Reading Secures £550k ‘Great Place’ Award

Culture in Reading - Cllr Gittings South Street Launch

AMBITIONS to secure Reading’s position as a leading cultural destination have been given a major boost this week with the award of a £550k Great Place Scheme grant.

Reading Borough Council and its partners – including Reading UK CIC, are celebrating after successfully securing a grant of £558,471 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), Arts Council England and Historic England.

The award will allow Reading to build on its 2016 Year of Culture success and the joint working that made this happen.

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

The scheme funds projects in areas where there is a commitment to embed arts, culture and heritage in local plans and decision-making.

In Reading this will include supporting various community projects targeted at improving health, well-being and quality of life, as well as support from 2018 for the planned Reading-on-Thames festival which marries Reading’s waterways heritage with a high-quality arts and cultural programme.

Hedley Swain, Area Director, South East, Arts Council England, said: “Reading is at a really exciting point in its cultural development, with projects like Reading 2016 Year of Culture and the amazing  ‘Inside: Artists and Writers in Reading Prison’ creating a real hunger for great art and culture.

“Funding from the Great Place Scheme will play a huge part in helping all in Reading to take the next step; forging new networks, establishing cultural partnerships and creating a new festival that will celebrate Reading’s identity.

“We have been working closely with the local authority, the university and other stakeholders to this point and we’re excited to support them as they firmly embed arts, culture and heritage into Reading’s social and economic priorities for the future.”

Cllr Paul Gittings, Reading’s Lead Member for Culture, said: “I’m delighted Reading has secured further generous support from the Arts Council England, Historic England and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

“Culture and heritage play a vital role in Reading and I’m delighted that the town is gaining in reputation as a location of cultural excellence. We are determined to build on the momentum of Reading’s Year of Culture with new programmes of exceptional quality, to create a fully networked permanent legacy, transforming cultural opportunities for residents and visitors to the borough.

“We will be working closely with our partners to ensure that our resources are adding value, as well as being carefully targeted to broaden the reach and impact of cultural activity in the town. These are exciting times for Reading with much to look forward to.”

Stuart McLeod, Head of HLF South East, said: “This is fantastic news for Reading. Building on the momentum of Reading’s 2016 Year of Culture this National Lottery investment will support a high quality programme of arts, culture and heritage in the town, helping to build an even stronger future for its people and economy with culture at its heart.”

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.



Key areas identified for Reading’s Great Place Scheme funding, to build on its already strongly developed partnerships and initiatives, are:

  • The formation of a new delivery board which embeds culture at a strategic level; the creation of new sustainable sub-groups for culture and supporting new delivery partnerships such as the Cultural Education Partnership (CEP), Reading International and Junction Dance;
  • Delivering a community cultural outreach programme for targeted communities – connecting cultural organisations and partners such as public health, adult social care and education, creating a platform for mainstreaming cultural commissioning and helping to deliver key social outcomes;
  • Supporting delivery in 2018-20 of the new Reading-on-Thames Festival that is being developed by Reading UK CIC to cement and celebrate Reading’s unique riverside identity and provide a platform for cultural excellence. The festival will create a sustainable celebration of Reading’s identity, enhancing a sense of place for residents and business and promoting the attractiveness of Reading’s cultural assets to visitors;
  • Build from the business engagement success of the Year of Culture to embed culture and heritage in economic development and business strategies in Reading;
  • Using the momentum and success of ‘Reading International’ to build profile, reputation, partnerships and community engagement.

For more information on the Great Place Scheme visit:

Reading’s Year of Culture 2016 and its legacy

Strong partnerships between a range of organisations have played a key contribution to developing and delivering an impressively diverse programme of cultural and heritage initiatives and projects during 2016.

Hundreds of successful arts and cultural events as part of the Reading Year of Culture 2016 programme.

Further progress has been cemented by strong support and financial backing from both Arts Council England and the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

Numerous initiatives from the vibrant arts and heritage sector in the town are mutually reinforcing Reading’s reputation as a cultural hub, with many funded projects extending over the next few years, including:

  • The ambitious Abbey Revealed and Hidden Abbey projects;
  • The ‘Reading International’ –  a three year visual arts programme, led by the University’s new Institute of Heritage & Creativity in partnership with Artangel, the Council and Reading UK CIC;
  • The MERL and Reading Museum Collaboration project to transform the way the museums use technology, bringing collections and communities together;
  • The continued work of the Cultural Education Partnership (CEP) to provide all young people with opportunities to experience high quality cultural activity;
  • South Street Arts Centre’s re-launch in December 2016 after a major £500k refurbishment.

Victoria Nickless

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