Reading the tea leaves on council finances


Is no news good news? The Whitley Pump antennae are trained downhill on the Civic Offices hoping to pick up any crackle that would indicate some progress on the production of Reading Borough Council’s (RBC) accounts for the two previous years.

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A unifying performance at Rabson’s Rec

By Kira Dixon and Daisy Richmond.

Oi! Who’s nicked the wicker man? (photo: Tommy Robinson).

As the sun set on Saturday 21 April, Whitley lit up with a unifying performance of the Spire at Rabson’s Rec. The piece saw divided sections of Whitley, each with a unique type of ‘power’, come together to build a spire. Three groups of performances represented different types of energy, such as light, sound and mechanical. The young performers each took part in bringing these ideas to life.

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Craft Theory at South Street

By Zoe Andrews.

Chaats Indian Street Food at the Craft Theory Festival, South Street

I missed out on the first Craft Theory festival at Katesgrove’s South Street Arts Centre last year, but I read the reviews with excitement and suffered a major case of FOMO [note 1]. I was in a unique position for the festival on 13 and 14 April this year; not only did I volunteer for Friday behind the jump [note 2], pouring drinks and loving it, but I also arrived bright-eyed on Saturday to spend the afternoon getting merry with my pals.

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Reading East MP Matt Rodda says violent crime is rising. But is it?

Matt Rodda, Katesgrove councillor and Reading East MP

Reading East MP Matt Rodda recently gave his opinion that violent crime was rising and that the government should end police cuts. Mr Rodda used Thames Valley Police performance figures for Reading as evidence for this. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) is wary of interpreting police crime report data to show trends in violent crime, and both Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) and Thames Valley Police (TVP) have suggested that recent rises in violent crime recorded by the police may be due to improvements in police recording procedures.

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Redbrick blackbird

When you hear a very loud, varied, flutey birdsong from your roof or TV aerial at sunset or sunrise in these early months of the year, then you will be most likely listening to a male blackbird. The juvenile first-year males sing in January and February and the older ones follow from around March. Quite why these sentinels of the natural world have such a boring name in English is hard to understand; there are plenty of other black-plumed avians. They are lovingly called merle in French and merl in the old Scottish dialect.

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A portal to a parallel Whitley

Nick Garnett (Whitley Flamboyance Festival)

Last year I got a text from a mate who lives in the flats opposite the John Madejski Academy (JMA). He said that there was some sort of uprising going on and the gates of the JMA had been flung open to unleash an alien entourage, who were now parading through Whitley looking like an escaped troupe of space-age circus performers or an absurdist dream made flesh with dancing, klaxons and odd machinery.

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Happy new year from the Traffic Penalty Tribunal: the Southampton Street bus lane CCTV is useless


A PCN (penalty charge notice) robot at Reading Borough Council issued me with a £30 fine in November for driving in the bus lane at the junction of Pell Street and Southampton Street. I contested this on the grounds that I had wanted to turn left into Pell Street, it was mandatory to join the queue in the left-hand lane to do this, and that queue had already backed up into the bus lane. I claimed it was safer to follow standard – and thus predictable – driving practice at this busy and congested junction rather than cause obstruction and confusion by doing otherwise. I added that forcing drivers to choose between an unsafe or obstructive manoeuvre or a bus lane fine was both unreasonable and unwise.

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Adrian Lawson: teaching English to our refugees

Adrian Lawson

Reading based naturalist and bicycle kitchen pioneer Adrian Lawson makes an unlikely Professor Higgins, but for the last three years he has been helping refugees learn to speak English at the Reading Refugee Support Group. We met up for a relaxing carafe of loose leaf tea in the smart C.U.P. café at St. Mary’s Butts for a chat about his voluntary work.

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Whitley Library: the architecture of hope

Whitley library

Whitley library was built in 1935 in the classical and confident municipal style of the time, and is a stand-alone building in smart red brick, with a lovely scrolled Bath stone cartouche at the top with “LIBRARY” written on it. It stands on Northumberland Avenue next to a roundabout at the heart of south Reading. There is a very similar library building in Palmer Park and the style does seem to project a pride in civic life, education and the burgeoning welfare state with that glorious dawn of the National Health Service just a war away.

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Reading Borough Council involved in ‘obfuscation and deception’ says Aspire chair

Keith Kerr, Aspire CIC chair

The dispute between Reading’s Afro-Caribbean communities and Reading Borough Council (RBC) over a bid to acquire the old Central Club on London Street and its ‘black history’ mural led to a public demonstration through the town centre on 25 September. Keith Kerr, the chair of the legal entity set up to manage the bid on behalf of Reading’s Afro-Caribbeans, the Aspire Community Interest Company (CIC), talked to the Whitley Pump about what he intended for the site, how much he was willing to pay for it and how he feels the bid has been mistreated by RBC.

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