DORCHESTER residents are being urged to take the arts to their hearts and get behind a proposed multi million pound theatre facility for the town.

Plans were unveiled earlier this month for a new £8.8 million purpose-built arts facility known as the Dorchester Maltings at Brewery Square.

A public meeting is being held tonight at the Corn Exchange from 6pm for residents, local businesses and community groups to hear more about what is being proposed ans share their views.

It is expected that the venue, which it is hoped will open in 2020, will bring 15 new jobs and provide an annual boost of £4.6million to the local economy.

Artistic director of Dorchester Arts Mark Tattersall said that members of the public were being invited to get involved at an early stage so they can help shape the plans and help achieve an arts facility that is valued by the town and of which it can be proud.

He said that process would begin with tonight's meeting.

Mr Tattersall said: "We want to bring people together and we hope we have a good turnout so we can show how much people want it.

"We want to tell them about it and get their feedback and ideas.

"The beauty of it is we have sort of gone back to the drawing board so the plans we have got area at a really early stage, albeit thoroughly costed within that.

"This means there is still lots of flexibility and we want to talk to everybody about how they see the building being used within the parameters that it has to be financially sustainable."

With Dorchester Arts currently housed in the Corn Exchange on a temporary basis, Mr Tattersall said the move would create new opportunities for talented young local people as well as providing an economic boost for the town.

The theatre will boast a flexible main auditorium with 450 seats as well as a studio with capacity for 100, a café/bar area and offices.

As well as offering their ideas for other uses of the building, it is also hoped the public will get involved throughout the fundraising process so feel part of the completed venue.

Chairman of The Maltings Arts and Dorchester Arts Louise Sheaves said: "The community needs to feel ownership of it."

Those behind the new facility are also keen to hear from anyone who has memories or photos of the Maltings building to share them as they look to celebrate the history of the site in the plans for the theatre.