PLANS for an island theatre and a new wooden bridge across the Thames have been unveiled in a bid to bring more culture to Abingdon.
The “Isis” project is to seek funding for a 33-metre pedestrian bridge from the Old Gaol to a 350-seat open-air theatre on Nag’s Head Island.
The £750,000 project is the idea of Liberal Democrat Vale of White Horse District Council member Richard Webber.
The team hopes to get £600,000 in grants from groups like the National Lottery and £150,000 from residents.
The open-air theatre would only be used in the summer and amateur groups and buskers would use it in the day.
The project would need planning permission from the council and would have a new restaurant on the first floor of the boat house.
The boat centre would also be redeveloped with a first-floor cafe and exhibition centre.
Young people and those out of work would be invited to take part.
Project spokesman Geoff Ward said: “Abingdon has a lot of great river front that is not used to its best potential. The town has turned its back on the river.”
He hopes the town, about halfway between Stratford-on-Avon and London, could become a new cultural centre.
In 2012, Abingdon Town Council voted to rename the town Abingdon-on-Thames in a bid to attract more tourists.
Project manager Norman Guiver, who also designed Abingdon School’s Boat House, said: “The bridge will be iconic and a visitor attraction in its own right.”
It had interest from timber-framers in America and Europe who he hoped would build the bridge over three weeks in summer 2015.
Abingdon Town Council leader Sandy Lovatt said: “I like the idea but there is a whole lot of things to be sorted.
“We have got a fundamental problem getting the river opened up, and an open-air theatre lends itself to experimental stuff. But in order to get planning permission they would need a viable business plan, which is very hard to do.”
Jenny Berrell, curator at Abingdon’s 92-seat Unicorn theatre, said it was a “wonderful” idea.
She said: “I don’t think I am worried about competition. The Unicorn is quite different, we are a bijou little theatre and our biggest time is winter because it is warm inside and comfortable.
“But one of the biggest problems we have is parking.”
- For more, see isisabingdon.co.uk