Purple Turtle Playhouse Plans Revealed

CGI of the stage at Purple Turtle Playhouse

When Reading’s Purple Turtle crops up in conversation, you always know it’ll be accompanied with a smile and a story. And now its owners are writing another chapter with the submission of plans for a new venue behind an adjacent vacant property on Gun Street. The new room, which will be connected through from the existing bar, will bring more live events, such as bands, comedy and theatre into the town centre. Owner Greg Muden explained further that the new space will enable us to put on a much more diverse programme of live entertainment. It will be a good asset for the community, for events such as Reading Fringe, Are you Listening?, Readipop and Oxjam.”

Current view of Gun Street Reading

The Purple Turtle has been entertaining Reading since 1990, in its own independent and inimitable style. It moved from Duke Street to Gun Street in 1997. More recently they acquired number 10 next door. A few plans have been drawn up, most latterly for a restaurant, but just as work was set to begin the pandemic thwarted progress. With the opportunity to think afresh, the new scheme proposes a performance space with a capacity for around 150 seated, or 300 standing, to be called “The Purple Turtle Playhouse”. The venue promises a 4-metre high ceiling, great acoustics and high quality dressing room facilities. And of course, bold decor is a given.

CGI of bar at Purple Turtle Playhouse

The existing listed building will be converted to a café to operate as “The Green Rabbit”. With Blue Grass, White Stuff and the Purple Turtle, clearly the temptation to continue Gun Street’s colour-wheel theme was too strong. Or perhaps it’s an homage to Artworker, the former painter’s shop that operated a couple of doors down for many years. There’ll be seating on two floors, with a small roof terrace as well. Additionally, it will provide the option of a direct link through to the new Playhouse that can be operational for specific events such as daytime all-age performances where access through the Turtle would be less appropriate.

Google aerial view

The site for the new build venue is currently an open plot, with previous modern extensions behind number 10 having been demolished ready for the previous development plans, before Covid struck. Basement toilets and storage areas will sit beneath the new hall. A performers’ green room will be provided in a small separate but linked new building the other side of the Holy Brook, which will remain covered over but cannot be built upon.

Black and white photo of Saddler on Gun Street
The plans include a heritage assessment and unearths the photo above of a saddler and harness maker, which occupied the building in a bygone era.

It’ll perhaps be no surprise that the planning applications blog guy isn’t exactly clued up on the latest Reading nightlife. Although it’s fair to say that the Turtle has a near-monopoly on my relatively rare post-midnight excursions in town in earlier years. Google’s data confirms the pattern of trade at the nightspot, and I think it’s likely the business plan behind the new venture is to stretch those popular hours earlier into the evening, and earlier into the week.

graph showing busiest times at Purple Turtle

The Purple Turtle Playhouse, and The Green Rabbit, will be very welcome additions to the town. With the Hexbox proposals also progressing, Reading is building a nice set of smaller performance venues that will boost the arts, support the vitality of the town centre as well as being welcome respite from the “all we get is flats” narrative. Enlivening a long-vacant historic property on Gun Street will be transformative for that area, and I’m sure everyone reading wishes them well with this next page in story of one of Reading’s most popular and unique local landmarks.

The plans can be viewed online here.

Purple Turtle Playhouse Plans Revealed

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