The news that Sweeney & Todd’s pie shop and restaurant is up for sale sent a shudder down the spine to all of us who still look upon a Sweeney pie as a treat and a Reading food icon.
For 11 years, the Rising Sun Arts Centre in Katesgrove has been hosting a regular tribute night featuring the work of iconic song writers and artists. From David Bowie to Carole King, Depeche Mode to Kate Bush, amateur troubadours and musical all-comers have been welcome to perform their songs without audition or prejudice.
Felix Brunner is a builder, an artist, a former school teacher and educationalist, a Peace and Green Party activist, Reading fan and the owner pioneer of Reading’s most marvellous independent arts and music venue, the Rising Sun in Katesgrove. He is also the loudest whistler I ever heard.
Gordon Greenidge – hard hitting West Indies batsman and Alfred Sutton schoolboy is honoured in an incredible performance in the cricket pavilion at Reading School for 3 nights this week. The two actors playing the young and older reminiscing cricketer set this unusual theatre in the round on dramatic fire with their dazzling energy and intimacy.
This is the play where Shakespeare put language into orbit, elevating words far above their station and onto a higher shelf of consciousness and depth. Any amateur production of Hamlet is ambitious; the lead actor has 1400 lines if played in full, and you need to be thespian mob-handed to cover so many other roles and speaking parts. Even the minor roles seem to have more layers than the earth’s crust. But the Progress is a theatre with ambition, courage and enthusiastic actors who seem to pull off most theatrical challenges with brio and aplomb. Even so, I would hate to “go on alone” for such a challenge (West end actor-speak for sober) and for the audience, a large G&T would seem mandatory.
Whitley raised sporting legend Lawrie Sanchez has had the most amazingly varied life and career, including some great highs. He has appeared on University Challenge, scored a winning goal in a cup final, run a successful Reading bar and nightspot, been the first to be sent off for committing a professional foul, got a university degree, cycled to Amsterdam, walked the Namibian Desert, steered Northern Ireland football to their most successful period (until recent success), raised Wycombe from the doldrums to football league success and a cup semi-final, managed a team in the Greek Premier league and even helped relegate Swindon!
If you are a newcomer to Reading, the Berkshire county town and capital, then there a few things of which you should be made aware.
When Oscar Wilde visited the Huntley & Palmers biscuit factory in 1892, he simply wrote ‘poet’ as his profession in the visitors’ book. It is this affirmation that I think poets first crave; simply to be called a poet. Nigel Pounds is a poet bubbling with enthusiasm about his new work tentatively titled ‘my response to’. His 2015 fat volume called Spark was a vivid, angry, albeit romantic look at the injustices of love and life. Nigel says his new work is even better.
People do collect all manner of odd things and it’s a great rare bonus when these collectibles have some significance for all. I have over 200 matchbox covers of old pubs from Reading and other places, mostly within Berkshire.
For the past four years or so, Edible Reading has been the fearless Keyser Söze of Reading’s food scene; the anonymous blogger and local food chronicler of our times. I not only managed to track ER down to the great Katesgrove boozer The Turks (Head) for an 80s-Smash-Hits-style interview, but I also managed to eat an incredible, table creaking five course Georgian meal from former in-residence food sensation Caucasian Spice Box just before they left the pub for pastures new.
On a fresh Mayday morning, I went along to the first part of an organised walk at that eleven acre wedge of melancholy calm and beauty known as Reading Old Cemetery. An eager crowd of around a hundred souls had gathered to learn more of Reading’s trees and celebrate the publishing of a remarkable book on the subject.