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The Art and History of Whiteknights: 2 – Jenny Halstead writes about the Whiteknights Studio Trail and Christchurch Green

It was the autumn of 2019 when the idea of a book to celebrate the Whiteknights Studio Trail’s 20th anniversary in 2020 was conceived. Two Rivers Press, who had been an exhibiting member of the WST since the very beginning, were keen to be on board and a joint publication with shared costs was born.  The book would feature artists’ work in a response to the area of Whiteknights, as well as chapters on its history. As TRP had many titles lined up for publication in 2020, this new ‘babe’ if it was to be out by June, had to be created as soon as possible.

I contacted artists who had been in the Trail from the beginning and others who worked in different mediums or lived in the area, asking if they would like to participate and produce a piece of work inspired by the Whiteknights campus or the area round about, with a deadline of just over 5 weeks!  I had an enthusiastic response from 28 artists. The two chapters on the history of the area, one on the campus of Whiteknights Park estate by Ian Burn and John Grainger, the other on the surrounding area by Evelyn Williams and Dennis Wood , were an excellent complement, and also a foreword by Radio 3’s Fiona Talkington on living in the area. Everyone, to my great joy, met the deadline!

Having been one of the WST founder members and now its Co-ordinator, I felt particularly saddened by the need in March to cancel the 20th WST event this year, due to Coronavirus.  I was heartened by the fact that the book would be published in June as planned and that WST would be back next year for a 21st birthday celebration on 12 &13 June 2021.

Lock-down – Christchurch Green

My home and studio are on Christchurch Road and in these weeks of lock-down I have seen a massive change in the usually busy, noisy road. Now a strange eeriness – no students, a few people distancing in a queue waiting to enter the chemist, many shops closed. The silence broken only by the sound of birdsong and (alas) ambulances.

I pay a personal homage to the No 21 bus travelling valiantly past my house every 20 minutes or so, even in the evening, carrying perhaps just a single passenger. A warrior. My painting, featured in the book, shows the shops opposite Christchurch Green in autumn when I painted it, but actually includes the No 21 bus!

Last week the Green was transformed from a wild meadow by RBC Streetcare Team. When I spoke with the gardener, he was delighted to know that we all cared for this tiny green and that we had in place a watering rota for the new plantings. He strimmed the long grass, trimmed the shrubs, returning the next day to lovingly mow and mulch the plants.

A new neighbourhood group – The Friends of Christchurch Green – is about to be launched, delayed only by this current situation.

The Green last year had live music from a local band for several hours during our Whiteknights Studio Trail offering a festival feel to the weekend as visitors walked around and  just last week, BBC Radio 3 presenter Fiona Talkington broadcast one of her shows, a 3-hour long  music programme, live from  her home just a few metres away.

On one Thursday evening clap for the NHS a group of professional musicians who share a house across the Green brought a four piece band out and the air was filled with music and memories of the Beatles song ‘Come Together ‘.

~ Jenny Halstead


In a normal year, towards the end of May we would be looking forward to the annual Whiteknights Studio Trail, where our local artists and craftspeople open their houses. This is the trail’s 20th year, and in a joint venture with the Whiteknights Studio Trail, Two Rivers Press is delighted to publish a beautiful celebratory book, The Art and History of Whiteknights, which features 28 artworks all inspired by the Whiteknights area of Reading. The featured artists have all exhibited on the trail over the years, and in the unfortunate absence of the trail itself in 2020 (it will be back in 2021!) we hope that this book will remind you of the wealth of creative talent in our locality, as well as inspiring you to reflect more deeply on the history and roots of this special part of town.

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