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.
‘Parched City‘ was an impulse buy from the Reading International Solidarity Centre (RISC) bookshop. The cover featuring the 1859 opening of London’s first public drinking fountain in the wall of St Sepulchre’s Church in the City of London was a magnet for this Whitley Pump correspondent.
If you are out on the local roadway or on the pavements grey and you are looking for an interesting walk or a peaceful place to visit, then just over the old Whitley borders across the M4 there is a beautiful church that is almost a thousand years old.
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.
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.
There is an nearly traffic-free route from the Whitley Pump to the Madejski Stadium. It is a timeless and almost secret world of ancient paths beside rivers and streams and through the meadows of south Reading.
I was on a lunchtime walk from work with colleagues recently and among them was Jamaican-born Rastafarian, David Archibald. David’s knowledge of the Afro-Caribbean history of three Katesgrove buildings had us all enthralled. He gave us some real insight into the cultural and socio-political side of life growing up in Reading in the 70s and 80s. With vivid joy, he talked of the great times he had at the Apollo Youth Club, the Caribbean Club and the Central Club; David explained most of his life at the time revolved around social gatherings with music at the heart of everything.
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.
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.