Online events and creative activities

In the light of government advice about social distancing and self-isolation because of Covid-19 and the subsequent closure of venues, pretty much all of Reading's arts events, workshops and classes cancelled or postponed.

BUT DO NOT FEAR! The good news is that local culture and arts organisations are already looking at creative ways to continue to share their work and encourage everyone to keep creative. Here’s a list of some things we know about. We’re sure there is more going on out there so hit us with your good news stories on Facebook or Twitter and we’ll add them to the list.

Also, check out Reading Culture Live. It's our sister site and serves as a "virtual venue" for Reading's cultural community. Many of the events listed on this page may also stream on the new site, staying on there for re-watching time and again. 

And don't forget the What's On Reading Podcast where we talk all about how the arts are coping with these changing times.

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Online events and performances

One-off events

Reading Film Theatre have added more world cinema for you to enjoy at home and support them at the same time. In The Reunions, Chinese comedy director Dong Chengpeng returns home to film his family at New Year. However, the unexpected passing of his grandma leads to a change of plans... Yours to watch at home anytime until 30 June 2021.

As part of Refugee Week, Reading Refugee Support Group present a special online screening of the documentary Sky and Ground on 17 June at 7pm, telling the story of a Syrian family as they risk the perilous road to asylum. It'll be followed by a live Q&A session with a panel of special guests.

The Graduating Actors Company students of READ College present Collected Grimm Tales on 19 and 20 June at 8pm. Written by Carol Ann Dufy and Tim Supple, directed by Victoria Gimby and filmed at South Hill Park Arts Centre and streamed via BookTix Live, this is a piece of live theatre not be missed! There are two casts, one for each night of streaming.

On 23-25 Jun at 7:45pm, Progress Theatre present Rotterdam by Jon Brittain. A bittersweet comedy about gender, sexuality and being a long way from home. It’s New Year in Rotterdam, and Alice had finally plucked up the courage to email her parents and tell them she’s gay. But before she can hit send, her girlfriend reveals that he has always identified as a man, and now wants to start living as one. Now Alice must face a question she never thought she would ask... does this mean she’s straight?

Poets' Café returns on Friday 9 July at 8pm - once again online until South Street can welcome the night back. This month's guest is Hilary Hares, who runs poetry workshops for causes she supports and has been fortunate to be widely published both in print and online. Your host this month is Claire Dyer. See our event page for details on how to attend the Zoom event.

Regular events

Club F.O.D. was initially formed to provide a regular and accessible dedicated safe space for the LGBTQ+ community and used to put on regular monthly nights at The Bla Bla. Now a charity in their own right, they've ramped up their online offering and are currently running a number of regular virtual events for the LGBTQ+ community and all its allies during lockdown, including:

  • Mondays 8pm - FOD Bods Quiz Night
  • Wednesdays 8pm - The Weekly Woof (exploring the world of kink and fetish)
  • Fridays 8pm: Wake's Week, discussing Local and National News, Views and Issues and anything else you want to discuss!
  • Saturdays 8pm: SaturGAY Live, an online equivalent of the Club Nights

You can check out all their offerings on the Club FOD Facebook page

Mondays

On every other Monday at 10pm, you can tune into Reading's finest purveyors of "UNPOPULAR MUSIC" as doubledotdash present the doubledotdash radio show on Cutters Choice Radio. Keeping the sounds and spirit of their live events with an eclectic mix of post-rock, punk-rock, porch-music, drone, beatz and anything else that suits their fancy.

Wednesdays

The long-running open mic Bohemian Night has gone virtual, with sessions on Zoom on Wednesdays at 8:30pm. Like the normal Boho sessions, uou can do anything you like: your own stuff, somebody else's stuff, as long as it doesn't involve getting naked or setting anything on fire, and preferably not at the same time... Head over to their Facebook page for details on how to join.

Fridays

The Jazz Café may not be open, but every Friday from 9pm DJ Knight will be going live on their Facebook page for an hour of feel-good dance tunes. With many years of experience, DJ Knight knows just the hits to get you in the weekend mood and dancing round your living room. Don't forget to tell your friends and family too! 

Sundays

Reading Pride's MyUmbrella LGBT+ are back for season 2 of their Under The Brolly podcast. Season 2 brings the same education and wellbeing focus of the last season with new host Hannah Phillips, a popular trans YouTuber. Premiering every second Sunday of the month at 7pm across Facebook and YouTube.

Enjoy anytime

Art & Exhibitions

Local sculptor and artist McAlistair Hood has created a series of 10 minute talks on YouTube about the behind the scenes life of a stone sculptor, inspired by his stage show James and the Perfect Peach. Check out the Perfect Peach series on YouTube (may be inappropriate for some viewers).

Children

South Street favourites Theatre of Widdershins ran a series of "Crazy Tales For Crazy Times" on Facebook throughout the spring. All 40 are now available on their YouTube channel. So grab your tea and some biscuits and snuggle down with the kids to watch Andy tell one of his Treasure Chest Tales.

Local children’s author Holly Webb has a growing collection of video readings of her animal stories – complete with some very entertaining props! Check her out on YouTube

Local poet A. F. Harrold has released a kids' poetry podcast. He describes it as "the A.F. Harrold Limited Edition Kids Poetry Podcast (or AFHLEKPoPod for short)" and each episode is about three or four minutes long, consisting of a fake sponsorship message for the intro, a single poem, and a suggestion of what to do if you didn’t enjoy it by way of outro. Series 1 and 2 - 21 episodes each - are all available to listen to in full via his website.

Classical

Reading Phoenix Choir have started to create and curate a Virtual Choir on their website. It includes a virtual version of their display at Reading Museum, a virtual concert made up of performances by the Phoenix Choir and Jewel Tones (in lieu of the concert they were supposed to do together in June) and a growing collection of "QuaranTunes" performed by members of the choir in lockdown. 

The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (who make their home at The Hexagon) have a podcast, which offers insights into the people behind the music, information about upcoming concerts, and excerpts from the RPO's extensive back catalogue of recordings. And during this period of self-isolation they've been posting videos of their players at home, using the tag #RPOatHome. Check out Principle Flute Emer McDonough perform Danny Boy, trombonist Matthew Gee do his take on Bolero, and flautist Jo Marsh play the March from Malcolm Arnold’s score to the film The Bridge Over the River Kwai - with the help of her family!

Meanwhile, frequent visitors the European Union Chamber Orchestra have put together "The most socially distanced Mozart in the world" - you can watch it on YouTube

Comedy

Stand & Deliver Comedy Club have added highlights and full stand-up sets sets from comedians that were filmed at their pre-lockdown and socially-distanced shows, now available to watch on YouTube.

Mad Monkey Improv have got curated playlists of their events on their YouTube channel, so you can enjoy plenty of improvised hi-jinks from their Mission IMPROVable shows and more.

History & Heritage

You may not be able to see the India & Me exhibition at Basildon Park right now, but they've uploaded several of the oral histories from the exhibition online so you can listen to moving stories from the local community. Discover more about our installation and find the recordings on their website.

Reading UK have published a video on Historic Reading presented by local Blue Badge Tourist Guide, Graham Horn. It's a whistle-stop tour of Reading's history and the town's "5Bs and an A" - Bricks, Biscuits, Bulbs, Beer and Bayeux Tapestry + Reading Abbey Ruins. Watch it on YouTube.

Many of the virtual tours and events from this year's Heritage Open Days events are still available to view on Reading Culture Live. Explore everything from industrial revolution-era history to modern wind turbines, local nature spots to an iconic cemetery being reclaimed by nature, and get stuck into some of the town's hidden archives.

Music

You can dive into the archive of The Rising Sun Arts Centre's YouTube channel - there's full video recordings of their (in)famous Tribute Nights, live studio sessions and so much more - even last year's panto in full!

Reading's Secret Song-ta is like a Secret Santa, but with singers from Reading's music scene coming together to perform covers of each other's songs, selected at random and kept secret until the song is unleashed. You can enjoy the output via their Facebook and Twitter channels.

Theatre

Progress Theatre have launched "Progress TV", a new video archive of past productions. This includes many of their Open Air Shakespeare productions filmed on-site at the Abbey Ruins and Caversham Court Gardens, plays from Writefest events and even their first production made in lockdown (with the original stage cast). Get stuck in via their Vimeo channel.

Theatretrain Reading have a wide range of videos on their YouTube channel, from dance challenges and tutorials to Shakespeare performed in odd places during lockdown.

Online workshops and activities

The Centre for Heritage and Family History have announced a series of new online workshops for the new year for those with an interest in genealogy and digging into local history:

Classes/workshops on particular days

Mondays

RABBLE Theatre hold their adult acting class Get Up On Stage on Monday nights 7pm-9:30pm. The course offers in-depth theatre training for adults aged 18-80 who love acting. RABBLE's acting classes are open to all and welcomes students who have never acted in their lives before alongside others who are looking to go into the career.

Tuesdays

Reading's own The Literary Gift Company has taken their love of all things "book" in a new direction and set up a Facebook group: The Literary Isolationists Club. They are “meeting” on Tuesdays at 8pm, with a different theme each week inviting people to discuss relevant books they have on their shelves. 

Wednesdays

What's The Game?! Improv are taking their weekly comedy improvisation classes online. as well as uploading videos of other things to do at home. Head over to their Facebook page for the latest games, challenges and updates.

Thursdays

Local portrait artists have set up a private group on Facebook as a virtual place for the Reading Portraits Group to meet, draw together and share pictures. There is a live session on Thursday evenings or participants can work from photos of the model sent out by email. Apply to join on Facebook.

Regular and daily activities

The Pauline Quirke Academy of Performing Arts is running free Zoom classes for enrolled pupils while they're closed over lockdown. And they've also put a whole range of free workshops on their YouTube channel for anyone to enjoy, with West End stars, TV personalities and professionals teaching everything from prop making and stop motion animation (The Royal Opera House -Morph and Aardman Animation), to dancing and singing with stars from Six to Motown to Aladdin, to Presenting and acting skills with CBBC Presenters and Children’s TV stars and so much more.

Unable to deliver their usual one-to-one reading support in schools until further notice, ABC To Read have set up live storytelling every day on their website, as well as finding and sharing the best resources to help children keep reading via newsletters and social media. 

As well as their selection of performances, The Hexagon's resident classicists the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra have added the RPO Philharmonic Workout to their YouTube channel. Feel the burn with a twenty-minute fitness routine you can do from the comfort of your own home, set to heart-pumping music recorded by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

Jelly have been taking their workshops online, too with interactive videos and how-to guides on their Instagram page and fully interactive sessions on Zoom. Keep an eye on their social media channels for the latest event info and meeting invites. They also have a number of videos on Reading Culture Live with further virtual art club sessions and chances to "meet" their resident artists.

Deadlocked Escape Rooms have developed two 'print at home'/interactive online hunt games. The first is called 'The Insiders', which spans across multiple days, and 3 ‘episodes’ of approximately 90 minutes each. Story-heavy, immersive, with oodles of challenging content to keep you playing for hours at a time! The second is ‘The Cyphstress‘, was made in ‘collabeeration’ with their favourite brewery, Siren Craft Brew, and set around the mythological Sirens. Details on how to purchase your copies are on their website.

Online exhibitions

The Berkshire Record Office holds the archive of the Thames Conservancy (the historical body responsible for the management of the river before the Environment Agency and Thames Water), which forms a unique and unbroken record of the river’s management over 200 years. They have created a new online exhibition called Where Smooth Waters Glide to celebrate the 250th anniversary of when the Thames Navigation Commission (later Thames Conservancy) first met on 9 May 1771. It runs till the end of the year.

Reading Museum are launching their new exhibition online on 24 April. Rubens to Sickert: The Study of Drawing explores how we learn to draw, and the lessons that drawing teaches, linked to Reading Museum and the University of Reading’s joint history as home to an important regional art school. The exhibition in the Madejski Gallery at Reading Museum will open as soon as Government guidance allows, but not before 17th May 2021. It will run until 7th August.

The Reading Guild of Artists have launched a new online exhibition: "while we wait"Exhibiting members have been given the freedom to display their latest and most interesting work, or something just a bit different. This sits alongside Celebrating Our Town - Discover Readingwhich features artwork inspired by the town the RGA has called home for 90 years, and promises regular new instalments over the coming months.

Farewell to the Gas Tower is an online exhibition organised by local artists to celebrate East Reading's last remaining gas tower, due for demolition early in 2021. Before the Covid19 pandemic they had planned a community art exhibition as part of a series of events and exhibitions to celebrate the gas tower and its place in our community. In the meantime, the online exhibition will have to suffice. They plan to post new contributions every day, and welcome photos, sketches, drawings and more from artists of all levels to create a record of part of Reading's skyline that will soon be gone forever.

The Mixed Media Monday Group are a varied groups of artists who have been meeting regularly to share their art, ideas and techniques - and they've got a Facebook page to share their works online.

The University of Reading’s Museums and Collections website is a new "one-stop shop" for all the University's affiliated museums and their collections. There are online exhibitions and catalogues from the likes of The Museum of English Rural Life, the Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology and the Cole Museum of Zoology, as well as the University's Art Collections, Special Collections and so much more, and it covers everything from ancient pottery and medieval literature, to the work of Samuel Beckett and the history of rural England. It's the perfect digital rabbit hole to fall into - and a chance to see just how many wonderful historical items are looked after by the University.