MIND-BLOWING – that was the reaction from people as Oxford’s Pegasus Theatre reopened after a £7.4m rebuild, the culmination of a 15-year-long dream to create a top-quality arts centre in East Oxford.

The doors opened to the Magdalen Road home of the Oxford Youth Theatre as part of a ceremony on Friday night, followed by a specially commissioned music, storytelling and dance performance created by the one of the group’s former members on Saturday.

While the original 1970s stage at the Magdalen Street theatre has been kept, the new building around it now includes a café, foyer, dressing rooms, workshop room and a fully equipped dance and rehearsal studio.

State-of-the-art equipment will allow the centre to run workshops in music, film editing and production, as well as dance and drama.

Artistic director Euton Daley said: “I am blown away by it. We have seen it come along and known in our hearts it would work, but now we have seen it become a reality and being used by the public for the first time.”

Youth theatre member Maria Marinari, 14, from Cricket Road, Cowley, who helped architects design the new building, said: “It is just unbelievable.

“I did not think it would be anything like this. It really is top notch.”

Bruno Rogers, 13, from Iffley Fields, said: “We did not used to have changing rooms, and the rehearsal space was so small we were all crammed in a little room. This is so much better.”

Former youth theatre member Anna Weatherston, who has been commissioned to create a performance piece which will premiere tomorrow, said her breath had been taken away when she first entered the new building.

She said: “I remember coming here in the 1990s, and it was a simple black box with a small office upstairs and a foyer where you could just about get through the door.

“We used to change in the disabled toilets, because it was the biggest room where you could be alone with a mirror. Everywhere was very, very cold.”

She added: “This new space is a beacon of possibilities and hope for young people in the city.”

Workshops, ranging from Brazilian carnival music to urban dance, will take place seven-days-a-week, involving 500 people a year. Among the first season’s programme are a production of Alice in Wonderland, and a Christmas show.

Theatre spokesman Gill Jaggers said: “There is a massive opportunity for people to get involved in all aspects of theatre, and when it is not being used by young people, it is something for the whole community to use.”