HOPES that York's Mystery Plays might return to their spiritual home in the Museum Gardens were today given an important boost.

The York Museums Trust, now responsible for the Gardens, says it would be delighted in principle for the Plays to be staged there again.

Many readers who have come forward to support the Evening Press campaign to keep the Mystery Plays alive have called for them to go back into the atmospheric Gardens. The Plays were staged there by the ruins of St Mary's Abbey from 1951 until 1988, after which they moved first to the Theatre Royal, then to the Minster in 2000. Officials at the Minster have said the Plays will not be staged there again until at least 2010, and quite possibly not even then.

Volunteers have been coming forward to try to create a new Mystery Plays board in the hope of ensuring they are performed again in 2005, with many saying they would like to see a return to the Gardens.

Trust chief executive Janet Barnes, speaking after the matter was discussed at a meeting of the trust's committee of the board earlier this week, said: "We want the Gardens to be used for events, and this fits into that idea perfectly. In principle, we are very supportive."

However, she could not make a commitment at this stage, as the trust was planning to carry out improvements to the gardens, and it was possible that works might be under way in 2005, when it is hoped the plays can next be staged.

She said it would be some months before it became clear whether such works might present any obstacle.

She said a number of other details would also need to be sorted out. The agreement of English Heritage would also be needed for the site around the abbey to be used again for staging the plays.