The Caribbean Associations Group (CAG) and the Aspire Community Interest Company have called a public meeting at RISC on Friday 4 August to discuss how to save the Central Club building on London Street, together with its famous ‘black history’ mural.
CAG had bid up to £12 million to acquire the Central Club for community use, but Reading Borough Council (RBC) set this bid aside and announced their decision to put the site on the open market instead. RBC also said they would withdraw their £220 thousand development subsidy as part of their attempt to address the council’s ongoing financial difficulties by obtaining ‘best value’ from the property.
The Central Club building had once been a police garage, but became an Afro-Caribbean community centre in the 1980s. The mural was started in 1987, and the Central Club was shut down after a serious incident in 2005. There have been attempts to resurrect the club since, and the mural had been promised protection from local MPs and the council.
“We see the building as part of our spiritual home and want to retain it for our community,” said CAG secretary Annette Levy at a public meeting on Oxford Road on Sunday.
The council asked for bids from community groups and charities last year, with the proviso that the mural had to stay.
“Within our bid of £12 million, we had put aside £250 thousand to put any problems right with the mural and to maintain it for generations to come,” said Annette Levy. “We didn’t ask the council for any money; we were going to invest the money from our bid.”
“They [the council] are erasing us from Reading. As we know from history, we have been erased many times,” said Annette Levy. “As far as we can see, the council has reneged on its promise. I feel that we should fight this.”
“There are at least two or three generations [of Afro-Caribbeans] in Reading and we still have nowhere to call our own,” she added.
Annette Levy added that she could not trust that any private developer who obtains control of the site would protect the mural.
The CAG meeting to discuss how they should proceed with the Central Club and its mural will be in the main conference room at RISC, 35-39 London Street, Reading RG1 1HF on Friday 4 August at 7pm.
- GetReading – Reading council is selling Central Club, but what about the iconic black history mural?
- Reading Chronicle – Reading Borough Council will no longer be contributing £220k to developers willing to transform the former Central Club site