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.
- In August, we talk new horizons and future plans with Rabble Theatre, Aldworth Philharmonic Orchestra and Mad Monkey Improv
- In September, we celebrated with the "final four" of the Reading World Cup of Arts & Heritage - The Sainsbury Singers, Reading School of Dance, Reading Abbey and winners South Street.
- In October, we went to The Museum of English Rural Life to chat with them and Reading Museum about their respective histories, their recent reopenings, and their future plans.
- In November, Dance Reading, Readifolk and Progress Theatre talked about going from stage to screen, including the big challenge of recreating that same sense of community as at their live events.
Online events and performances
Christmas is going to be a little different this year. And with no Living Advent Calendar on the streets of Reading, there will instead be a Digital Advent Calendar on Reading Culture Live. It's a series of 24 videos, released one-a-day throughout December at 12:30pm featuring plenty of music, comedy, theatre, art, poetry and much more from creatives and communities across Reading.
Readifolk present their next virtual guest night on Sunday 6 December at 8pm. This month's guests are Vicki Swan and Jonny Dyer, celebrating the Victorian Christmas carol by bringing together some of the best known (and less well known) carols and presenting them in a sensitive, beautiful and honest way reminiscent of the West Gallery Singers of the time. All interspersed with infectious and well known music hall songs from the late 1800s. You need to be on the Readifolk mailing list to join the Zoom event.
Starting on Thursday 10 December and running till 3 January, Imagine Theatre - the team that bring you the wonderful Hexagon panto each year - have created a special online Christmas show. Santa’s Christmas Rescue is perfect for children up to age 7 or those simply young at heart. This year has been a little different for everyone, including Santa and his elves in the North Pole. Santa is very sad that he is not able to meet children from all over the world this Christmas but that does not mean he does not have a special treat for you!
Thursday 10 December brings more Hexagon favourites into your home for the That'll Be The Day Christmas Show. The pre-recorded show will include the best pop Christmas classics and traditional Christmas songs along with hilarious comedy routines. PLUS, Trevor and some of the cast will be LIVE ONLINE on the evening, pre-show, during the interval and after-show to answer your questions, chat and share a virtual sherry with you online!
Poets' Café returns on Friday 11 December at 8pm - once again online until South Street can welcome the night back. This month's guest is Rishi Dastidar. See our event page for details on how to attend the Zoom event.
Kids this Christmas can book the ultimate Zoom call with Santa himself, with the Bella of the Christmas Ball or with their favourite Snow Princesses. These Magical Christmas Meet & Greets can be booked on various dates 15-21 December. There's even a special session with Santa and his signing elves who can chat using BSL. Book your 5-minute session now.
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.
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.
Story Craft Reading are holding live streamed children’s storytelling and craft sessions at 10am every Monday and Friday on their Facebook page.
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.
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
Reading Film Theatre has teamed up with Peccadillo Pictures and Eureka Entertainment to bring you virtual releases of some great independent and international films for you to enjoy in the comfort of your own home. Check out the full list
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.
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.
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.
With a premier co-presented by South Street, Dante or Die have adapted their 2018-19 live show User Not Found into an immersive video podcast, available to view on Reading Culture Live. Charge your phone, plug in your headphones and find a quiet space for this intimate, meditative and funny story of one man grappling with something deeply private.
Online workshops and activities
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 Thursdays 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Reading Guild of Artists have launched a new online exhibition: Celebrating Our Town - Discover Reading will feature artwork inspired by the town the RGA has called home for 90 years, and promises regular new instalments over the coming months.
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.