DIDCOT'S first arts centre will open this weekend with a host of taster activities on offer.

This week, contractors Leadbitter have put the finishing touches to the £7.4m Cornerstone building, in Market Place, which features silver, blue and orange cladding.

Perforated panels on the outside were the brainchild of pupils from St Birinus School.

A seating area outside the centre provides an area for visitors to enjoy a pre-show drink or meal from Cornerstone's own cafe, Couture, which will have a selection of on-tap organic ales.

On the ground floor is an exhibition room which arts centre director Emma Dolman hopes will be used by both local artists and those from wider afield to display their photographs, paintings and drawings.

Next door is a room which can be hired by organisations who want to hold children's and adults' craft classes and workshops.

Stairs lead to the centrepiece of Cornerstone - a 278-seat theatre.

It is hoped a wide range of musicians, dancers, entertainers and theatre groups will take the stage there.

Ms Dolman said: "What we are trying to do is find who our audience is. We are trying to put in a range of good quality things that people will recognise and we will see what generates people."

There are also other rooms for hire, including a dance studio with sprung floors, and two changing rooms. A green room is at the back of the centre, which Ms Dolman hopes will be used by companies who want to put on buffets before shows for colleagues and associates.

Ms Dolman said: "It's really exciting that it's happening here. It's really great that South Oxfordshire District Council can spend the money and we have had lots of positive feedback.

"People are looking forward to coming to see shows here instead of going to Oxford or Reading. They are looking forward to bringing their children here.

"Our ethos is to programme good quality things and a variety of things.

"I think it is ideal in size and it's for the people of Didcot and the people of the district, but, hopefully, we will attract people from other areas as well."