UK’s leading emerging artists. 

It also aims to work with the wider community and, in 2018,  nearly 15,000 children and young people were reached through Reading Rep’s award-winning ENGAGE programme providing year-round youth theatres, school workshops, and a work experience scheme.

For the ground-breaking, held earlier this week, Cllr Rowland took part in a mini-theatrical performance with Mr Stacey and posed with the innovative hoardings put up at the site.

Reading Rep
Cllr Karen Rowland and Paul Stacey ‘perform’ in what will be the main theatre

While many theatres are suffering and closing their doors due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Reading Rep says it is looking forward to opening its doors on the new performance space in 2021.

And the news was welcomed by Mr Rodda, whose constituency includes parts of Woodley and Earley. 

“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,” he said. 

“I am keen to support them and I would like to wish them every success for the future.”

Cllr Rowland was also determined to add her backing to the venue. 

“I was delighted to be invited out to the groundbreaking of the new Reading Rep home, to envision the site in real life and not just on paper,” she said.

“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 reimagined space. How many ‘wins’ is that? I’ve lost count.”

Mr Stacey, who is the theatre’s artistic director, said that Reading Rep will continue to create outreach opportunities to those with least access to the arts.

“It’s really exciting to be on-site, breaking ground on Reading’s first new theatre in a generation,” he said. 

“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.”

Reading Rep
Paul Stacey and Christie O’Carroll of Reading Rep with Cllr Karen Rowland at the hoardings covering the site of the new theatre in Kings Road

He continued: “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.”

Reading Rep executive director Nick Thompson has welcomed the government’s recent announcement of a £1.57bn support package for theatre and arts: “Cultural organisations play an important civic role in communities.

“This investment package is very welcome and acknowledges the significance of the sector.

“We look forward to hearing more detail as to how this investment will be disseminated to safeguard our vital cultural organisations.”

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