We are delighted to reveal that we have been awarded a £85,000 grant from Historic England to create and deliver community-led cultural activities on the high street over the next three years. 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.
Planned activities include an open call for cultural community projects in the Oxford Road area, continuing the work of the recent pilot project ‘Re-imagining the high street through your stories’ which will conclude this summer.
With the new funding, work can be continued on Oxford Road; grass roots community groups and cultural organisations will have the opportunity to lead cultural activities as well as having access to a mentoring scheme that aims to support groups to access funding in the future.
Other activities will be focused in the St Mary’s Butts/Castle Street and Market Place/London Street heritage areas, with the theme of exploring and telling the hidden histories of these two historic high streets through community co-produced research and resulting in art installations in the local area.
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.
Last year the project 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.
We are thrilled to bring you the new online community exhibition Oxford Road Stories hosted by Reading Museum, as the result of the wonderful research and contributions from the community.
Three local artists; Baker Street Productions, Gemma Anusa and Caroline Streatfield have now been commissioned to create new art pieces for the Oxford Road inspired by these Oxford Road Stories. These art pieces will celebrate the history, heritage and vibrancy of culture of Reading’s Oxford Road.
Stay tuned for details about the launches of these three exciting new projects over the Summer!
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If you have tried out one of our pilot activities or art projects, then we would love to hear what you thought. Please take 5 minutes to fill in a short survey.
In her new 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.
Baker Street Productions will be bringing the viewer 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. Using intriguingly placed QR Codes the audience will navigate 12 audio bites found along the street. These will allow you to 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.
Baker Street Productions was started by Caroline Bishop in Baker Street, Reading, during lockdown in the summer of 2020. It was born from concern about the lack of opportunities for new and emerging careers in the creative and entertainment industries.
Gemma will be producing a large-scale painting of a face, created using a gradient of skin tones and a vibrancy of colour representative of the diverse and rich culture of the area. Embedded in the face the viewer will find resident quotes, important dates and times and significant moments in the history of the Oxford Road and its community.
Gemma Anusa founded Anusa creatives in August 2020. Inspiration stems from her soul, experiences and surroundings. She finds working with vibrant colours on bold statement pieces empowering and is excited to work within the community to help people feel represented through her creativity.
“I really believe in this project and what its core purpose is about. I’m excited to work within the community to help people feel represented through my creativity.”