Successful ‘Reading, Place of Culture’ Funding Bids Announced

Reading Place of Culture

READING COUNCIL has announced the successful groups who bid for ‘Reading, Place of Culture’ funding, based on how they could help improve the quality of life of Reading residents.

Three pots of £15K were available for arts, culture and/or heritage community programmes to run activities over 12 months, with the aim of engaging local people. This was particularly focused at those less likely to access cultural opportunities and where engagement could have a significant positive impact on their well-being.

The three successful groups awarded 15K are: Reading based theatre company Reading Rep; charity organisation PACT: Parents And Children Together; and The Museum of English Rural Life (MERL) in partnership with Reading Museum.

Reading Rep, the theatre company set up in 2012, based at Reading College in King’s Road, has proposed a series of performing arts workshops to boost self-esteem, provide confidence building and life skills, which will build towards short performances.

The theatre company will aim to increase life chances and improve standards of living for disadvantaged communities, including older people in care homes, adults with mental health illness or learning disabilities and disadvantaged young people.

PACT: Parents and Children Together, an organisation that helps troubled families, will work through their community project Alana House, which supports women with multiple and complex needs. The group will use photography to give marginalised and vulnerable women a voice – using shared experience to raise self-esteem and communication skills.

The Museum of English Rural Life (MERL), in partnership with Reading Museum, will work with older people in their own homes, care homes or hospital settings to combat loneliness or social isolation.

The museum partnership will offer reminiscence activities including using old photos, films and artefacts as well as gardening and dance activities to promote positive health and wellbeing.

Cllr Sarah Hacker, Reading Council’s Lead Member for Culture, Heritage and Recreation, said: “I’m delighted we have found three very worthy recipients for the Reading, Place of Culture funding.

“The Council has a priority to address local needs in innovative ways – and this project has the great potential to help contribute towards supporting the well-being of Reading’s residents.

“Research has shown that engaging in arts and cultural activities has a wide reaching beneficial impact on people’s health and wellbeing; improving recovery from illness, promoting community spirit, combatting loneliness and relieving the pressure on GP services.

“This is was also a great chance for local organisations to develop their skills in applying for commissions, with our guidance and support. It has also encouraged arts groups to work collaboratively with voluntary and community sectors and public services to meet local people’s needs.

“Culture and heritage play a vital role in Reading and I’m delighted that the town continues to gain in reputation as a location of cultural excellence. I look forward to seeing the outcome of these innovative projects and hopefully see the longer lasting legacy of culturally enriching the lives of Reading’s residents.

“I’d also like to extend our thanks to the generous support from National Lottery players and the Heritage Lottery Fund, Arts Council England and Historic England, which has enabled this project to take place.”

The fund is part of ‘Reading, Place of Culture’, supported by the Great Place Scheme, which is funded thanks to National Lottery players and the Heritage Lottery Fund, Arts Council England and Historic England. This is the launch of a pilot year for the scheme which will be further developed during a three year period, running to 2020.

Unsuccessful applicants were given feedback and have been offered support to develop other funding applications. Reading Place of Culture intends to set up a forum where applicants can meet a diverse range of funders. Procurement support surgeries will also be set up in advance of the second year of the cultural commissioning programme to continue fostering development within the sector.



About Alana House

Alana House supports women with multiple and complex needs. Alana House is unique in offering holistic person-centred support through specialist 1-2-1 support, counselling, outreach and group sessions in order to work through their issues one at a time, in a safe and trusted women-only setting.

Funding will be used to run PhotoVoice – a therapeutic photography course that will support vulnerable women who often face barriers to experiencing arts and culture. The programme uses both digital and SLR cameras so the women learn they can’t keep retaking to get the ‘perfect’ shot – they learn to go with their instinct and then wait to see what the developed photos look like.

Our proposed project uses a new creative model designed to empower the women involved by giving them a voice through photography to improve communication skills, creative skills and self-esteem. These are essential tools for rehabilitation and reintegration in society. It also stresses the shared experience which enables participants to empathise and identify with one another and their victims.

PhotoVoice was trialled in 2016 as part of an Alana House pilot programme called Enrich. The creative workshops are designed to empower women by giving them a voice through photography.

About Reading Rep

Reading Rep invites community involvement in every aspect of our work. Our earliest outreach initiatives have grown exponentially. Through a combination of different programmes we work with some of the most disadvantaged people throughout Reading. Through our ENGAGE! programme, Reading Rep work year round with over 250 people: from those with Learning Disabilities and mental health issues, to women on licence and those affected by homelessness, we build confidence and inspire creativity. We run an award-winning youth theatre for 60 young people aged 7 – 25. We deliver educational workshops for primary and secondary schools, colleges and universities, designed to enrich their curricula. Our youth theatre programmes have been nominated for multiple awards, including a Pride of Reading award for encouraging young people in the arts. The productions have been selected to compete in national competitions including National Theatre Connections and Chrysalis.

About MERL and Reading Museum

Museums Partnership Reading, the consortium made up of Reading Museum and the Museum of English Rural Life at the University of Reading are delighted to be part of the Cultural Commissioning programme during their first year of Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation status. The project will see both museums offering an exciting programme of reminiscence, therapeutic gardening and dance aimed at older people in the community. Activity will be designed to help tackle loneliness and social isolation. Its impact will be measured with the support of academics from the School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences at the University.

About The Great Place Scheme

In 2017, Reading Borough Council and its partners, Reading UK CIC and the University of Reading, successfully secured a grant of £558,471 thanks to National Lottery players and the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), Arts Council England and Historic England for the Great Place Scheme.

The scheme funds projects in areas where there is a commitment to embed arts, culture and heritage in local plans and decision-making. The funding covers a three year period to support programmes running until December 2020.

The Great Place Scheme is designed to put arts, culture and heritage at the heart of successful communities across England. Sixteen areas, including Reading, are piloting a new approach to enable cultural, community and civic organisations to work more closely together.

In Reading this will include supporting various community projects targeted at improving health, well-being and quality of life, as well as support for the Reading-on-Thames festival which marries Reading’s waterways heritage with a high-quality arts and cultural programme.

The Great Place Scheme award is external funding Reading Council has successfully bid for. That means it can only be spent on arts, culture and heritage related projects that formed the bid, rather than any other Council services. Activities proposed as part of the Great Place Scheme bid are strongly aligned with the Council’s priorities for supporting Reading’s economic success and the well-being of its residents.

For more information on the Great Place Scheme visit:

About the Heritage Lottery Fund

Thanks to National Lottery players, we invest money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about – from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife.  Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and use #HLFsupported.

About Arts Council England

Arts Council England champions, develops and invests in artistic and cultural experiences that enrich people’s lives.  Find out more at

About Historic England

Historic England is the public body that helps people care for, enjoy and celebrate England’s spectacular historic environment. Find out more at


Victoria Nickless

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