Cultural programme

We are delighted that in 2021 High Street Heritage Action Zone Reading was awarded a further £85,000 grant from Historic England to create and deliver community-led cultural activities on the high street for three years until March 2024.

Reading HSHAZ is one of more than 60 high streets to receive a share of £6 million for their cultural programme. This is part of the four-year-long High Streets Heritage Action Zones’ Cultural Programme, led by Historic England, in partnership with Arts Council England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

The Cultural Programme aims to make our high streets more attractive, engaging and vibrant places for people to live, work and spend time.

Street view of Oxford Road shops
Oxford Road HSHAZ

Since our pilot project in 2021, we have and continue to work with Reading’s artists, cultural practitioners and organisations to deliver a series of cultural interactions with, in collaboration with, and for Reading’s residence.

Thorough our pilot project, and our Re-imaging the High Street series we explored stories, histories and experiences from people along Reading’s Oxford Road.

Further to our successful cultural grants programme in 2022, our work is continuing in 2023, with  programmes led by community partners that will see people based in the Oxford Road High Street Heritage Action Zone use art, poetry and video to explore their histories and the history of this historic road.

In collaboration with the Museum Partnership, Reading, we continue to deliver culture and community programmes exploring the Market Place and St Mary’s Butts areas of the High Street Heritage Action Zone. 

July 2023: HSHAZ announces new artist commission brief for two new public artworks

HSHAZ announces new Artist Commission brief to create two new pieces of outdoor public artwork for Reading’s High Street Heritage Action Zone in St Mary’s Butts and Market Place conservation areas. The two site-specific pieces of temporary outdoor public art will respond to the heritage of Reading and each of the two areas. Artists will work closely with the local community to develop the artwork. Artists are invited to send a proposal / expression of interest for one or both sites no later than 31st July 2023. Shortlisted artists will then be invited to submit a full proposal no later than 1 st October 2023. Artists must complete and install the works by February 2024. Up to £8,000 is available for each area.

Take part

For more information about attending cultural and community workshops, arts activities and heritage events created as part of the HSHAZ programme, head over to our take part page.

Cultural programme – the story so far…

Cultural Grants Awarded 2023

Following two successful rounds of High Street Heritage Action Zone (HSHAZ) projects in 2021/22, applications opened for funding for local artists and arts organisations to apply to run creative and cultural activities with the communities of the Oxford Road between January 2023 to summer 2023.

In January 2023 HSHAZ awarded three £4k grants, to the Alliance for Cohesion and Racial Equality (ACRE), Change Grow Live, and Real Time Video, for their proposed projects celebrating through art, participation, and community engagement all that is unique and important about life on Oxford Road.

Find out more here: High Street Heritage Action Zone announces three new cultural programme projects on Oxford Road (

Cultural Grants Awarded 2022

In 2022, two £9,000 grants were awarded as part of the cultural strand of the HSHAZ programme.

Reside Dance, and visual artists Lisa Marie Gibbs and Philip Newcombe received grants for their creative projects exploring and celebrating the heritage and diverse communities of the Oxford Road.

Reside Dance worked with local primary school pupils and their families using movement, creative games and artwork, ReConnect, an after-school arts programme.

Local visual artists Lisa-Marie Gibbs and Philip Newcombe ran workshops using sound, sculpture and looking at how objects can hold personal, collective and hidden stories. They went on to bring these stories to life in the form of a newspaper the Oxford Road Times.

Pilot Cultural Project 2021

In advance of the wider Cultural Programme, Historic England offered several Pilot Grants to initiate and test projects to engage communities. Reading was successful in achieving a grant of £9,231 to run a pilot project for the HSHAZ. This pilot project titled ‘Re-imagining the high street through your stories’ was based in Reading’s Oxford Road HSHAZ.

The aim of the project was to engage with the Oxford Road communities to explore people’s real stories of Oxford Road and to link them with their local heritage and rich multicultural history.

Video credit: Peter Leach – ProVideo Productions Ltd

Oxford Road Stories

Montage of images from Oxford Road in Reading, including the street sign, buildings and residents.

HSHAZ Reading worked with the University of Reading to collect residents’ stories and memories that would be used as the inspiration for 3 new art projects along the Oxford Road.

The new online community exhibition Oxford Road Stories is hosted by Reading Museum, and included research, reflections and contributions from the communities of Oxford Road.

Three local artists; Baker Street Productions, Gemma Anusa and Caroline Streatfield were commissioned to create new art pieces for the Oxford Road inspired by these Oxford Road Stories. These art pieces celebrate the history, heritage and vibrancy of culture of Reading’s Oxford Road.

Caroline Streatfield – Hidden Recipes from the Ancestral Home

Lots of food dishes from around the world

Launched Monday 24 May – 31 August 2021

In her project ‘Hidden Recipes From My Ancestral Home’, local artist Caroline Streatfield encourages you to shop local and explore the vast array of food shops along Reading’s Oxford Road where you can purchase ingredients to cook fantastic dishes from around the world.

Through her project Caroline has produced a set of 17 recipe cards showcasing family recipes which can all be cooked using local ingredients from the Oxford Road, these recipe cards include stories and memories from the contributors as well as illustrations created by local school children and artists.

Find out more about the project

Caroline at the launch of her project; with local Cllrs, local residents who contributed recipes and staff from the Turkish Halal Food Centre, Oxford Road
Caroline at the launch of her project; with local Cllrs, local residents who contributed recipes and staff from the Turkish Halal Food Centre, Oxford Road

Instagram: @carolinestreatfield


Baker Street Productions – Look Hear, Oxford Road

Launched Monday 5th July (listen online until March 2024)

Baker Street Productions bring you on a multi-sensory, three-dimensional tour of the Oxford Road, creating an engaging narrative through which you can explore the heritage of the buildings and people along the Oxford Road.

Discover intriguingly placed QR Codes around the Oxford Road HSHAZ to access 12 different audio bites.

Baker Street Productions explore the past, present and future of the Oxford Road as you hear stories from residents, historical accounts of the roads history and reflect on the rich experiences of life in a multi-cultural and diverse community.

More information about the project and how to access the audio bites.

Caroline Bishop of Baker Street Productions in a studio



Instagram: @bakerstreetproductions 

Twitter: @BakerStreetPro1

Through your eyes – Gemma Anusa

Gemma Anusa, a local artist and Oxford Road resident, has created two paintings that have been digitalised and blown up to large scale aluminium prints and attached to railings along the Oxford Road by Battle Street car park.

Gemma’s paintings feature two faces that she has depicted with a gradient skin tone from white to black to represent the multicultural community of the Oxford Road. In the multicoloured background Gemma has included quotes and words from the community. Gemma’s aim for the piece was to represent and celebrate the Oxford Road community and their history.

Instagram: @anusa.creatives

Facebook: @anusa.creatives

For more information about Historic England’s Cultural Programme visit their website.

Last updated on 14/08/2023