A new cultural hub in Reading Gaol will be a celebration of Reading, of its extraordinary heritage, its dynamic energy and its wealth of opportunity, built as a public/commercial/educational partnership venture.


There are boundless opportunities. They are for the existing buildings on the site, the free space on the site and the crucible building which is Grade 11 listed.




  • Theatre 1 – large receiving theatre

  • Theatre 2 – smaller producing/receiving theatre

  • Performance/Rehearsal space

  • Cell space for creative start-ups

  • Oscar Wilde multi-media experience

  • Oscar Wilde museum

  • Café/restaurant/bar

  • Contemporary art gallery

  • Arts film theatre

  • Gift shop

  • Archaeological finds from Reading Abbey to be displayed

  • Enabling Development

  • Educational & Cultural Partnerships to build sustainability

  • Integration with Reading Abbey Heritage Quarter and Kennet & Avon Canal




Gaol site


Location: Amenities building

Run by: Theatre operator

Status: Commercial


A theatre of 1450 seats able to accommodate musicals, opera and dance. Suitable backstage set, storage accommodation to host casts. Adequate set storage and design facilities to accommodate a medium sized orchestra (up to 24 players). 

To be programmed and operated by commercial partner on a lease.



Location: Administration building

Run by: Artistic director and programmer reporting to a board of directors

Status: Charity


A theatre of 450 seats to work as a producing and receiving space with a playhouse style of intimacy and unampilified acoustics. Music and art will be prevalent throughout the versatile building. While operating as an intimate and flexible receiving house for exceptional touring companies, the building will also partner and support the development and presentation of professional, innovative theatre and dance from our town. Community, student and educational productions will all be supported.


A strong education programme will ensure that this theatre is not only integral to the learning strategies of Berkshire’s schools, but also an exciting place for young people to head to and be inspired by.


NB all the dressing rooms, green rooms, toilets etc to be used by crew and front of house talent for the two theatres is accommodated in the theatre buildings.





Cruciform (Grade 2 listed)


The Cruciform building will have public access on the ground and first floors. The second floor will be for creative start-up businesses.


There could be an opportunity for theatre-goers to walk through the prison to get to Theatre 1.


Utilising all wings on public floors.


Ground floor

Café/bar/ restaurant, shop, box office, arts film theatre, box office, walkway to Theatre 1, archaeological finds under glass floor.



A café/bar/restaurant space and an attractive flexible public gathering/reception space.



Gift shop selling Oscar Wilde-related merchandise, educational merchandise, Reading Abbey merchandise, artworks and sculpture.


Arts film theatre

An arts film theatre – run by an existing company or a new one.


Archaeological finds

Chance to display any interesting finds from the excavations and to combine with innovative digital interpretation.





First floor

Performance/rehearsal space, Oscar Wilde Museum, Oscar Wilde Experience, contemporary art gallery, creation space.


Performance/rehearsal space

Rehearsal /performance space in the chapel. To be used/hired by Theatre 2 under management of Artistic Director.


A minimum of two rehearsal spaces to accommodate a range of rehearsal/ educational/community uses including visual arts, dance, classes, workshops, yoga.


Oscar Wilde Museum

A small museum to tie in with the Oscar Wilde Experience as the first floor is where his cell was , developed in association with local heritage and educational partners.


Contemporary art gallery

This gallery will exhibit art from across the UK and with visiting exhibitions from across the UK.


Creation space

A creation space/education suite for music rehearsal/recording. Education suite.





Second floor

The cells to be used for around 20-30 start-up creative businesses, some on long-term lets and others on short term. Meeting rooms for businesses.



Costume and prop storage.

Solitary confinement, sensory deprivement area (as part of the Oscar Wilde Experience)




Enabling development




A residential/commercial/leisure development to be located on the site





Landscaping/planting and Improved access to the canal as part of the Abbey Quarter. Outdoor seating.

Access to Abbey Ruins.






Entire site controlled by a trust – trustees may include representatives from Reading Borough Council, Reading University, Arts Council England




  • This is a vision of opportunities by TAR and feedback is welcomed. We have lots of other opportunities to develop, for example could a restaurant be built to overlook the Abbey ruins?

© 2016 TAR. Images courtesy of Reading UK CIC. and DVision Images. Proudly created with

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