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.
Online events and performances
Reading Museum is proud to present a virtual tour of their famous full-size facsimile of the Bayeux Tapestry. Delve into the history behind each scene, depicting the events leading up to and including the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Who were the key figures involved and why was the Tapestry made? A 20 minute, guided tour – available to watch on demand here on What's On Reading until 15 May.
Local actor/writer/director Michael Beakhouse has adapted his stage play Tulips into a special audio production, which you can listen to online for free until 31 May. Exploring the topics of domestic abuse and trying to identify who is the victim and who the abuser, Tulips is inspired by many true stories – including two celebrity court cases (those of Johnny Depp and Caroline Flack) which captured the UK’s attention in 2020. Produced by Secret Stories C.I.C.
Readifolk present their next virtual guest night on Sunday 2 May at 8pm. This month's guest is Jez Lowe - not only one of the busiest live performers in the country, but his songs are among the most widely sung by other performers including the likes of Fairport Convention and The Dubliners. You need to be on the Readifolk mailing list to join the Zoom event.
A new series of local history online talks from the Centre for Heritage and Family History arrives in 2021. As usual, pre-booking is required because places are limited. Bookings close one day before each event.
Jane Austen’s School Days in Reading - 8 May, 3pm
Reading Abbey & the Castle in the middle ages - 20 May, 2pm
A stroll through Berkshire’s graveyards - 3 Jun, 2pm
On Thursday 13 May at 6:30pm you can tune into Culture Shock: How COVID has changed the Arts, the latest from the University of Reading's Spring Online Alumni Lecture Series. Reading graduate Emma Banks is a successful music agent and executive working with artists like Red Hot Chili Peppers, Florence + The Machine, and Kylie Minogue, and she will share her experiences of how COVID-19 has impacted the music industry. This online discussion will provide an insight into what Emma thinks the short and long-term consequences are for the industry and what lessons she's learnt from the pandemic. Register for free on their website.
A Girl Called Stephen Theatre and Double Okay are collaborating their queer minds on Thursday 13 May at 8pm to bring you SQUIDS IN: A Queer Cabaret Open Mic. From absurd to mainstream, experimental to completely unoriginal: we love it all, and cannot wait to showcase some of the amazing queer talent that Reading has to offer in an inclusive and vibrant farewell to lockdown.
Poets' Café returns on Friday 14 May at 8pm - once again online until South Street can welcome the night back. This month's guest is Oliver Comins, who has quietly established a reputation as one of the more intriguing voices in English poetry. Your host this month is Susan Utting. See our event page for details on how to attend the Zoom event.
On 19-21 May at 7:45pm, Progress Theatre present Lessons in Life. A collection of monologues from across the ages, from Shakespeare to Chekhov to Amanda Whittington. An array of colourful characters showing us snippets of their emotional journeys in life and the lessons they’ve learnt.
On 27 May at 6pm, Reading Amnesty International Town Group present the finale for their Poetry for Social Justice competition. An Evening of Poetry for Social Justice is a two hour extravaganza of readings and discussions from the winners, numerous performers as well as from their wonderful Judges.
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
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.
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.
ive every Thursday and Friday at 9pm playing whatever tunes take her fancy - covers, originals, requests and a bit of banter, too.
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!
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.
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) 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.
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.
Online workshops and activities
Starting on 25 April, Jelly are running a two-part workshop teaching you how to make a pinhole camera out of a drinks can, and learn how to take and develop photos with it. These Pinhole Photography 'Can-eras' sessions are aimed at adults but younger participants welcome under adult supervision.
Compass Recovery College provides free courses and social groups for anyone in the area aged 18 or over who may be affected directly or indirectly by mental ill health. Firm believers in the power of arts to aid mental health, they have a number of upcoming creative courses including art, storytelling and theatre.
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:
Education c.1860-1914 - Sat 8 May, 11:00
Getting more out of Ancestry and Findmypast - Sat 17 Apr, 14:00
An Introduction to the Industrial Revolution in Britain - Fri 18 Jun, 14:00
House Histories - Sat 19 Jun, 11:00
Classes/workshops on particular days
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.
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.
The Department of Classics at Reading is bringing a series of online seminars to accompany the forthcoming exhibition Troy: Beauty and Heroism, a British Museum spotlight loan at the Ure Museum. While the launch of the exhibition has been postponed, these seminars will begin to explore the themes of heroism and beauty and their interconnectedness throughout antiquity, particularly in relation to the epic tradition and its reception. Anyone interested is welcome to join online via Teams on Wednesdays from 27 January to 25 March at 4pm
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.
From 27 Feb - 20 Mar, Berkshire Maestros are running a series of Music Masterclasses with world class musicians. These sessions will feature some of the most influential and accomplished musicians in the world and are open to everyone (you don't even have to play the instrument!). See the full list of musicians, instruments and dates on our event page.
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.
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.
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 Reading, which 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 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.
Create and share from home
Reading Amnesty International Town Group are running an online Poetry for Social Justice competition. It's open to anyone with a passion for poetry and for human rights, and the poems will be judged by literary academics, published poets, and human rights activists. The deadline for entries is 23 April, and the winners will get to perform at An Evening of Poetry for Social Justice at the end of May.
Urban Sketchers Reading are a group who meet up to sketch around the Reading area whose drawings "tell the story of our surroundings, the places we live and where we travel". Their website is filled with sketches from artists all over town and they are open to welcoming new members.
Normally Janina Maher runs very successful book-making workshops around the Reading area. She has three different kits for sale through her website.