The Earl of Wessex has become royal patron for the multi-award-winning professional Reading Rep Theatre.

Edward, who has a keen interest in the arts, will mark his new role this evening by visiting the Berkshire theatre which this year celebrates its 10th anniversary and one year since the opening of its new 163-seat theatre and cultural hub.

Speaking about his new patronage the Earl said: “Reading Rep is rapidly becoming an essential part of the arts scene in Reading for three really good reasons.

“It is creating pathways to the performing arts for young people, regardless of background; it is introducing new audiences to the performing arts through its outreach and access activities; and it is a space providing an alternative venue for creative and production talents to hone their skills.

“I look forward to helping with reinforcing this theatre’s inspiring work in the local community and to supporting its future endeavours.”

During his visit this evening Edward will attend Reading Rep’s corporate partnership scheme launch, with the event providing the opportunity for businesses across Reading and the Thames Valley to connect and network.

The Earl is patron of a range of organisations working in the performing arts sector including the National Youth Theatre of Great Britain, Northern Ballet and The Orpheus Centre Trust.

Reading Rep: 10, the theatre’s 10th anniversary season, features a mixture of bold new work, reimagined classics and family favourites.

Reading Chronicle:

Paul Stacey, founding artistic director of Reading Rep, said about their new royal patron: “His Royal Highness has shown incredible support for arts and culture and his recognition and support of Reading Rep and the work we do both on stage and in the community is humbling.

“We are excited to work with HRH in forwarding our shared goals and aspirations for art and culture in Reading.”

Edward used to be a production assistant at Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Theatre Company, working behind the scenes, handling paperwork on musicals such as Cats and Starlight Express.

He also organised a televised royal version of It’s A Knockout in 1987 and persuaded the Princess Royal and Duke and Duchess of York to dress up in medieval costumes and perform slapstick feats for the TV game show.

He set up a production firm The Theatre Division staging plays but it collapsed in 1991. Edward also established a film company, Ardent Productions, in 1993, putting his own money into the project.

He eventually stepped down from commercial work in 2002 following controversy over the Wessexes’ dual roles, and Ardent was voluntarily dissolved in 2009 with assets of just £40.