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.

Online events and performances

One-off events

Friday 3 July brings another online edition of MISSION:IMPROVable from Mad Monkey Improv. This week's session of improv tomfoolery will stream live on their Facebook Page at 8:30pm (rather than their usual start time of 8pm)

On Sunday 5 July at 8pm, Dreading Poetry Slam host the July edition of their monthly Poetry Slam. If you want to see what your words are worth, you can enter and read two poems with max 3 minutes each. The winner gets a place in the end-of-year final. There's also the option to read out of competition as well or just listen to the poets performing. New Poets and audience welcome.

On Thursday 9 July at 6pm, join Reading College for their Creative Festival 2020. In lieu of being able to run the event as usual, this virtual festival will instead be the showcase for the achievements of their Creative Industries students, studying Media, Music, Visual Arts and Performing Arts courses. Head over to their website to find out more and see the online gallery.

Mark Thomas: Serious Organised Criminal is the latest lockdown livestream from this South Street favourite, presented in partnership with the venue on Thursday 9 March at 7:30pm. This is Mark’s true story of how Mark fought the law… with the law’s permission. The show will once again be followed by a Q+A. Tickets are £5 and 20% of your ticket purchase will go to INQUEST.

The next online edition of Poets’ Café will take place on Friday 10 July from 8pm with poetry starting at 8:15pm. This month's guest is Luke Palmer and your host will be Jez Dyer. 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.

On Saturday 11 July, Berkshire Maestros have a double-bill of taster events to introduce would-be Maestros to the kinds of lessons and ensembles they could be enjoying. It starts off at 10am with the Mini Maestros 'Under the Sea', A musical adventure for children under five. Then at 11am it's The Big Music Day, helping anyone aged six and over to discover which instrument is your perfect match.

Also on Saturday 11 July from 2pm it's the Virtual Readipop FestivalThis three-hour livestream will include special lockdown live sets from past and future Festival acts, alongside exclusive kids workshops, award-winning poetry, cooking lessons and much more. The line-up includes Badly Drawn Boy, human beatboxer Beardyman and soul powerhouse Hannah Williams & The Affirmations, alongside a host of other names both local and global. It streams live via www.readipop.co.uk and on Readipop Festival’s Facebook page and YouTube channel.

Local world music disc-spinner DJ Dubious should've been spinning discs at the World Music Festival, so on Saturday 11 July at 8pm he'll be doing something close to the set he would've played from the comfort of his own home to yours. Find out how to join the party on Facebook.

This year's Reading Fringe Festival goes online with a Digital Fringe running from 17-26 July. Over 40 online events will be running - some live, some on demand - from children's shows to comedy, cabaret and drag, theatre, photography and dance, as well as music, film, and panels - and more besides! Many shows and events are free to access - you just need to register online first. 

Regular events

Wednesdays

The Castle Tap didn't think that just because we're all in our houses, doesn't mean that we can't get together for a good ol' sing song through other means! So they've found a way to bring their Shanty Sessions online - and moved them from monthly to fortnightly on Wednesday evenings.

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

Global Cafe regular DJ Dubious is bringing 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.

Saturdays

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.

Sundays

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.

Weekly/multiple days

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. You can listen via his website. Series 1 began on 23 March and ran for 21 episodes - three times a week for seven weeks. Series 2 began on 8 June and will also run on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for seven weeks.

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.

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

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) 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

Comedy

Stand & Deliver Comedy Club have launched Operation Lolington Bear - full stand-up sets sets from comedians that were filmed at their pre-lockdown 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.

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!

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.

On a similar vein, Berzerk Productions have also started to put videos of previous productions online, including WANT by Barney Norris

Online workshops and activities

One-off activities

On Thursday 16 July at 2pmThe Centre for Heritage and Family History present a Parish Registers Online Workshop to help anyone interested in family history to better understand these core resources, including how and why they can differ in content and how to interpret them. Also, indexes and transcripts, their benefits and pitfalls. Booking is essential and closes the day before the event. See the event page for more info.

Activities on specific days

Monday

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.

Tuesday

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. 

Wednesday

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.

Thursday

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.

Friday

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.

Saturday

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.

Reading Rep Theatre have launched COME TO WHERE I AM, a new project where they're looking to commission 4 new 10-minute plays - written and performed by the writers about Reading. If you consider this town your home, then they want to hear from you. The short plays will be about the place they call home. More info on their website.

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 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.

Online exhibitions

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.