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Be a Reading Detective!

There are fun and informative walking tours around our town in this little book for children of all ages.

Author Kerry Renshaw writes:

One of the silver linings of lockdown is that it has got families exercising together. Currently, families who live together can exercise together, and grandparents can join in if they are part of a support bubble. Even if not, a grandparent can exercise with one grandchild.  Town walks are a great alternative to country hikes, especially at muddy times. The great thing about a guided walk around town is that children (and adults!) can be connected to Reading’s intriguing local history. There are so many clues in our statues, plaques and buildings that give us glimpses into Reading’s past. The book asks children to spot the history they will find on Reading’s streets and answer questions. There’s a real sense of achievement in tracking down things that others miss.

What happened to Queen Victoria’s finger? Is she turning her back on the town? Why are there cartwheeling German boys in Reading? Why did loads of steamrollers crowd onto Reading Bridge? What battles were fought in Reading – yes, even in Broad Street! Which of our churches was regularly visited by Good Queen Bess?  Which Norman knights fought a duel by the Thames? Who was the unlucky young man was killed by a whirlwind? These and many other questions are waiting to be solved.

The book has loads of excellent photographs of Reading past and present. And there are longer pieces on the Abbey, the “three B’s”, the bridges, and many other shorter, fascinating tales.

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Reading Detectives is by Kerry Renshaw and Electra Colios. You can buy a copy here, or via local or online booksellers.

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A playlist of local artists featured in When Reading Really Rocked

When Reading Really Rocked is a hugely well informed and entertaining account of live music in Reading between 1966 and 1976, from the emergence of psychedelia to the dawn of punk. Author Mike Warth has put together a fantastic playlist of some of the local bands and artists that feature in the book, which will be a trip down memory lane for many, or a great introduction to some of the music from the local area that you might not previously have heard.

You can find the playlist on YouTube, and the commentary below from Mike provides some background information about the artists and tracks. I hope you enjoy listening!

ALMA COGAN. Although born in London Alma Cogan moved to Reading with her family where her father set up a tailor’s shop in Kings Road. She was educated at St Joseph’s Convent and prompted by her mother began her singing career with a performance at The Palace Theatre in Cheapside (demolished in 1961). Her first record was released in 1952 and was the first of many. ‘Dreamboat‘ featured here was released in 1955 and became her only record to reach number 1 in the charts. Sadly she died of ovarian cancer in 1966 aged only 34.

THE GANGBUSTERS were fronted by Cal Vincent who in the week delivered bread and rolls and at the weekend delivered rock and roll. ‘The Memory Of Your Face‘ was their only record release. They were actually from Wallingford but played the Reading clubs and halls on a regular basis.

THE MOQUETTES. Formed in 1962 The Moquettes had become Reading’s top band by 1964 when they were snapped up by famed producer Mickie Most. ‘Right String But Wrong Yo-Yo‘ their sole record soon appeared and received plenty of tv and radio airplay but sadly sales were not enough to crack the charts and following a tour of Germany the band split up.

MARIANNE FAITHFULL moved to Milman Road, Reading in 1952 with her mother after her parents’ divorce and like Alma Cogan before her she attended St Joseph’s Convent School. Having made the acquaintance of The Rolling Stones she recorded ‘As Tears Go By‘ a Mick Jagger-Keith Richards song. It propelled her to number 9 in the charts and many records followed. Her mother apparently ran a cafe in Reading’s Harris Arcade adjacent to and incorporating part of what is now the wonderful Sound Machine record store.

PLATFORM SIX. This band was formed out of The Jellys, themselves a popular attraction in the town’s clubs and halls who had been formed by members of the REME staff band from nearby Arborfield. Dodgy management sadly led to the demise of Platform Six but not before they recorded the fine ‘Money Will Not Mean A Thing‘ and also another backing singer Billie Davis. Some members of the band then moved on to join The Amboy Dukes.

ARTHUR BROWN. A student at Reading University where he studied Philosophy and Law, Arthur Brown realised his passion was actually in music and could be heard singing in a number of the town’s pubs and halls with various bands, among them Dave Morgan’s Jazzband and The Dominoes. With the latter he recorded ‘You Don’t Know‘ for the 1965 Reading University Rag. It appeared on flexidisc and is now a sought after collector’s item. By 1967 he had formed his own band The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown and in 1968 took the charts by storm with the brilliant ‘Fire’. He has been recording ever since.

MIKE COOPER AND DEREK HALL were mainstays of Reading’s folk clubs in the mid sixties especially that in the Shades Coffee Bar, Gun Street. In 1965 they produced the 4-track EP suitably titled Out Of The Shades from which the song ‘Livin’ With The Blues‘ is taken. Released in a tiny number it was the first record either had played on. Mike was a champion of the live music scene in the town and continued his career with a string of interesting and varied albums.

THE AMBOY DUKES. Formed in 1965 The Amboy Dukes were Reading’s finest appearing all over the town and before long all over the country after they were picked up by the prestigious Rik Gunnell Agency. A record deal with Polydor was secured and this delightfully titled single was the third of their six releases. Sadly, neither ‘High Life In Whitley Wood‘ a great piece of fun ska music, and a popular part of their live repertoire, nor any of their other releases cracked the charts and in 1970 this fine band called it a day.

THE SALLYANGIE. Brother and sister Mike and Sally Oldfield formed The Sallyangie in 1967 and secured a recording contract with the assistance of John Renbourn who played in Reading on numerous occasions. Their 1968 album ‘Children Of The Sun’ was followed by the single ‘Two Ships‘ featured here, in ’69. Sally was the elder by some six years and with her parents moved to Reading where Mike was born in 1953. Sally had been a scholar at St Josephs Convent (or Holy Joe’ s as it was affectionately known) where she struck up a friendship with Marianne Faithfull. Mike attended St Edward’s Primary School and Presentation College which was just over the road from their home in Monk’s Way (off Southcote Lane). They also lived at some point in Western Elms Avenue. Sally’s musical career took a backseat for a while after this LP but Mike pursued his with the extraordinary Tubular Bells appearing in 1973.

OEDIPUS COMPLEX. This Reading band could be found honing their skills around the town in 1968 and put out a couple of records on the Philips label in a pop/rock style. Unfortunately a hoped for album did not materialize and they disappeared. Included here is ‘Empty Highway‘ which was actually the B side of their second release.

MIKE COOPER. Your Lovely Ways‘ appeared in 1970 at a time when his record label Dawn were releasing ‘maxi-singles’, basically 4-track EPs played at the same speed as an LP rather than the usual 45rpm. It didn’t catch on but allowed Mike to stretch out with two good songs followed by a couple of jazzy arrangements displaying more than a hint of the avant-garde.

HERON. Take Me Back Home‘ was included on their second album Twice As Nice And Half The Price as well as being released as a single. This local band had strong association with Reading Technical College where they played countless times as well as other venues across the town. Their gentle folk/rock sound is a delight with both albums having been recorded outside in the country rather than a pukka studio, the first at a cottage the band lived and rehearsed in at Appleford, the second in Devon. Lead singer Gerald T. Moore had previously been a member of Reading band The Memphis Gents and would soon be fronting his own band G.T. Moore and The Reggae Guitars. He’s still at it to this day.

THE BOATMEN. Local folk singers Eric Blackburn and John Grace teamed up with a few others to produce an album’s worth of traditional songs relating to inland waterways entitled Straight From The Tunnel’s Mouth. ‘Waterways Lament‘ is from that album released in 1975. Eric could be found regularly around the town’s pubs at this time singing in The Tudor Tavern, Ye Boar’s Head and The Three Tuns amongst others. In fact he formed his own folk club in the latter called The Brick ‘n’ Fret.

TUDOR LODGE. Here’s another outfit with connections to The Tudor Tavern although they were perhaps more often seen (heard) in The White Horse, Caversham Road, spiritual home to Reading’s folk scene for a good few years in the 70’s. They released a delightful album of acoustic folk songs on the renowned Vertigo label which has become a major collectable and ‘The Lady’s Changing Home‘ is from that album. Founder member John Stannard continued playing with various blues and folk bands he put together until recently but sadly died earlier this year.

SHILLINGFORD MILL. Two Bulmershe College students Steve Hall and Chas Seward were the creators of this little known outfit. They released ‘Frightened‘ and one other single as Shillingford Mill and then changed name to Richmond (they had their own studio on Richmond Hill). ‘Frightened’ is a fine song which they re-recorded and included on their sole album. They even went as far as using it for the album’s title. Falling into the folk/pop category and being perfectly listenable it remains a total obscurity.

MIKE COOPER’S MACHINE GUN COMPANY. Not one to sit still and become typecast in any one genre Mike Cooper put together a band of local musicians and released two albums of tracks with a touch of blues, folk, jazz and country. ‘Song For Abigail‘ kicks off the second album simply entitled The Machine Gun Company with Mike Cooper. On both of these can be found Les Calvert (bass)  who played in The Memphis Gents in the mid sixties.

GRAPHITE. Reading University was where this band were formed around 1969 and they continued gigging until 1973. If you headed off to see a known band at the Uni between those years there was a strong possibility Graphite would have been the support band. They managed just one single at the time but recent retrospective releases give a better idea of their laid back progressive rock sound – as exemplified by this track ‘Starflight Over The Skies‘.

G.T.MOORE AND THE REGGAE GUITARS. Following spells in the r’n’b styled Reading band The Memphis Gents and the nationally admired folk/rock outfit Heron, G.T.Moore veered off in a different direction yet again forming a white reggae band. Such a line-up was virtually unique in the UK but their ability to play with such authenticity brought them considerable respect both from the music press and music fans. Two albums resulted with ‘I’m Still Waiting‘ appearing on their eponymous first as well as on a 45. After they split in ’77 G.T.Moore pursued a successful solo career with a number of albums to his name.

THE DAVE MORGAN JAZZ BAND. Whilst Reading was something of a hot bed for trad jazz through the 60’s and 70s with the nation’s top musicians regularly appearing at The Upper Deck, the town had its own legend in the genre with Dave Morgan and his band. Trombonist Dave Morgan was inspired as a 16 year old having seen the great Chris Barber and put together his own outfit which played virtually every venue in the town for many years way beyond the period covered in When Reading Really Rocked. In the 70’s the band produced an album entitled Jazz Merchants which offers a real taste of the band’s sound.

AFT (AUTOMATIC FINE TUNING). Edgy progressive rock is on offer on this seasoned Reading band’s sole LP from 1976. ‘Queen Of The Night‘ which closes the album is more of a straightforward rock sound with vocals, largely absent elsewhere on the album. Some members had previously played in another local outfit, Glyder and were often to be seen at the (in)famous Target pub in town.

CLAYSON AND THE ARGONAUTS. Former Bulmershe College student Alan Clayson put together this wonderfully named band in 1976 and caught the eye of the music press resulting in plenty of publicity. A record deal with Virgin followed with ‘The Taster‘ their debut single. Alan has in more recent years become a respected rock biographer whilst continuing to gig with the band up to this day.

THE SHAMBLES. Patrick Wass and Brian Jefferson landed in Reading in 1970 after their time at Exeter University. They soon could be found playing the local folk circuit including being resident at The Red Cow, Southampton Street amongst others. This version of the traditional ‘John Barleycorn‘ appeared on a privately pressed EP released in small numbers and gives a clear indication of the duo’s talents. Patrick is still writing and performing to this day.

Buy the book

 

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Reading’s Influential Women – an inspiring read!

Reading’s Influential Women features more than 60 individual Women who have a connection with Reading and have made a notable difference in the world. Some are well known international names, others deserve to be. They are pioneers, familiar faces, recognisable voices, unsung heroes, campaigners, world changers, socialists, celebrities, Olympic and sporting champions, writers, artists, and scientists. It’s an inspiring read!

Authors Terry Dixon and Linda Saul write:

‘There are innumerable men and women from Reading who have achieved significant things or contributed to the life of the town and/or the wider world. Some, unfortunately, have gone unrecognised or are forgotten. Also, we know that in the past, the contribution of women was often dismissed, overlooked or attributed to somebody else.

In this book we can’t hope to document all those women connected to Reading who deserve to be mentioned but we can raise the profile of some, especially those whose connection to Reading is relatively unknown. To be included, women need to have been born, bred, educated in the greater Reading area, or to have lived there, or else have made an indelible mark on the town. We have included a couple of ‘unsung heroines’, but we know there are many more.

Many of the women in this book will have had their lives affected by misogyny. Several have played their part in challenging such attitudes. Edith Morley was a Suffragist (although Lady Wantage was antisuffragism), Ethelwyn Trewavas campaigned for married women to be able to keep their jobs. Some, such as Lettice Curtis, just got on and proved how good they were in a field dominated by men. Modern campaigns, such as Me Too, and the under-representation of women in many fields and the top tiers of organisations remind us there is still more progress to be made.

One area which has seen massive improvement in recent years is sport. Elite sportswomen are clearly influential in encouraging wider participation in sport, at all levels, and we have several examples in this book. But who knows how many more there might have been if women’s sport had not been discouraged in the not-too-distant past.

In writing this book some interesting threads emerged, and there are always questions. It is fun to try to find any connections between the individuals – were Jane Austen and Mary Mitford friends? Is it coincidence that one of the first female professional photographers set up a business in the same town where William Fox Talbot had made major advances in photography just a decade earlier?’

The authors’ royalties from the book are to be donated to Berkshire Women’s Aid.

About the Authors:

Terry Dixon was born in Tilehurst, Reading, and held the post of National Publicity and Development Officer on the National Federation of 18 Plus Groups NEC for 6 years. In his day job he was an electronics engineer and project manager. Taking early retirement in 2016, he started ‘Terry’s Reading Walkabouts’ to get fitter, and to introduce visitors and residents to the hidden culture and history of Reading. In 2017 he decided to celebrate Vote 100 by creating a new guided walk called ‘Famous/not-so-famous women of Reading’ which was launched in February 2018 to coincide with the date the Act of Parliament received royal assent. His research for that walk is the basis for this book. His walkabouts have raised over £7500 (including £1000 for Berkshire Women’s Aid) for local charities and he is a member of Reading Civic Society’s committee.

Linda Saul was born and raised on the Isle of Wight but has lived in Reading for about 35 years. After studying at Cambridge, she embarked on a successful career in IT. In her younger, wilder, days she developed a habit of falling out of aircraft before finally learning to fly one. She is now a full-time artist, her work focusing on the built environment. She exhibits regularly in London and is an active member of the Reading Guild of Artists. A perpetual student, she has completed a physics degree with the Open University and is now studying for a Masters in mathematics. In 2019 Linda cocurated an exhibition of art inspired by Oscar Wilde’s The Ballad of Reading Gaol. Galvanised by the campaign to save Reading Gaol for the town, she conceived and organised the Reading Gaol Hug with the help of many others, including Terry.

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The Art and History of Whiteknights – A roundup

Over the summer we have posted a series of articles and videos, which you can link to below, celebrating the art and history of Whiteknights. The series accompanied the publication of The Art and History of Whiteknights book, which we published together with the Whiteknights Studio Trail, with support from The Friends of the University of Reading.

2020 is the trail’s 20th year and in the unfortunate absence of the trail itself in 2020 (it will be back in 2021!) we hope that the book, together with these fascinating posts and videos, 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.

‘There’s something about the Whiteknights area that makes people stay here.’ – From the Foreword by Fiona Talkington, BBC Radio 3 Presenter and long-term resident

The Art and History of Whiteknights: 1 – A visit to the studio of local artist Sally Castle

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

The Art and History of Whiteknights: 3 – Martin Andrews on the Old Dairy, and a tour of his studio

The Art and History of Whiteknights: 4 – Chris Mercier

The Art and History of Whiteknights: 5 – Carole Stephens

The Art and History of Whiteknights: 6 – Andrew Boddington

The Art and History of Whiteknights: 7 – Salvo Toscano

The Art and History of Whiteknights: 8 – Kennet Quilters

The Art and History of Whiteknights: 9 – Hilary James

The Art and History of Whiteknights: 10 – A tour around the Whiteknights campus with John Grainger and Ian Burn

The Art and History of Whiteknights: 11 – A tour around Southern Hill and the area around Whiteknights with Evelyn Williams and Dennis Wood

 

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The Art and History of Whiteknights: 11 – A tour around Southern Hill and the area around Whiteknights with Evelyn Williams and Dennis Wood

Filmed to mark the publication of the book The Art and History of Whiteknights this video, produced by Ian Burn, features a fascinating historical tour around the Whiteknights and Southern Hill areas of Reading with commentary by Evelyn Williams and Dennis Wood. The video complements their written contribution in the book and points out the locations of some of the artworks featured in it.

Evelyn Williams is one of the founders of the Whitley Pump, a community-based website covering Katesgrove and parts of South Reading. She is actively involved in championing Reading’s heritage and is Chair of the Reading Conservation Area Advisory Committee.

Dennis Wood is an author and speaker on the history of Whitley, Southern Hill and surrounding areas. He is Vice Chairman and a Trustee of the Friends of Reading University and a tour leader for organised groups visiting the University campuses.

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In a normal year, we always look 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, and with support from The Friends of the University of Reading, 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.