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. It launched at the end of May with over 100 events, and that number is only going to grow!
And don't forget the What's On Reading Podcast where we talk all about how the arts are coping with these changing times.
- In April, guests Are You Listening?, South Street and Stand & Deliver Comedy Club talk about rescheduling events and looking to reach their audiences during all this uncertainty
- In May, guests Reading Swing Jam, The Free Radicals and Reading Libraries discuss the challenges and successes of moving to a digital model
- In June, guests StrikeUp Theatre, Berkshire Maestros and The Centre for Heritage and Family History talk about the new skills they had to learn in order to continue to teach their communities
- In July, organisers and artistes from Reading Fringe Festival talk about putting on a Digital Fringe and what makes the events at the Fringe so special.
Online events and performances
Friday 7 August at 8pm should have been the next Tribute Night at The Rising Sun Arts Centre. Instead, they'll be hosting a watch party of a Tribute Night past to try and keep the spirit of the nights alive. And you can vote to decide which one will stream on the night. Make your choice and enjoy the show on their Facebook event.
South Street's "resident comic" is back for another lockdown livestream on Tuesday 11 August at 7:30pm. Mark Thomas: Walking the Wall is the story of when Mark decided to go rambling in the Middle East and walked the entire length of the Israeli Barrier crossing between the Israeli and the Palestinian side. Followed as usual with a live Q&A session. Grab your ticket on our event page.
Speaking of South Street, the August edition of their regular Poets’ Café will once again take place online on Friday 14 August from 8.pm, with poetry starting at 8.15pm. This month, it's Covers Night, a chance to read one or two of your favourite poems by a poet you admire - and share why they appeal to you. The host this month is Damon Young. To book a one page, one poem, open mic slot, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and you will be sent a link to a Zoom event which you can access on the night.
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.
On Saturday evenings at 5:30pm local singer Nicole Monique Johnson presents "Love in the time of Corona". Join her on Facebook Live for songs and stories for all ages and all spaces.
Reading Pride's MyUmbrella LGBT+ are bringing their Under The Brolly podcast LIVE via Facebook, fortnightly on Sunday evenings at 7pm. While they may not be able to run workshops and stalls like normal, they've decided to bring you the next best thing! Their hard-working volunteers will be live streaming via Facebook to discuss LGBT+ identities and issues, share their experiences and interact with you lovely, lovely people. All live streams are public so you don't have to have a Facebook account to watch them. And ff you miss the show live, you can listen back on Facebook, too.
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. A new song is unveiled on their Facebook and Twitter channels on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
The Centre for Heritage and Family History have a series of Second World War-themed online talks this August and September to commemorate 75 years since the conflict ended.
- Thu 6 Aug, 2pm - Reading in the Second World War by Stuart Hylton
- Thu 13 Aug, 2pm - Reading’s Home Guard by Mike Cooper
- Sat 22 Aug, 12pm - The Battle of Britain by Richard Marks
- Thu 3 Sep, 2pm - Women in World War Two by Bill King
- Thu 24 Sep, 2pm - The British Army, 1939-45 by Mike Cooper
Pre-booking is required, because full joining instructions will be emailed in advance. Bookings close one day before the event.
Story Craft Reading are holding live streamed children’s storytelling and craft sessions at 10am every Monday and Friday on their Facebook page.
Reading Pride and The Bla Bla's drag superstar (and occasional bingo host!) Wilma Fingadoo hosts streams from her house on most Friday and Sunday evenings at 8pm - a drink, a laugh and a sing-song are all guaranteed. And on Wednesdays, it's Loose Gays of Lockdown. Spend the evening with Lee (Wilma's drab self) and Brad as they have a glass or two of something and have a good old catch up. Check out Wilma's Facebook page for the latest events.
Frequent South Street favourite Half-Moon Theatre are offering a selection of recent much-loved productions for young people will be made available free, for everyone over the coming weeks. This includes Need a Little Help (ages 2-7), which was at South Street last year.
This year's Reading Fringe Festival may officially be over, but dozens of online events, from children's shows to comedy, cabaret and drag, theatre, photography and dance, as well as music, film, and panels - and more besides - are available to watch on demand for a few more weeks. You just need to register online first.
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).
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.
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) 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!
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
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.
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!
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
Starting on 23 July and running throughout the school holidays, Berkshire Maestros are having a Musical Summer - a series of one/two/three-day musical workshops and instrument masterclasses that are open to all. From Disney to drum kits, Jazztastic Piano to Brilliant Baroque, making noise to music theory, there really is something for all tastes, abilities and (almost all) instruments. Check out the full list for details.
StageAbility are running a their Summer Drama Schools for kids who love theatre during the week of 3-7 August, 10am - 3pm daily. The Summer Drama Camp is for ages 5-14 and there are a choice of venues, while the Senior Theatre Project is for 13-18 year olds and is based at the Calcot Centre. All socially-distanced and with hygiene measures in place.
From 17-22 August, professional dance teacher Evonnee Bentley-Holder is leading The Summer Hype Project, online dance workshops for young dancers. Split into two age groups (8-12 and 13+), you’ll get 5 hours of intense zoom training in a fusion of styles (jazz and commercial/street dance), leading towards a routine which will be filmed and edited into a final piece. For more info, head over to their Instagram page or email email@example.com to sign up. The deadline to reserve your place is 15 August.
Activities on specific days
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.
After the success of their last online cooking course, Itsy Bitsy Bakers are running another 10 week course starting on 30 June. Sessions will stream on a private members' page every Tuesday at 2pm. All sessions are recorded so you can watch later if you cannot make the 2pm slot due to work or school. The course will take us up to September so will keep us busy during the summertime. All for just £20. Details on how to sign up are on their Facebook page.
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.
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.
AliPom Knitting will be running a Virtual Knit & Natter session every Thursday evening at 6pm. Whether you're new to knitting and want to make some knitting buddies, or you're an expert knitter and want to see some new faces during this time of lockdown, do join us, you can join the fun on Zoom. Head over to their event listing for all the details.
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.
The Museum of English Rural Life is now running Friday Fledglings online. Every Friday morning at 11am, session leaders will bring you stories, ideas and activities inspired by the MERL garden and their collections, so that under-5s can continue to enjoy the benefits of outdoor learning at home! They also have a selection of other online events and activities on their website.
Local artist MADEbyTamalia normally runs art and craft workshops and events from her studio in Caversham. She's now launched a virtual Art & Crafts Club for kids which is totally free and is published every Saturday from 10am on YouTube (and available to watch any time after that with a new theme every week. The aim for all of these crafts is to create something that can be done at home without the need for fancy art supplies and so is accessible to everyone. There are also new exciting art and craft activities published on the MADEbyTamalia blog page each week as well, so kids can have fun with some other mini makes throughout the week too.
As well as offering a huge catalogue of eBooks, magazines and audiobooks to borrow and browse online, Reading Libraries are posting daily challenges on Twitter and have now launched the "Reading is reading" book group on Facebook, an online book group with a new title to enjoy and discuss each fortnight. The first will be released this Saturday and all titles will be available for FREE as eBooks via BorrowBox.
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.
Berkshire Maestros is now offering live online lessons to anyone (both adults and children) who wants to learn to play an instrument. Taster sessions are available - and they can deliver hire instruments! Find out more on the online learning page of their website. They've also 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.
New Directions College may be closed, but they're keen to keep your brains duly exercised with a programme of online challenges and activities with a different theme each day. Head over to their Facebook page to join the fun, and head over to Reading Culture Live to see their virtual art gallery videos: tutor Zillah Puri kept creativity flowing through the lockdown by encouraging her learners to make one drawing per day. This virtual exhibition brings together a selection of the work being produced, from over 1200 artworks that have been created to date.
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. They've also Books Rock, a new initiative to inspire children to read by encouraging volunteers and children to decorate pebbles with famous book covers and characters and hide them while out on daily exercise - giving children something fun to do while out on their own daily walk. All the details are on their Facebook page.
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.
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.
Whole Step CIC, who specialise in music therapy for children, families & adults with additional needs, are posting singalong versions of popular songs on their Facebook page
Jollypop Entertainment are running fun sessions for children on their Facebook page. They've had dinosaur parties, mermaid singalongs and more! Plus, you can book a whole range of magical packages to keep your little ones smiling like personal messages and sing-along experiences. Check out the isolation busters page on their website for all the details.
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.
Local artist Charles Burns has started cutting his amazing silhouettes via Zoom. He talks about his journey to online working on his website.
Create and share from home
The Broad St. Mall have put together a selection of fun children's activities on their website, like colouring sheets and a treasure hunt - as well as tips for entertaining the kids and family wellness.
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! 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. And despite having to postpone their festival in July until 2021, Readipop are continuing to keep in touch with their audience. Check out their Facebook page where they have shared a festival colouring sheet.
Normally Janina Maher runs very successful book-making workshops around the Reading area. She has three different kits for sale through her website.
Supporters of Reading’s last gas tower in Newtown had planned an exhibition of artwork (any age, any ability, any genre) inspired by the structure for the weekend of 19, 20 & 21st June. Some of this artwork has gone virtual as part of the Reading Fringe Festival. They're still hoping for further exhibitions - 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.
The Rising Sun Arts Centre have launched a new creative, collaborative art project, inviting everyone to create and share art inspired by the words Rising, Sun, Arts, or Centre (or all four!). Any kind of art is accepted - visual arts, poetry, music, dance and so on - and the centre has started bringing pieces together in an online gallery. Meanwhile, the collaborators and creators from their Open Page / Open Stage events have created a Facebook group to keep the creative love going while we're all forced away from one another! It's also a place to share stuff you've done whether it's the time of the event or not. And it's open to anyone to join and share.
Reading Museum may be closed at the moment, but they know how much art, history and culture mean to all their visitors. So, they've brought their latest exhibition, ANIMAL: World Art Journeys, online! Explore the exhibition with a virtual tour, discover all of the arts and crafts resources in the activity carts, or get up close with the objects' stories via blog posts. They'll be updating things regularly with more content, and will share updates on social media, too.
To mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day Berkshire Record Office has put together Through Their Eyes, an online exhibition exploring life in WWII Berkshire and the celebration of VE Day. It explores how the people of Berkshire prepared for conflict, adapted to unimaginable change and finally celebrated peace. It's available online until August.
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.