A CRUCIAL report which will help determine whether York's Mystery Plays can be saved is set to be published next month.

Ben Pugh was commissioned last autumn to assess the viability of staging a large-scale community performance of the Plays in the atmospheric Museum Gardens.

His help was sought by the York Mystery Plays Association, which was formed after the Evening Press discovered the event would not be staged this year and launched a campaign to keep the Plays alive in 2005.

Support for the campaign has poured in from residents, shocked and disappointed that the 50-year tradition of staging large-scale productions was in jeopardy.

Tourism bosses were also concerned about the impact on business from the loss of an event that has traditionally attracted thousands of extra visitors to the city.

Mr Pugh says he has had some great input from key decision-makers, as well as feedback and ideas from the community. "Each conversation opens doors to several more," he said.

"The challenge now is to condense that wealth of information into a useful document to inform the steering group's decision on the next stage of the process.

"Whilst the findings of the report may not lay the path for an easy route forward, it will present a pragmatic and realistic picture that reflects the changing landscape that large-scale, open-air events have to work within."

He said the enthusiasm and commitment of those involved was the only unquestionable aspect of the whole project.

"From that point, the report moves through the process from establishing a management organisation through fundraising to commissioning the Plays and on to practically realising them on site. Each stage, from the creative ideas through appointing a team to the day-to-day running of an effective box office will be considered."

Mr Pugh is working on the report after returning to the UK from Sri Lanka, where he managed a community parade.

It is hoped his findings on the Mystery Plays will be presented to the association next month.

The Evening Press understands that it is looking increasingly unlikely that the plays could go ahead in 2005, because of the time needed to prepare for such a major event, so 2006 is looking a more realistic prospect.