Reading has submitted its compelling bid for City Status as part of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations in 2022.
Designed in consultation with residents, the voluntary sector and the business community, the bid is a celebration of everything Reading which makes it such a great place to live, work and visit, in particular the people, the communities and the spirit which set it apart.
The bid was submitted on 7th December 2021. The document can be found at https://www.reading.gov.uk/citystatusbid
Participating local authorities have been invited to submit their bids based on evidence under the following headings: Distinct identity; Civic pride; Cultural infrastructure, interesting heritage, history and traditions; Vibrant and welcoming community; Record of innovation; Sound governance and administration; Associations with Royalty; Other particularly distinctive features, age, residents or communities who have made widely recognised significant contributions to society.
A final decision is expected from Government next year as part of the Queen’s Jubilee Celebrations.
11 reasons why Reading should be a city:
Our regional leadership role: The County town of Royal Berkshire and one of a small number of counties without a City, Reading’s economic significance is well-established. Reading’s success lifts the growth prospects of the wider region and indeed the UK and City status would thus benefit a wider area beyond Reading itself.
Our rich history: Established by the Saxons in the 5th century, the town’s Abbey later made Reading an internationally important destination for pilgrimage for 400 years until the dissolution. The industrial revolution heralded the development of the three industries – ‘beer, biscuits and bulbs’ – to put Reading on the world map. Today, Reading has re-invented itself again as a hub of the modern knowledge economy.
Our future vision: City status would help bring our future plans - in the form of our innovative 2050 Vision for a smart, sustainable future - to fruition. The 2050 Vision gives a blueprint to help Reading make the most of the opportunities which City status would present. The bid highlights that in 2020 the Financial Times FDI ‘Tier 2 Cities of the Future’ Awards placed Reading 13th globally.
Our Royal connections: The last resting place of King Henry I, and the birthplace of a possible future Queen, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge. For a time in the 13th century the entire kingdom was effectively ruled from Reading by ‘the greatest knight’, William Marshall, 1st Earl of Pembroke, who served as regent to the boy King Henry III from his home in Caversham.
Our excellent physical and digital connectivity: Unrivalled digital connections as a centre of the IT industry, and great physical connections, with the 2nd busiest railway interchange outside London, access to the rest of the world via Heathrow, and a highly successful municipal bus company. With the new Elizabeth Line opening in 2022 with Reading as the western terminus, our connections will become stronger still.
Our international outlook: We boast the oldest link between an English and a German city in Dusseldorf, dating to 1947. Through our diverse communities, Reading has links with many parts of the world – we have the largest Barbadian community outside of Barbados, and were recently among the first Councils to offer to house Afghan refugees fleeing the humanitarian crisis. Reading is also a City of Sanctuary, committing us to be a place of safety offering sanctuary to those fleeing persecution.
Our diversity: One of the most multi-cultural towns in the south east outside of London, with 67 languages spoken and students from 150 nations attending our University. Reading has a proud record of good community relations and the bid celebrates this diversity and showcases the contribution which Reading’s diversity makes to its success as a place.
Our plans for ‘levelling up’: a 2016 report on the UK’s largest city economies suggested that Reading is the 3rd least equal city in the UK. In 2019, 5 Lower Super Output Areas in Reading were in the most deprived 10% nationally compared to 2 in 2015, suggesting that the gap may be widening. City status would help boost our plans for ‘levelling up’ locally.
Our leadership on climate: Reading’s recent addition to an international ‘A’ list of municipalities taking bold climate action placed us in the company of other great cities around the world, and COP26 also put us on the world stage: the imagery (the ‘climate stripes’ were created by the University of Reading’s Professor Ed Hawkins) and much of the science was from the climate scientists at the University (which recently won the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for its work in this area).
Our cultural pedigree: Reading’s vibrant cultural scene, its high quality theatres, museums and arts venues, and an array of cultural talent – from Jane Austen to Marianne Faithful, Kenneth Branagh, Kate Winslet and Ricky Gervais who were born, educated or settled in Reading. ‘Banksy’ recently adorned the side of one of our most famous landmarks - Reading Gaol, scene of Oscar Wilde’s incarceration – with one of his artworks.
Our festivals and events: Reading Festival is world renowned, but the bid sets out how this is just the tip of an iceberg of ‘home grown’ events celebrating the diversity of the borough and the issues we care about: Reading Pride, Reading Fringe, Reading Climate Festival and Reading Thames Festival to name a few.
* Image above the Thames copyright www.jsaerial.co.uk