At the end of September a petition was presented to Reading Borough Council (RBC) asking for the council to reconsider Aspire CIC’s rejected bid. However this was not the first petition that the has council received about the Black History mural, it had a predecessor in 2006.
The new petition, with around 4,000 signatures, will be received by the RBC full council meeting on 17 October. As the number of signatures on the petition exceeds 1,500 a debate on the issue has been triggered.
The wording of the petition is:
Do Not Sell The Central Club (A Community Asset) to Commercial Developers
We the undersigned, petition Reading Borough Council (RBC) to think again and give proper consideration to the Aspire (Reading) CIC compelling, compliant, fully funded £10 Million Bid to acquire the spiritual home of the Black diaspora of Reading, the Central Club site and buildings.
We feel the black community of Reading should not be scapegoated and made to suffer disproportionately for RBC’s financial budgeting failure. We believe Aspire’s bid provides strategic services to the diaspora that RBC are retreating from which makes Aspire a long term partner to the solution as their bid is 100% consistent with RBC’s strategic priorities.
In 2005, £150,000 which was later increased to £220,000 had been set aside by RBC for capital refurbishment of the club or alternative suitable premises [ref 1]. This £220,000 was still on the table until July this year.
A paper to an RBC cabinet meeting in 2010 gave the reason for closure of the club as ‘… serious incidents involving drug crime … ‘ [ref 2], but demolition of the club had been mooted in 2005 as a consequence of a scheme to make the Inner Distribution Road (IDR) one-way [ref 3].
The scene was therefore set for 11 years ago in 2006 coincidentally also on 17 October, when faced with the likely demolition of the club, Jahmila Mullings presented an 852 signature petition to council to replace the Black History Mural. It asked [ref 4]:
I understand on private/commercial development the Council have a 106 agreement where the developer gives a percentage of the project’s funding to community gain. This petition is to inform the council that the community would like a guarantee that part of this 106 funding will be put towards replacing the Black History Mural which will be lost through the destruction of the Central Club.
Councillor Ruhemann responded on behalf of Councillor Lovelock, deputy leader of the council. He began:
The Central Club mural is a visual landmark in Reading and a source of pride to the black community in Reading, and to this council which played an important role in making this happen. If Central Club has to be demolished, as is very likely, the loss of the mural will be keenly felt by very many people across the town.
… Reading Borough Council has already made a commitment, which I am very happy to repeat, to ensuring that the Central Club mural is recorded, documented and displayed appropriately, in consultation with the artist who holds copyright on the mural, with whom we have already been in contact, and with the community.
We have also made a commitment to working with the community to secure a new community facility which will better meet their needs for the years ahead … considering the possibility of commissioning artists to work on that scheme. … There is no guarantee that the existing mural can be replicated like for like as an outdoor artwork.
Thankfully today, the mural and Central Club building are still there as are 13 of the 46 councillors (5 apologies and 41 at the meeting) who were on the council at the time. The thirteen councillors were: Ballsdon, Edwards, Ennis, Gittings, Hoskin, T Jones, Khan, Lovelock, Maskell, Page, Skeats, Stevens and Tickner.
In 2006 the mural was documented but even then, only 16 years after the livification, the names of some of the local people included in the mural were unclear or completely unknown.
Now in 2017 RBC are again documenting the mural and carrying out an inspection of its condition.
 Cabinet Minutes 18 April 2005 and 26 September 2005
 Lease of Central Club building – paper to Cabinet 29 November 2010
 Cabinet minutes 26 September 2005
 Council minutes 17 October 2006
- Reading Borough Council meeting 17 October 2017 papers & webcast
- ‘Black History’ mural march delivers petition to council
- Future of Central Club still uncertain
- Reading Borough Council policy committee 17 July 2017 – minutes & webcast
- Booklet in Reading Library – The Creation of the Black History Mural