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Published on January 11th, 2017 | by Niall Norbury


6 things to expect in Reading in 2017

2016 was a mixed year for Reading – the Year of Culture had its share of duds as well as the hugely successful Reading Prison exhibition, South Street’s closure looked certain at one point but now has extra money to improve the venue.

The next year is expected to look equally mixed with a lot of obstacles, challenges and opportunities for arts and culture in Reading.

Housing vs retail

While Reading’s local economy is a strong shape, it is expected to face obstacles to growth as demand for housing continues to rise. Already, plans have been announced to redevelop Friar Street Sainsbury’s into apartments and Reading Prison is likely to be sold for housing as well.

In the short-term this could mean less units available for new shops, bars and restaurants – in the long-term it may also see Reading’s venues face limitations due to town-centre housing.

Growing food scene

While most retail will struggle in 2017, an area that is expected to see a huge amount of growth is Reading’s food and dining scene with new bars and restaurants opening in the coming year.

The Oracle Riverside is currently being redeveloped to provide extra space for more restaurants, The Village/Kings Walk are promising several new restaurants this year while work begins around Jacksons Corner to bring even more new establishments to town.

Mixed year for leisure and entertainment

Things are looking grim for Reading’s leisure and entertainment facilities with the closure of Arthur Hill and Reading Council expected to announce that they will be mothballing plans to replace The Hexagon – continued cuts and budgetary constraints mean there is a little room for the Council to support leisure in Reading.

However, there are some positives expected in 2017: the Thames Lido will be opening this year following the decades-long closure of Kings Meadow Baths, as well as the completion of South Street’s renovations which will provide the arts centre with extra capacity.

Big success for homegrown music

Alongside food and drink, 2017 is expected to be a strong year for Reading’s homegrown talent with many bands, events and venues growing over the next twelve months.

Some of Reading’ more established local acts are releasing new music and securing securing national attention such as Sundara Karma and The Amazons; meanwhile, events such as Are You Listening? Festival will continue to grow in size and ambitions. Finally, work is expected to begin on The Purple Turtle’s sister venue which will provide bands with more space to play.

Pop up events

One trend that emerged in 2016 was the growing appetite for pop-up events and activities across Reading – whether it is one-day music festivals or street food festivals taking over the Forbury.

Expect that trend to continue in 2017 as more people are attracted to Reading to pilot businesses and events, as well as people living and working in the town showing more interest in pop-up events as well.

More collaboration

Reading’s Year of Culture is over and whether you are fan or critic, one of the main things to come out of 2016 was businesses, artists, venues and members of the community coming together to collaborate.

Despite limited space and money, these improved connections will enable local organisations to put on events, offer new services and try out something new that they wouldn’t be able to do on their own. If you’re looking for the consequences of more collaboration, take a look at the Craft Theory festival bringing together South Street and The Grumpy Goat this year.

About the Author

is the Editor and Creator of Alt Reading. He works in the voluntary sector supporting charities and community groups in Reading.

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