Glen Dinning’s Blue Collar Street Food is back at the Forbury Gardens from Thursday 19 April to Sunday 22 April with the marvellously titled ‘Cheese Feast’. I caught up with Glen for a carafe of tea at C.U.P to ask him about his modern re-boot of this festival as well as the latest events at the Madstad.
The first of this year’s public open days at the amazing rooftop garden above the Reading International Solidarity Centre (RISC) was on Saturday 7 April. There may be people in the RISC café on London Street totally unaware of the 200 square metres of Eden above their heads, and that many of the herbs and flowers from the garden are used in the café. They are missing out on something quite remarkable.
I caught up with “Reading’s best new band” Harroland at their third ever gig, at Readipop in Milford Road in March, and they kindly granted me a very public interview in the car park. It was a freezing cold night, but I was ably assisted with questions by Whitley and Katesgrove aristocracy, music gurus Trevor Absolom and Michael Wyatt, as well as a very pleasant passer-by. When they become big and global in the years to come, you can boast about seeing Harroland early on at Reading venues.
I spent a year unemployed in Reading in 85-86 and it made me feel pretty low. It is incredible how quickly your self-confidence ebbs away when you are in that situation. On Giro day I used to treat myself to a meal out at this friendly café at the Butter Market called Munchees; I would have usually have either the burger or fish-n-chips and a milky coffee. A waitress would take your order and you paid at the counter afterwards. Back then, there was a big bloke with a moustache running the place who always made you feel as you were on to a bargain by knocking 10% off the bill and you would be offered a free lollipop on leaving.
JMA performing arts teacher Tommy Robinson accepting a Lets Sing 2018 award from Mayor Rose Williams at the Hexagon, Reading. Photo courtesy of Reading Borough Council.
Crisply compèred by Breeze FM‘s Robert Kenny, the Let’s Sing 2018 charity choir concert on Monday 26 March was of such a high standard that the trio of independent judges had a very difficult task indeed. Every choir received rapturous applause on merit from a lively audience.
The Berkshire book of song, rhyme and steeple chime was published in 1935 and is a unique record of country song, children’s games, epitaphs, droll church inscriptions, poems, doggerel, social history and some scurrilous local gossip. These pieces were lovingly collected over twenty years or so by the publisher and author Arthur L Humphreys.
Students from the John Madejski Academy (JMA) performed Harold Pinter‘s dark and troubling one-act play One for the Road on 21 March. The play remains just as relevant in our modern world of nihilistic global tyranny as it was when first performed in 1984.
By Matthew Farrall with Trevor Absolom and Matthew Davies.
After Dark Bar
Last Saturday, the After Dark Club on London Street in Katesgrove hosted another live music night in league with the inspirational Musical Bear Records, with free entry if you turned up before 7.30. Three of the four bands were local and, once again, we were amazed at their quality and originality. The Reading music scene seems pretty vibrant and alive at the moment, not to mention cheap and accessible.
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.
Katesgrove based carry-on country band the Rumpo Kidz and the bard of Elgar Road Nigel Pounds crossed borders into Hampshire last Saturday to perform at the White Hart, a lovely big old boozer at the old end of Basingstoke town. After negotiating the consumer-Narnia of a shopping mall at the heart of the new Basingstoke, our redbrick troubadours traipsed through the heavy rain with all their gear on their backs.
Whitley Amateur Boxing Club is right at the heart of Whitley, both in location and spirit. In just three years, a lot of hard work from locals has seen this small hall in Callington Road transformed into a hub of community boxing and exercise activity that is well equipped and staffed. The place is packed to the rafters with talented fighters, hopefuls and enthusiasts, six days of the week.
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.
Children helping children at the Reading Hexagon, February 2018
In a brilliant night at the Hexagon on Tuesday 6 February, talented children from Reading schools came together and put on a great show, Children Helping Children, in front of an audience of 600 or so. Introduced by John Cosgrove, the head teacher of Whitley’s Christ the King Primary School, this charity fund raiser and showcase of local youth talent got the toes tapping and the fingers clicking while tugging at hearts and minds too.
I wanted to try this new Reading Burger made with local ingredients at the smart looking Honest Burgers on the corner of the Butter Market and to check that it’s worthy of the name. After an edgy game of dominos in the Monks, me and four workmates on a payday binge thought we would indulge.
Redbrick poet Nigel Pounds is one of many talented poets, musicians, writers, dreamers, drinkers and schemers who live in Katesgrove. His new work My response to is available on Amazon at a very reasonable 99p (not a pound) and contains 22 honest poems that really are his cri de coeur. On reading these poems, I am reminded of this lament from Allen Ginsberg: “poets are damned… but see with the eyes of angels.”
The Moving Gallery was based in a proper Reading bus, and for a period of six weeks in December and January it travelled normal bus routes; regular bus users became the audience for an exhibition of six talented artists. The art is now parked until the 27 January in the colourful premises of the Jelly Studios at the traditional heart of Reading retail, the Broad Street Mall.