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.

Online events and performances

One-off events

Watch the Hexagon's "resident orchestra" the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra perform Strauss' electrifying masterpiece Ein Heldenleben conducted by Vasily Petrenko, Music Director Designate (August 2020), in the online premiere on Wednesday 8 April from 4pm, exclusively on the Orchestra’s YouTube channel. Follow the link and set a reminder to be notified when it goes live for 24 hours only.

Following a successful first event in March, Thursday 9 April at 8:30pm brings the second Online and Live open mic from local act Colours & Fires. They'll be streaming live on Facebook with guests dialling-in and performing live for you. If you're interested in performing and being a guest or just enjoying the show, you can find out more on their Facebook event.

Local singer Nicole Monique Johnson will be streaming another concert in her series "Love in the time of Corona" on Saturday 11 April at 5:30pm. She'll be singing songs and stories of love in any language. Meet with friends near and far and chat live to build bridges across oceans. You can find out more on her Facebook event.

With South Street closed, the next Poets’ Café is going online on Friday 10 April from 8pm, with poetry starting at 8:15. To book a one page, one poem, open mic slot, please email info@clairedyer.com and you will be sent a link to a Zoom event which you can access on the night.

12 Years by Sarah Nicolls was due to take place at South Street on Thursday 30 April. It will now be taking place online instead. To take part, book a ticket online as you normally would. Ticket holders will then be emailed a link to the livestream, which will go live at 7.30pm on that date. The show will still include a post-show discussion with University of Reading climate specialist Ed Hawkins.

Regular events and back-catalogues

Stand & Deliver Comedy Club have launched Operation Lolington Bear. They've been filming their recent shows and will be releasing sets from comedians over YouTube in the coming weeks – the first one features Trevor Lock.

Local poet A. F. Harrold will be releasing a kids' poetry podcast three times a week for seven weeks. 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. You can listen via his website.

The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (who make their home at The Hexagon) also 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!

South Street favourites Theatre of Widdershins are hosting "Crazy Tales For Crazy Times" live on Facebook. So grab your tea and some biscuits and snuggle down with the kids to watch Andy tell one of his Treasure Chest Tales. Every weekday at 4pm he will tell a different story.

Meanwhile, local children’s author Holly Webb is doing live video readings of her animal stories – complete with some very entertaining props! Check her out on YouTube. And Story Craft Reading are holding live streamed children’s storytelling and craft sessions at 10am every Monday, Wednesday and Friday on their Facebook page.

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.

Local singer Nicole Allan is performing on Facebook Live every Monday-Saturday evening at 7pm. She'll be performing a whole host of covers and learning as many requests as you can throw at her. Tune in from her Facebook page.

After a successful first night, Global Cafe regular DJ Dubious will bring you an online version of his "Suspect Sound System" nights - groovy sounds from all over the world delivered to you in the comfort of your own kitchens, living rooms, where ever you may be locked down. It kicks off at 9pm every Friday night. You can get down via his Facebook event.

The Banff Mountain Film Festival may be postponed till October, but if you're in need of an adventure fix the Banff team are putting together evenings of inspirational films that can be enjoyed from the sofa! Head over to their website for the first ‘home screening’ collection of adventure films from around the world – from Hawaii, to Tasmania, to the Swiss Alps – and there’s even a prize draw too. 

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.

You can also 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!

Online workshops and activities

Kadampa Meditation Centre have announced new online courses in beginners, in-depth and 30-minute meditations. These courses will begin next week are open to anyone in Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Surrey. They've also recorded a special half-day event called "When you can't go outside - go inside!" where Buddhist nun Gen Nyingpo will explain and guide meditations on the clarity of mind. It's available for 1 week from 4 - 11 April with 2 sessions of guided meditations and talks.

The Museum of English Rural Life is now running their hugely popular Friday Fledglings sessions for the under 5s at the normal time of 11am, live on their Facebook page. They've also moved their calendar of Easter Holiday events online, too, with VR activities, arts and crafts and a dressing up challenge all planned. Keep an eye on their website for the latest updates.

On Sunday 26 April from 3pm-5pm, the Craft Box Club will be hosting their first "Making Rainbows Virtual Crafternoon". Grab your Grab your needle punch rainbow kit from their website, then join the live demo on Facebook and craft along with loads of other awesome people from all over the country.

After a trial run, Reading Swing Jam have taken their classes online. On Monday evenings they're offering a Level 1 course, introducing a number of Solo Jazz steps, concentrating on technique, shape/styling, timing/rhythm and transitions with a view to build repertoire over time. On Wednesdays it's the Level 2 course, taking your Solo Jazz to the next level by working on step variations, mash ups and combos, mini-choreos and maybe some improvisation work.

Hexagon regulars Diversity have made access to their classes and tutorials completely free for everybody until the start of May. They want to spread nothing but love and positivity in these troubling times and think dance should be accessible to everybody regardless of circumstance. All the info is on the 20DV website

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.

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.

Berkshire Maestros have been adding all sorts of videos to their YouTube channel, notably their "Wake Up And Sing" series - a new morning workout for your voice every day, and suitable for the whole family.

Every Wednesday, Rabble Theatre (formely RBL Theatre) offering free drama workshops at 12pm. Follow them on Twitter for more updates.

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. On 7 April, the theme will be London.

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.

Jollypop Entertainment are running fun sessions for children on their Facebook page. Next up is a live dinosaur themed children’s party filled with dino-dancing and Jurassic-fantastic games at 4pm on Friday 10th April and 4pm on Saturday 11th there will be singing to mermaid tunes and a Q&A with the mermaid princess. 

Itsy Bitsy Bakers are running free online baking session for kids on their Facebook page on Tuesdays at 2pm. The ingredients are posted on the page beforehand. More details on their Facebook page.

Deadlocked Escape Rooms have developed a new 'print at home'/interactive online hunt game called 'The Insiders'. It will be 'released' in a few parts, the first of which is live now. For details of how to register check out their website.

Create and share from home

This week, Reading Museum are encouraging everyone to create their very own "Museum of Home". They'll be providing a series of prompts throughout the week on Twitter to guide you step-by-step on a creative journey through your environment, your values, and the stories that matter most.

Jelly have also spotted that children in Spain have started to draw pictures of rainbows and displaying them in their windows as a symbol of hope. They are encouraging the people of Reading to fill their windows with rainbows. Then when people are on their isolation approved walks (keeping 2 metres from any other people) they can play a giant game of eye spy. Jelly and West Reading Together are also encouraging people to send in photos of their rainbows and have started to share them on their social media.

Dance Reading are looking to do a new video featuring Reading’s dancers. They are asking you to send them a video using the spaces in your home creatively to dance in / through and around. They encourage “choreography in the corridor, salsa on the stairs & bellydancing in the bath (dressed!) we want it all so we can compile an awesome video of dance inspired in isolation.” Please get in touch via their social media or email them at hello@dancereading.com

Dreading Poetry Slam are holding various online competitions:

  1. On Saturday 4 April post a Haiku in the events page from 6:30pm. At 8pm a poll will be posted everyone can vote for the winner
  2. On Sunday 5 April post a poem in the events page from 6:30pm. At 8pm a poll will be posted everyone can vote for the winner

Join their Facebook Group to get involved.

If colouring-in is your thing, the Berkshire Record Office has chosen a selection of images from their archive ready for you to download and get busy with the crayons! And local creative agency Theme Creative have posted up a selection of colouring-in images, dot-to-dots and other creative challenges for both children and adults alike to download and enjoy.

Reading Rep Theatre have launched "The Art of Kindness", celebrating the huge outpouring of compassion and kindness during this unprecedented time. They're going to commission an artist to create a digital mosaic to display your outpouring of kindness and love in one place and asking YOU to help find and make the content:

  • Share your pictures, stories, songs, poems, speeches, moments... anything you think shows kindness in these isolating times.
  • Post an act of kindness and pass it on...

Share it on their Facebook and Twitter using #ArtofKindness

The Weller Centre in Caversham are not only providing those self-isolating with deliveries of basic food items, they can also offer books, jigsaws and DVDs for all ages. They have also started to put together a 'remote youth club pack', suitable for most ages from 8 upwards. Please contact them on 0118 9475828 or 07733 621109, email admin@wellercentre.org.uk or pm via Facebook

Supporters of Reading’s last gas tower in Newtown have been planning an exhibition of artwork (any age, any ability, any genre) inspired by the structure for the weekend of 19, 20 & 21st June. In the current circumstances they are considering whether they can turn it virtual. If you want to create some art, you can register online - the closing date for registration of interest is 13th May at by which time they hope to have more information. Or you can keep an eye on their Facebook page.

Art Jam Studio (home of Edelweiss and AliPom Knitting, amongst others) are posting lots of ideas that they have found online for crafts that children and adults can make at home on their Facebook page.