Every month was themed with highlight events and a wide range of linked cultural activity exploring each theme.
The year kicked off with the World Premiere of ‘Exercise Book’, a 5k fun run accompanied by specially commissioned live and recorded music from composer Martyn Harry; ‘Pictures at Our Exhibition’, Aldworth Philharmonic Orchestra’s world premiere of compositions by four local young composers responded to work by Reading artists (inspired by Mussorgsky’s piano piece); an audience with athletics legend Sir Roger Bannister attracted 300 people to Reading Concert Hall and Readipop’s Urban Orchestra fused musical genres in a young musicians collaboration.
Reading University graduates Coralie Bickford Smith and Paul Barnes came to talk about their successful careers in design from children’s books to the Guardian’s redesign. A new gallery for Reading, Artscope Gallery opened showcasing 40 artists and beautiful calligraphy graced the Chinese New Year celebrations.
The future of Reading and society was the focus. Reading’s first TEDx event took place at Green Park, an on-the-street exhibition of potential futures for Reading engaged over 1000 people; a singing sound sculpture enchanted shoppers in the town centre.
A feast of new writing including a preview of Reading Between The Lines Henry I play; An Audience with George The Poet; An Evening with writer and broadcaster Janet Ellis; A celebration of beer in Reading as a taster of a new play on Reading’s brewing heritage later in the year
A new exhibition dedicated to the role of the railways in Reading’s development; walking tours of historic Reading town centre; An Audience with historian and broadcaster Lucy Worsley; the appearance of two giants in Broad Street; Nesta’s Tomorrow’s Reading examining the future of society.
Bompas & Parr paid homage to Reading’s biscuit heritage; baker to the Queen Nadiya Hussain talked about her life post BBC Bake’s Off; a weekend of street food and chilli festival brought food into the town centre’s streets; Amy Sharrocks brought artistic programming to Waterfest; Canada’s Mammalisan Diving Reflex explored Reading neighbourhoods; Author Mark Haddon talked about ‘A Curious Incident’ and his other work; the Whiteknights Studio Trail showcased Reading’s makers and artists and Reading held its own Green Fest.
South Street’s site specific theatre festival expanded for Reading 2016 with 8 shows in July, ranging from a hotel to a post office van, a football changing room and hair dresser’s salon. Open for Art brought art into the town centre; the man who sent the first text message came back to Reading to tell all; the Readipop brought music to Christchurch Meadows; Reading Fringe brought music, magic and theatre to the town centre and samba parade warmed Reading up for Rio 2016.
Reading Festival dominated the month but smaller musical events popped up – A Different World Music Festival in Emmer Green; Here Comes the Sun at Rising Sun Arts Centre and a Carnival of the World in Broad Street.
Two brand new commissions kicked off September – Ben Hur and The Great British Bake Off; Artangel opened Reading Prison for Inside; Bugsy Malone returned to Reading for an immersive screening; The BBC recorded a new beer play for Reading; over 30 locations opened their doors for Heritage Open Days; Reading’s young songwriters showcased their talents
Reading’s first book festival took over the Olympia Ballroom for a weekend; the Museum of English Rural Life reopened; theatre came to Reading libraries; a new anthology celebrated tales from our town; Oxfam’s Oxjam brought music everywhere for one day and night in Reading
A celebration of dance created by Junction Dance with a dozen performances, workshops and classes from local and national dance groups, as well as an Audience with Strictly Come Dancing’s Craig Revel Horwood. Reading Between The Lines brought the life of Henry I to the stage to critical acclaim; the Reading Literary Festival introduced new audiences to great writers and poets.
A trail of 11 illuminations around the town lit up Reading from the Abbey Ruins to Thames Tower’s station façade, live on BBC One, as well as other landmark town centre buildings. 26 partners (artists, students, creative businesses and sponsors) collaborated to finish Reading 2016 on a high.
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