2016 is Reading’s year of culture and events are being held all over the town. This coincides with the 25th reincarnation birthday of Katesgrove’s own Rising Sun Arts Centre. Meanwhile, Reading’s growing pains means that the stand-off between development and residents doesn’t look like it will end any time soon, and the struggle between social need and council budget cuts appears to be reaching a crisis.
Reading year of culture
Reading hosts a year of culture in 2016. The Reading UK Community Interest Company (CIC) say that the year of culture is designed to bring new artists and experiences to the town.
Each month has a different theme. January starts with fitness, although for those of us more inclined to stay indoors in the winter, there are also music and theatre events.
Reading Borough Council is likely to make an announcement about the future of the South Street Arts Centre in February 2016. The council may consider closing the centre if a funding bid to the Arts Council doesn’t succeed. Over 8000 people have signed a petition to save the venue.
The Museum of English Rural Life (MERL) on Redlands Road will reopen its galleries and gardens in summer 2016 to show off their new Our Country Lives redevelopment. MERL says this will involve creating new galleries designed to deliver a more engaging experience for visitors and connect people to the countryside by revealing the relevance of rural life to modern, urban lives.
WCDA will be investigating financial inclusion in Whitley early in 2016. They are a looking for local people to help them in this surveying task and they expect to make recommendations on the results of the survey later in the year.
The group researched community transport issues in Whitley last year and presented their findings to interested parties such as local schools and public transport providers. WCDA expect recommendations to be returned about how to address these issues from their partners in late January.
External works to the health centre are due to complete in March 2016, and the full refurbishment completed by the end of June 2016.
The great tradition of joined-up British public infrastructure projects has been honoured by the decision to delay the electrification of the Basingstoke to Reading line to 2019, although the new Green Park station will be ready in 2018. Apparently, this means that no trains can stop there for a year, throwing plans for Royal Elm Park into a spin. Things are bound to get sorted out now that politicians have become involved.
There are a number of plans for new ‘houses in multiple occupation’ (HMOs) in the area. A property developer was refused permission to replace the defunct Woodley Arms pub on Waldeck street with a block of flats in March 2015, but appealed the decision and may try again this year. Meanwhile Katesgrove councillor Matt Rodda has called for local opinion on a proposal for a new large HMO on Swainstone Road.
A third of Reading Borough Councillors are up for election on Thursday 5 May. The Whitley Pump hopes to provide more details closer to the time. In the meantime, tell your councillors what you think!
Reading science week
Reading enjoys a science week from 11-20 March. Reading Film Theatre is showing “The Martian” and hosting a talk on the feasibility of farming on Mars on 15 March, and the Rising Sun Arts Centre is showing “Godzilla” (1971) followed by a debate on nuclear power on 18 March. There are other events around Reading too.
Arts, museums and heritage shows
The annual Whiteknights Studio trail will be held on the weekend of 11-12 June. Artists in the University and Katesgrove Hill areas will open their doors and studios to members of the public. Later in the year, St Joseph’s on Redlands Road will hold its annual charity arts fair. The Rising Sun Arts Centre often holds arts fairs too, although dates are not yet known.
Reading Museum is hosting an exhibition on Reading railways and is looking for contributions from local people.
The ongoing drama that is the scale of council budget cuts deepened at the end of last year when it was revealed that central government required them to shave an extra £5 million off their budget by the end of spring 2016. The South Street Arts Centre is already under threat (see above) and we don’t yet know how this latest act will play out.
The content of Reading’s local plan will be decided after an ‘issues and options’ consultation in January. The terms of the consultation were approved by the Strategic Environment Planning and Transport Committee in November 2015.
The consultation will ask questions about the building of new homes as well as industrial and business development, about sites which could be developed or retained as green space, and even about the future planning policy on pubs. The plan will define Reading’s planning and development framework for the next 20 years and will have a direct impact on life in the Katesgrove area and where Reading’s heading.
The Katesgrove Community Association will be holding its annual fair in May.
Our blog will continue to cover local events, news and views and will try to keep the What’s On page up to date. We have a huge list of things we’d like to cover and we’d love it for other people to help us with them!