The 25th annual ‘Open for Art Festival‘ started on 2 July and continues until 8 July. To mark this anniversary there are 25 specially curated stories. Most of the venues are in central Reading but there are a few closer to home or of local interest.
Around 1900, the top of Whitley Street was entirely residential. Conduit Crescent was built in the first half of the nineteenth century and the houses beyond, which curve to meet Highgrove Street, were built about the turn of the twentieth century.
Within the old Whitley borders, and built on the sewage plant that had been the origin of the Whitley whiff before new facilities were built on the other side of the A33, Kennet Island isn’t everyone’s cup of tea as a place to live or visit. Some people point to its isolation from the town, the zombie-film-like soulless streets and architectural sameness as the downside. On the upside, it’s clean and safe with some nice foliage, there is a hospital for a minor op and it’s close to the football and Kennet Meadows; you can even walk or cycle by the canal from central Reading. While most Islanders are hunkered down in their living machines, two resident pioneers are working hard at building a smart and tasty new business, situated slap bang-in the middle of the estate’s rather wonderful and a bit mad waterfall-bedecked piazza. Breege Brennan and Shuet Han Tsui are the friendly, busy folk behind the memorably named Fidget & Bob and generously agreed to talk to me about it.
Every working morning I sleepwalk off the Emerald number 5 bus and take a slow short-cut through the Edwardian-style Harris Arcade. On my way I pass what I can only describe as the most promising and welcoming chairs in Reading, outside the Grumpy Goat shop. Then this sharp thought comes into my blurred mind – instead of going to work I could sit here all morning drinking beer and eating cheese. After all, beer and cheese; what’s not to like? I was kindly given some time to pop-in for a chat to get a taste of what this business is all about and I was given some jolly good info too.
William Morris once said “have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful”. You can find something that fits that adage at the Age UK shop on Whitley Street or you can donate something you don’t love or need, and please someone else, while supporting a cause that affects us all in some way. Last month, I saw a raspberry beret in the window and the search is now on for a charity shop leopardskin pillbox hat. I popped in to ask friendly assistant manager, Jackie, about how it all works and what life is like behind the counter.
Wm Morrison Plc
By John Dearing.
Early in 1980 I wanted to move from Maidenhead to Reading, where houses were cheaper. I contacted an estate agent and one Saturday in May I collected details of four properties, three of which were in Katesgrove. After the usual laborious process of house purchase, I moved to Sherman Road in October 1980. By 2015 more than half my life had been spent at this address.
When I was growing up in Wales, my local corner shop was called Eva’s after the homely purveyor of goods and gossip who lived on the premises with her doddery black mongrel, Paddy.
The window displays have gone and all is bare inside as the shop awaits a refit.
Esther Choules, the manager at the Age UK charity shop on Whitley Street has been working there for 24 years. The Whitley Pump interviewed her at the shop on a Wednesday afternoon.
Former City Link Warehouse
Unit 10, Brunel Retail Park
Rose Kiln Lane
Miah’s Saffron Restaurant at 39 Whitley Street has closed. The banner over the front window says that a Korean restaurant ‘Gooi Nara’ is coming soon.
A poem by Victoria Pugh
with illustrations by Jane Burnett.
So many hat boxes, stacked up, on shelves by the door –
round, black, with a crest on each one; full of flat caps,
trilbies, bowlers, top hats? Or nothing? Like extra-wide
organ pipes, ready to play a tune in brown dog tooth.
Katesgrove’s first local election hustings for many years was held at RISC on Saturday 30 April. Topics discussed included local traffic and parking, cross-party co-operation, voluntary contributions to council work, litter and the provision of green spaces, but the biggest issue was the cost, economics and politics of housing.
Low grey clouds scudding above rain washed streets. People hunched against horizontal freezing rain, scuttling to get home before it gets dark by four. The next time you have one of those bus stop moments where you find yourself giving the far side of the road a thousand yard stare whilst a trickle of cold rainwater makes it way down your neck, take some time out to visit Katesgrove’s tropical oasis at 89 Mount Pleasant, the Pau Brasil café.