READING:UK The magazine for business in Readingâ€Ś
Performance space, eating place, work base
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EDITORIAL DIRECTOR: Siobhán Crozier EDITOR: Maria Shahid ASSISTANT EDITOR: James Wood NEWS AND DIGITAL EDITOR: Marco Cillario DESIGN: Smallfury PRODUCTION MANAGER: Christopher Hazeldine BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR: Paul Gussar BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT MANAGER: Harry Seal PROJECT MANAGER: Sue Mapara SUBSCRIPTIONS MANAGER: Simon Maxwell MANAGING DIRECTOR: Toby Fox
COVER IMAGE: Box of Hopes by Stuart Melrose at Light Up Reading – photo by Stewart Turkington/Reading UK CIC IMAGES: Ian Legge Photography, Reading UK CIC, Franco Manca, Steve McQueen – photo by Marcus J. Leith, Alex Harvey-Brown, (Winnersh Triangle), David Tothill, Amy Sharrocks, Ruth Corney, Miles Hart Photography, Reading Between the Lines, Woody Woodmansey, Neon Dance, Paul Marc Mitchell, Adamowicz Adamski, Oakford Social Club – ©Andrew Wells, Marc Rogoff, Paul Grundy, William Eckersley, Sandra Keating, Artangel, Franco Follini – flickr.com/livenature, Robert Cutts – flickr.com/panr, Reading School, Stanhope, SEGRO PRINTED BY: Park Communications
PUBLISHED BY: 3foxinternational.com IN PARTNERSHIP: Reading UK CIC (The economic development company for Reading) The Library Building Abbey Square Reading RG1 3BQ livingreading.co.uk Contact Nigel Horton-Baker Executive director Reading UK CIC 0118 937 4339 SUBSCRIPTIONS AND FEEDBACK: readingukmagazine.com
contents 08 News
Reading’s unfolding development and regeneration stories.
12 Year of Culture © 3Fox International Limited 2017. All material is strictly copyright and all rights are reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without the written p ermission of 3Fox International Limited is strictly forbidden. The greatest care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of information in this magazine at time of going to press, but we accept no responsibility for omissions or errors. The views expressed in this magazine are not necessarily those of 3Fox International Limited.
A play on its past, a trail of light through the town and a celebration of water were all big draws in Reading 2016 .
19 Food and drink
Street food markets, coffee bars and a new restaurant terrace: Reading has an eatery to cater to diverse tastes and budgets.
Thames Valley’s reputation as the perfect place for big and small businesses is gaining momentum.
29 Art in
Reading Prison provided the perfect backdrop for Artangel to showcase the work of playwright and poet Oscar Wilde.
Reading Town Hall is one of the many local buildings designed by Alfred Waterhouse.
Reading summed up.
Regeneration schemes in and around Reading.
READING:UK The magazine for business in Reading
Thames Tower formed the centrepiece of Reading’s ‘Festival of Lights’
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Above rIght: Creative and digitial companies came to Reading to discuss opportunities to work for the UK’s leading cultural organisations.
UK’S LEADING CULTURAL COMPANIES ATTEND NETWORKING EVENT IN READING Businesses in Reading and the nearby area were given the chance to establish partnerships with 10 leading cultural organisations in the UK during an event at the town hall. Interface 2016, held on 24 November 2016, saw representatives of Royal Albert Hall, Bafta, Barbican, British Film Institute and Tate come to the Berkshire town to meet with local enterprises and businesses in the creative and digital sector from across the UK. Organised by Shakespeare’s Globe with Reading Year of Culture and economic development company Reading UK CIC, the event was also attended by London Philharmonic Orchestra, Donmar Warehouse, Historic Royal Palaces and Royal Opera House, each with a budget ring-fenced for digital development. Interface was conceived to meet the challenges faced by both big cultural organisations – looking to be at the cutting edge of new technology and searching new ways to engage the public in their activities – and small young enterprises looking for commissions and hoping to raise their profile. “No major cultural organisation can attend Interface if they don’t send a budget holder, and they have to assure us that they have a ring-fenced budget for digital development in the next 12 months, so that we don’t
waste anyone’s time,” Interface founder Harper Ray told Reading:UK magazine. Ahead of the event, the cultural partners indicated what areas of work they would be commissioning in 2017. Local businesses completed an application indicating their specialisms. The two lists were crossreferenced to create an appointment programme, so that each of the digital enterprises would meet with five big names during the day and pitch to them during a series of 15-minute face-to-face meetings. “We do not tell people who they are meeting until the day, so that they do not have time to work on presentations and just get here as if they were going to meet a friend in a bar,” Ray added. When asked why Reading was chosen as the place to hold Interface in 2016, he said: “Reading is close to London, so it is easy to overlook, but the ratio of creative jobs per head is much higher here than in the capital. “This event is a chance for local businesses to see what big companies commission and how,” Ray concluded. “It was a fantastic opportunity to meet some amazing arts organisation,” said Alison Sweatman of Readingbased podcast producer Off Pitch Production, one of the enterprises taking part in the event.
For up-to-date news stories visit readingukmagazine.com
Left: Winnersh Triangle, named Business Park of the Year at the Thames Valley Property Awards 2016, has contributed to the area’s reputation for attracting ambitious technology firms.
Spate of signings at Winnersh Triangle International companies have taken lettings at a business park in Reading. American medical technology company Becton Dickinson, IT support and managed service provider Timico Technology Services (TTS), delivery company CitySprint, and Banking Automation have all taken space at Winnersh Triangle. Becton Dickinson has signed a 10-year lease with business park manager Patrizia UK and is preparing to enter three floors at 1030 Eskdale Road in spring 2017. The 5,739sq m, four-storey office building was completed in February 2016. After this latest deal, only the 1,486sq m third floor remains available to rent. Meanwhile, TTS, part of the Timico Technology Group, will move up to 50 UK employees from its London office to the business park. The company has taken 1,021sq m of office space in the E2 building. Managing director Nabeil Samara said the move to Winnersh Triangle was “a reflection of our growth and the ideal location to accommodate
future evolution of the business”. With Reading ranked among the top business-friendly locations in Europe and part of the region with the highest density of digital businesses in the UK, TTS said the location was “the ideal homestead for major global technology organisations”. CitySprint has taken 732sq m of industrial warehouse and office space at 545 Eskdale Road on a sixyear lease. And Banking Automation has expanded from its existing premises at Winnersh, to take an additional 929sq m at 515 Eskdale Road. The company’s move brings its total leased space to 1,906sq m. Winnersh Triangle, named business park of the year at the Thames Valley Property Awards 2016, provides office, industrial, data centre, research and development, as well as amenity space totaling more than 135,638sq m. It was acquired in July 2013 with funds managed by Oaktree Capital Management and real estate investor Patrizia UK.
READING SCHOOLS FLY HIGH Reading students have improved their GCSE results, and retained their lead in the national table of A-level results. Newly published figures released by the Department for Education in January 2017 show better performance in the number of GCSE passes at Grade A*-C, including English and Maths, in 2016 compared to previous years. The figures showed that at Key Stage 4 (GCSE), 64.1% of students achieved A*-C in English and Maths, which is above the 63.3% national figure for state-funded schools. At Key Stage 5 (students aged 16+) the average points score achieved by all Level 3 qualifications is at 38.6% - ranking Reading first. Meanwhile, A-level students achieving three or more A* or A grades is at 43.5%, again ranking the area first.
NEW CANCER CENTRE CONFIRMED A £30 million cancer centre is to be built in Reading. Proton Partners has been granted planning permission to build the new facility at Thames Valley Science Park. The centre will be among the first in the UK to offer proton beam therapy, a specialised type of treatment directing radiation to precisely where it is needed, with minimal damage to surrounding tissue, which makes it suitable for complex childhood cancers. It will also include a linear accelerator, a CT suite and an MRI. Up to 500 people a year will be treated at the centre, including NHS patients, medically insured private patients and self-paying patients. Graham Construction will carry out the work. For more details on Thames Valley Science Park, see page 43.
READING:UK The magazine for business in Reading
NO. 1 FORBURY PLACE COMPLETES Work has finished on an office scheme in Reading town centre. Owner M&G, developer Bell Hammer and designer Aukett Swanke announced in September 2016 that No. 1 Forbury Place was complete. The 17,187sq m, eight-storey office block was fully let to Scottish and Southern Energy in 2015, ahead of completion. The building was awarded a
BREEAM ‘excellent’ rating for its sustainability. It also won Best Development Outside Central London at the OAS Development Awards 2016. Work is under way on No. 2 Forbury Place, another office block, which will feature 17,650sq m of space. Started in January 2016, it is scheduled for completion in summer 2017.
CULTURE MAKES SENSE
Below right: Networking at The Economic Forum – delegates had the opportunity to meet with the cream of the country’s cultural organisations.
At the Economic Forum on 24 November 2016, organisations behind Reading’s Year of Culture explained how the event affected the town’s annual growth. Held at Reading Town Hall, the networking forum was chaired by senior members of Reading UK CIC, the economic development organisation for the area – and sponsored by M&G, Brockton Capital, Landid and Stanhope. Zsuzsi Lindsay, producer of Reading’s Year of Culture, said the initiative had been brought to life through a “partnership approach”, which involved dozens of private sector partners in the project, contributing around £100,000. The Year of Culture was also made possible thanks to a 130% increase in art and culture funding from the Arts Council into Reading.
“The Arts Council said that it wouldn’t have been able to make that increase unless there had been the quality of the work that there has been,” Lindsay explained. “Reading’s Year of Culture was designed to put Reading on the cultural map by inviting national and international artists in the town to generate work,” she continued, adding that it was also about creating a “sense of place” – getting across what it is like to live in the town. Lindsay highlighted work to discover the full extent of Reading Abbey, and possibly find the body of Henry I, as a key project in bringing the town’s heritage to life. One of the main features of the Year of Culture was the exhibition Inside – Artists and Writers in Reading Prison organised by Artangel (see pages 29-34), dedicated to the jail’s
most famous inmate, Oscar Wilde. Open between 4 September and 4 December 2016, it attracted 50,000 visitors, 25% from outside Reading. “Many towns and cities around the world would kill for the possibilities Reading has,” said Artangel codirector, James Lingwood, referring to the town’s cultural heritage. Adam Jacobs and Nigel HortonBaker, chair and chief executive of Reading UK CIC, the area’s economic development organisation, pointed to other events over last year, which had impacted Reading’s economy. These included progress on Forbury Place; the nearly finished Thames Tower; the opening of Ikea – bringing over 300 jobs to the region – the construction of Thames Valley Science Park, the launch of The Biscuit Tin at Station Hill and the planning application for Royal Elm Park.
FIRST HOMES COMPLETED AT GREEN PARK VILLAGE The first homeowners at a 737-home development in south Reading have moved into their properties. Green Park Village is being developed by St Edward on a 24-ha site close to Green Park. The village will provide homes ranging from one-bedroom apartments to five-bedroom detached houses within a lakeside setting. It could also benefit from the proposed Green Park station, due to be built in the next two years.
READING’S GROWTH BUCKS NATIONAL TREND Reading will be the UK’s fastest growing city until 2019, despite slow progress in the country as a whole, according to economic analysis in EY’s UK Region and City Forecast. Regional Gross Value Added (GVA) is expected to be at 2.5% over the next three years – ahead of London’s growth of 1.9%. The forecast, released in December, also expects Reading’s employment growth, at 0.9%, to be faster than all UK cities featured, with 3,000 new jobs created by 2019. Richard Baker, EY’s managing partner for Reading and the Thames Valley, said: “This is our first Region and City Forecast since the EU referendum and it’s positive to see Reading and the broader Thames Valley region’s strong economic performance outpacing London and the wider south-east.”
Baker added that even though the region was in a “strong position” economically, a focus on investing in transportation links, skills development and education was still needed. The forecast’s findings on Reading were backed by its position at the top of the annual Good Growth for Cities index in November, which measures the economic performance of the UK’s largest 42 cities. The index, produced by PwC and Demos, accounts for productivity in 10 areas: jobs, health, income and skills, work-life balance, houseaffordability, travel-to-work times, income equality, pollution and business start-ups. PwC reported that: “Reading, with Oxford, remains at the top of the index. A substantial gap has opened up between these two cities and
the rest, reflecting their continued improvement in jobs, income, skills and new businesses.” Digital, the UK’s fastest growing sector, accounts for 25% of Reading’s GVA, according to the EY forecast. The economic analysis added that strong performances in ‘professional, scientific and technical’ and ‘administration and support services’ have also been beneficial for the region’s economy. Reading has additionally been found to have a high number of business startups and SMEs, and a “good level of high-growth SMEs”, according to information compiled by Informi, a website offering free practical advice and support for small businesses. The town was named sixth of 65 cities in a list of the top 10 best locations to start up a small business in the UK.
Above: new opportunities for waterside living have been created in Reading. Green Park Village features apartments and houses in the south of the town.
READING:UK The magazine for business in Reading
YEAR OF CULTURE
A YEAR TO REMEMBER
Reading’s Year of Culture in 2016 featured dance, theatre and art exhibitions, successfully repositioning the town as a place where creativity is thriving. James Wood picks out some of the highlights
As part of Amy Sharrocks’ Do Rivers Dream of Oceans? project, locals and visitors to Reading had the opportunity to take a boat out on the river, where they “experienced the town in a different way”.
ulture was everywhere in Reading during 2016. Exhibitions in surprising places featured some of the most respected artists in the country, the town’s streets teemed with people enjoying dance and art shows and auditoriums throughout the town were packed for theatre and music events. It was a year when outdated perceptions of the town as a place with low levels of artistic engagement were banished for good. At the beginning of 2016, project and events manager, Zsuzsi Lindsay, at economic development company, Reading UK CIC, was charged with delivering the programme for Reading’s ‘Year of Culture 2016’. By working with the town’s talented arts organisations and commissioning other highly acclaimed artists from outside, one successful event after another has taken place, attracting attention from across the UK and beyond.
Lindsay says that this was achieved by carefully mapping out how the year would take shape. “When we started to plan Reading’s Year of Culture, we felt that a stronger sense of place was needed for the town to help economic growth,” she says. “We needed a buzz, a place of identity and to offer something unique.” When news broke in June that archaeologists aimed to not only discover information about Reading Abbey, but were also looking for the bones of Henry I, whose tomb is known to be buried on the Abbey site, this attracted the attention of the international press, with articles published in newspapers from The New York Times to Times of India. Elsewhere, tourists flocked to an exhibition in the unusual environs of Reading Prison (pages 29 to 34), based on work Oscar Wilde was inspired to write after his incarceration there. Staged by globally renowned arts organisation Artangel, it featured installations from
International artist Amy Sharrocks has been exploring people’s relationship with water since 2007 and has achieved huge success with her Museum of Water project, which she has taken to different places across the world. The Year of Culture organisers approached Sharrocks early in 2016 to curate a mini “festival of water” as part of Reading’s annual WaterFest event in June. To get inspired for the project, Sharrocks found herself on a long walk around the town, where she discovered the diverse bodies of water contained within it. These ranged from rivers and canals to swimming pools and lidos. “Often, people who live in big towns and cities have a distant relationship with water. I aim to make people question and examine that, especially in a place where the canal goes right through the city,” she says. Above: A water fight with balloons in Forbury Gardens was another highlight of the WaterFest event. Below: Bellowing text messages across the canal.
renowned artists Rita Donagh, Peter Dreher, Marlene Dumas, Robert Gober, Steve McQueen (also a film director, whose 12 Years a Slave film won a Best Picture Oscar) and archived work from Oscar Wilde himself. Readings of the playwright and poet’s famous De Profundis letter, penned in the prison, by actors Ben Whishaw and Ralph Fiennes and singer Patti Smith, drew large audiences. Reading’s Year of Culture has seen theatre ticket sales reportedly up by 20%, as well as a 130% increase in Arts Council funding for projects in the town. Says Lindsay: “We believe we have demonstrated the creativity of the Reading arts community. It is thanks to all of the people who have made the place and given it that sense of identity.” Reading:UK magazine looks at some of the year’s key cultural highlights.
The result was a mini festival of water across Reading on 11 June called Do Rivers Dream of Oceans? Part of this – Drifting – invited people to float down the canal on two boats and see Reading from a new perspective. While this was the hardest part of the project to organise, says Sharrocks, the reaction to it was “wonderful”. “It meant different things to different people,” she explains. “There was one older gentleman who couldn’t stop talking about the boat that had taken him back to Caversham as a boy. Then there was the tentative 11-year old who went out onto the water on his own. You could see that he felt like he was taking that first step towards independence.” The canal was used in surprising ways too. Performance artists plan b – Daniel Belasco Rogers and Sophia New – surprised shoppers by shouting across the water every text message they had sent each other over a period of a year. This was an examination of modern communication methods, with the artists juxtaposing their most intimate personal feelings for one another with mundane correspondence. Sharrocks says: “In Reading, people really got the point of the project. They knew they could use the things that we had made available to them, which made the day really interactive.”
READING:UK The magazine for business in Reading
YEAR OF CULTURE
CROWNING GLORY Few have attempted to recreate the 12th Century through art, but in 2016, Reading theatre group Reading Between the Lines broke the mould, when it decided to write and perform a play in the town about Henry I’s rule of England between 1100 and 1135. With an excavation project taking place next door at Reading Abbey, which partly involved trying to uncover the remains of Henry I’s tomb, the play, Henry I of England, ran in November to packed audiences inside St James’ Church. The task to discover more about the time in which the king lived was a challenging one. As the fourth and youngest son of William the Conqueror, Henry I’s ascent to the throne was a hotly contested issue. Writer Beth Flintoff worked with academics at Reading University to research the details that would form the narrative of the play.
Flintoff uncovered a dark, murky and exhilarating time, which stoked her enthusiasm when writing the script: “It was really exciting to revisit this world that no-one’s written about before – or at least as far as we know. A lot of people don’t know much about it,” she says. A contemporary reference point for the play was popular fantasy TV show, Game of Thrones, which portrays medieval violence: “We were looking at a very brutal word where people are in physical danger all the time; where no system of justice exists yet, other than who is stronger and who has a bigger sword,” says Flintoff. Reading Between the Lines was established by actor Toby Davies, who played Henry I in the show. Toby’s wife, Dani, produced it – and all members of the theatre company contributed ideas. These were developed as rehearsals for the production progressed: characters were adapted, scenes were trimmed and a collaborative approach allowed the actors, musicians and producers to have a say in the direction the play was taking. Another important theme for Flintoff was exploring the role of women in society during Henry I’s time, by creating “strong and dominant” female characters. One of the play’s actors, Deirdre Mullins, says: “I think it shows how important the women are in this world.
A play about Henry I’s rule was performed by local theatre group Reading Between the Lines to sell-out crowds in November. It was the first time the monarch’s reign has been explored in theatre.
Even if they didn’t have political power on paper, they ran the show in many ways.” Davies says: “The response from the show was better than we could have ever hoped for and we were absolutely thrilled with the five-star reviews it received. “Feedback on the streets was absolutely phenomenal too. It’s amazing how many people were unaware of the fact that Reading has this rich history. It has really surprised a lot of people and hopefully has given them a sense of pride in where they live.” Reading Between the Lines plans to take the play on tour in 2017 before going back to the drawing board to create a sequel to Henry I of England. The team will produce a piece of theatre based around the King’s later life. Flintoff is reportedly already conducting research with the university to adopt a similar format for the sequel. “This time, Beth’s one step ahead,” Davies remarks. And he believes the group’s momentum could have a positive influence on the cultural scene in Reading for the months and years to come: “I think there’s a responsibility on arts organisations to keep going,” he says. “It’s important to make people see that bringing in people from outside and engaging with Reading’s local talent can be a wonderful thing.”
READING:UK The magazine for business in Reading
YEAR OF CULTURE
SHINING A LIGHT Reading’s 2016 cultural celebrations came to an end in December, when organisers behind the Year of Culture installed 11 light installations, illuminating landmark buildings across the town for 17 days in the run up to Christmas. These included the Thames Tower High Striker, a fairground-style interactive lighting of the 15-storey Thames Tower in front of Reading Station; two installations in M&G’s No. 3 Forbury Place; the illumination of the Abbey Ruins; pedal powered film nights, and illuminations of a bridge and The Oracle’s beacon. Businesses and artists collaborated on the project, with prominent Reading practice, Peter Brett Associates, developing an interactive app for people to find out more about what was happening during the two-and-a-half weeks.
In December, various landmark buildings around Reading were lit up. Reading UK CIC says the aim of the project was to “shine a light on the town.”
TOP BOOKING In a year of surprising revelations for Reading, many who attended one discussion at the Reading in Reading literature festival at the end of October were surprised to hear Jane Austen spent a year at the Reading Ladies Boarding School. Helena Kelly’s autobiography Jane Austen: The Secret Radical, sets out to dispel the notion of the author as a twee bastion of English respectability and instead paints a picture of a fearless political commentator, taking on subjects such as feminism, slavery and the power of the church. A conversation between Kelly and novelist and Austen aficionado Gill Hornby brought many an inquisitive literature enthusiast to the town in the autumn. Festival organiser Tom Ryan set out to book as many diverse speakers as possible for the festival, from local authors to prominent exfootballers and much-loved TV personalities. The event took place at Reading’s Olympia Ballroom, which Ryan believes is a relatively unsung venue in terms of its historic importance. It was once used as an asylum for the insane and later served as a gigging venue for rock giants such as The Who and The Rolling Stones. Celebrity guests during the weekend included former Arsenal and England footballer-turnedpundit, Ian Wright, who promoted a new biography. Tony Robinson, perhaps best known for playing Baldrick in Blackadder and for presenting archaeology show, Time Team, also talked about his autobiography, No Cunning Plan. Woody Woodmansey, the late David Bowie’s drummer and the last surviving “Spider from Mars”, was another big draw.
Above: Laser lights were used for Neon Dance’s performance at Reading’s South Street Arts Centre. Below: Celebrity autobiographies were launched at the literary festival.
GET ON YOUR DANCING SHOES Danielle Corbishley, producer at Junction Dance, an organisation set up in 2014 to create opportunities for involvement with all forms of dance in Reading, has found that this is a town where people approach the medium with a lot of enthusiasm. “There are more than 100 dance schools in Reading covering a wide range of styles and techniques,” she explains. “It’s safe to say this is a higher proportion compared to other towns in the UK of a similar size. There are maybe more students studying dance here than anywhere else in the country.” As a response to this, Junction Dance organised Dance Reading, taking place throughout November as part of the Year of Culture. It featured performances from some of the country’s biggest companies, workshops for aspiring dancers and opportunities for people interested in taking up a new hobby.
Historian Stuart Hylton’s talk — Reading in 50 Buildings — looked at local landmarks including Reading Prison, The Oracle and Caversham Library and elsewhere there was a slot for “dictionary corner” regular on TV game show Countdown, the lexicographer, Susie Dent.
Venues across the town used during the week included Reading Museum, St Bart’s Theatre, St Luke’s Hall and The Hexagon Theatre. At the latter, nationally acclaimed dance company Balletboyz, performed a brilliantly received show called Life.
Ryan believes Reading’s Year of Culture demonstrates a will to change perceptions of the town: “There can be a tendency to talk Reading down a bit but hopefully the Year of Culture has started to shine a light on all the great things that are going on here,” he says.
Diversity was key, says Corbishley, both in the range of different dance styles and opening opportunities for all to get involved, with workshops for disabled people and all parts of the community turning out and getting enthused by dance at events and workshops.
READING:UK The magazine for business in Reading
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With a Michelin-recognised restaurant, a second weekly street food market and an artisan bakery, as well as an array of new restaurants planned for The Oracle shopping centre, Reading is a town catering to different tastes and budgets, as Maria Shahid finds out
eadingâ€™s growing array of restaurants, cafes, bars and street markets is attracting an eclectic crowd. Recent openings include Cau, which is soon to be joined by Comptoir Libanais in the main shopping area, providing the perfect pit-stop for weary shoppers. Other big names set to open in the town include Franco Manca, renowned for its sourdough pizza. Meanwhile, Readingâ€™s office population is regularly being enticed to street food markets in Forbury Gardens and Market Place. And for
Argentinian restaurant, Cau, features food often found in the countryâ€™s capital, Buenos Aires. Famed for its beef, Cau adds a Latin American twist to its burgers.
the more discerning, in search of gastronomic adventure, a number of independent eateries are bringing a whole new breed of visitor to the town. One of the first sites to greet train travellers arriving in Reading is the 15-storey Thames Tower, located in the newly pedestrianised station plaza, which is due to complete early in 2017. The tower is already proving to be an iconic local landmark, and on its ground floor will feature restaurants, cafes and co-working spaces, creating what developers
READING:UK The magazine for business in Reading
FOOD AND DRINK
Landid and Brockton Capital describe as a “cool and contemporary” environment. Also close to the station is a slightly different venue: The Oakford Social Club. Popular among locals, the pub and music venue reopened in November following a makeover, with a brand new menu and host of musical acts lined up. Organisers describe the food on offer as ‘satisfying stateside soul food’, made up of burgers such as the ‘Big Cow’ beef rib patty with flat iron fingers (seasoned steak strips), creamy cheese sauce, and fiery tabasco onions, and the classic and aptly named ‘The Usual’ served with Emmental cheese and bacon. The chicken specials on offer include ‘Boneless Bites’, drumsticks and wings – all marinated in milk, then fried in a choice of seasoning. Meanwhile, in the town’s main shopping district, The
Above: Newly refurbished bar and restaurant The Oakford Social Club re-opened in October 2016 and is a popular destination in the town centre.
Oracle is also growing its restaurant offer. The awardwinning London Street Brasserie is popular with local foodies, and serves British, French and Mediterranean cuisine. The restaurant, which sits right next to the River Kennet, has won both critical acclaim and Michelin recognition, and is owned by celebrity chef Paul Clerehugh. Restaurant chain, Cau, serving Buenos Aires cuisine alongside “classic favourites” also opened there in 2015. Dishes on offer include a Cau breakfast of pork and herb sausage and morcilla black pudding as well as a Cau Sunday roast serving a choice of roast rump of beef or half spatchcock chicken. And in late October 2016, the council approved plans for a £5.7 million, two-phase upgrade to the shopping centre’s dining terrace, The Riverside. The intention is to turn it into a “premium destination”. Restaurant chain, Comptoir Libanais, serving Lebanese cuisine in a deli setting, is expected to open in April 2017 in a 167sq m glass-fronted pavilion as part of the upgrade. The restaurant serves hot and cold meze, as well as wraps and Lebanese flat breads, known as mana’esh and tagine. Phase one of the regeneration will also see a reconfiguration of The Riverside’s terrace steps, creating a larger public space. And one of the town’s iconic landmarks, Jacksons Corner, the location for the former EJ Jackson & Sons department store at the corner of Market Place and Kings Road, received planning consent in early December for three ground floor restaurants totaling 743.22sq m, as well as apartments both above and beside it. The intention is to keep the historic frontage of the
“The market is great if you’re looking for something a bit different in Reading”
Above: Blue Collar runs a popular weekly street food market in Reading’s Market Place. Below: Cau’s modern interior and prime steaks receive glowing reviews.
building while revamping the inside. Close-by, the old Barclays Bank building has also been partly pre-let to bar and restaurant chain, The Botanist, which serves a selection of botanical drinks and food inspired by the deli, rotisserie and barbecue, and has live music every night. For those in search of something a little less mainstream CHOW, and more recently Blue Collar, have brought street food culture to the town. CHOW has been running successfully in Market Place since 2015 on Fridays, attracting a mixed crowd of office workers and shoppers. Meanwhile, the Blue Collar Fest now regularly transforms Forbury Gardens into what the event’s organisers describe as a “giant celebration of tasty street food, brilliant booze and quirky entertainment”. The first event, held at the beginning of September, featured 20 food stalls, with the barbecue food stand proving to be a particular hit. Prosecco was served at a double decker bus bar, while drinks could also be purchased from a VW Camper, which served cocktails and mocktails. Blue Collar has six events planned for 2017, with food options changing regularly, ranging from Venetian tapas to Peruvian treats, and pulled pork to jerk chicken. In November 2016, Blue Collar also launched a weekly Wednesday market in Market Place, which runs from 10am to 4pm, and serves a mixture of meat, vegetarian, vegan or coeliac options. Anonymous food blog, Edible Reading, describes the Blue Collar venture as “so good that it has almost cured my scepticism about street food”.
READING:UK The magazine for business in Reading
FOOD AND DRINK
Glen Dinning, founder of Blue Collar, says: “After the success of the Blue Collar Fest in September we were asked to run a more regular event. We built up a real momentum and it seemed a shame to waste it. You quickly work out which street food traders are right for the Reading market. “We already have a lot of chain restaurants in Reading, which definitely have their place, but the market is great if
Top: Comptoir Libanais in The Oracle offers a range of authentic Lebanese food. Below: Franco Manca is also set to open a branch in Reading.
you’re looking for something a bit different. I was inspired by events in London like Street Feast. We get a real mixture of people coming to the market from all walks of life, from office workers to mums out with their kids.” Meanwhile, a new artisan bakery by the name of Nomad Bakery opened its doors in the former Delicious cafe unit on Prospect Street in Caversham at the end of October. Selling a mixture of homemade organic bread made using artisan methods, pastries, homemade eats, allergy friendly and vegan foods, as well as a range of speciality drinks, the Nomad Bakery is the brainchild of Laura Mariel Gonzalez and Josep Curto Díaz, the creators of Pop-up Reading, which runs supper club-type events in different venues and in different formats throughout Reading.
“[Diners] really appreciate that we are a small, independent business and offer something that is a bit different” Gonzalez started the venture with her friend Anu Haran after meeting on a Reading commuter train. Their shared passion for international cuisine eventually led to regular events, initially in their own homes, featuring a different menu each time. “Our menus are based on our life experiences and trips,” explains Gonzalez. “We have a different theme to each one”. Pop-up Reading started from 10 people in Gonzalez and Haran’s dining rooms, and grew from there. “Many independent businesses were open to letting us use their space when they weren’t open. The reaction from those who have come to one of our events has been really positive. They really appreciate that we are a small, independent business and offer something a bit different to the chains.”
Left and below: Nomad Bakery in Caversham has firmly established itself on the independent scene since it opened in October 2016, using ingredients sourced locally.
23 The seminal theme for Nomad came from the highly successful Artisan Community Bakery, which was run by Gonzalez from various redundant spaces, and it is here that she learned to bake her signature sourdough bread on a larger scale, she explains. In addition to bread baked on the premises, the Nomad Bakery also serves a variety of Argentinian pastries, and, as firm supporters of other small independents, it stocks products from Sarah Roy – better known locally as the Caversham Jam Lady – Hartland Fudge, and a gluten-free range from the White Rabbit Bakery. “Sarah only uses locally sourced ingredients. The ethos of the products we stock coincides with ours,” adds Gonzalez. The town’s independent offering is certainly on the up. The author of anonymous blog, Edible Reading, notes there are “lots of encouraging signs” of the local food scene improving, referencing independent cafes like C.U.P. Speciality Coffee & Tea and Tamp Culture Coffee; independent retailers like Tasting House and Grumpy Goat, and collectives like Pop-up Reading, Hartland Fudge and the Caversham Jam Lady. Denning agrees that: “Reading is an exciting place to be right now, in terms of food and drink. We have a way to go to compete with London, but we are closing the gap.” The area is clearly making its mark on the gastronomic map of the country.
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PULLING POWER Reading has cemented itself as a pivotal part of the Thames Valley’s answer to Silicon Valley and a number of companies are choosing to relocate to the town. Matthew Young reports
25 Work.Life’s office space (above) – one of the new tenants at The White Building in Reading (below).
eading town centre is fast becoming a hub for corporations keen to tap into the economic potential of the area. One of the most recent developments has seen Reading’s The White Building bring coworking to the town, with freelancers, big businesses and those who usually work from home able to access state-ofthe-art facilities. Work.Life will take up 805.5sq m on the ground floor, and is set to be operational by spring 2017. In December 2016, Herjavec Group and Pharmacosmos became its first two occupiers, both signing 10-year leases. Herjavec Group, which signed for 724.6sq m, is one of North America’s fastest growing technology companies. Taking 511sq m, Pharmacosmos is a privately owned, specialist pharmaceutical business based in Denmark – The White Building will become its UK HQ. Meanwhile, national law firm Gateley secured one of Reading’s best views in 2016, as they moved into the top floor of The Blade, the town’s tallest building, taking up 650sq m of office space in the 14-storey high rise.
READING:UK The magazine for business in Reading
Green Park (top) is attracting multinational corporations such as pharma giant Bayer. The Blade (bottom) is one of Reading’s striking architectural office schemes and is also its tallest building.
Recently appointed real estate partner at the firm, John Downs says the office “provides a fantastic platform for advising both national and international clients.” M&G Real Estate and Bell Hammer’s 17,280sq m letting of offices to Scottish and Southern energy at No. 1 Forbury Place landed them the Editor’s Choice Award for Deal of the Year in CoStar’s West London and Thames Valley Agency Awards 2016. Meanwhile, national law firm Osborne Clarke moved its Thames Valley office from Apex Place to No. 3 Forbury Place in June. Elsewhere, November 2016 saw six more big businesses relocate to join the ever-growing ranks at Green Park. Occupancy at the business park is now at 93%, with the newest tenants taking up 2,092sq m and later this year another large multinational, the pharmaceutical company Bayer, will relocate there from Newbury. November arrivals were law firm Harrison Clarke Rickerbys; supply chain business E2open; 3Shape, which provides 3D scans for dental practices and labs; Gigamon, which offers traffic visibility solutions, and Pierre Fabre, one of the largest pharmaceuticals companies in France. Another recent arrival was CrowdStrike, a California-based cybersecurity firm. Over at Winnersh Triangle, the business park’s manager Patrizia UK secured the letting of 4,088sq m of office space to global medical technology company Becton Dickinson. It will enter three floors of a newly built development in the western end of the park in spring 2017.
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WILDE ONES The doors of the former Reading prison were opened to the public at the end of 2016 to host an exhibition on Oscar Wilde. Featuring world-famous artists, performers and writers it attracted around 50,000 visitors from in and outside Reading. Marco Cillario finds out more
The success of the Oscar Wilde exhibition at Reading Prison in 2016 has shown the potential of the site as a place for cultural events.
READING:UK The magazine for business in Reading
ART IN UNUSUAL PLACES
istory and architecture, culture and poetry, love and pain; the role of artists in society and the condition of prisoners; the freedom to be oneself and the expression of one’s own sexuality. They all came together when the HM Prison Reading building opened to the public for the first time in history with an exhibition dedicated to its most famous inmate: playwright, writer and poet Oscar Wilde. The story behind Inside – Artists and Writers in Reading Prison could be a novel in its own right. The initiative was the brainchild of not-for-profit arts organisation Artangel, whose motto, “extraordinary art, unexpected places”, offers the best description of what happened within the walls of the former prison on Forbury Road from 4 September to 4 December 2016. Performers including iconic singer Patti Smith and awardwinning actor Ralph Fiennes read poetry in the prison’s old chapel, while other well-known and widely admired cultural figures such as Steve McQueen and Ai Weiwei created artwork to be installed in the cells. James Lingwood, who directs Artangel with Michael Morris, explains how the exhibition came about: “Many people know about Reading because of its prison and Oscar Wilde’s experience when he was incarcerated there between 1895 and 1897. “This was our starting point: an extraordinarily significant piece of architecture with a very resonant history – literary, cultural history, touching on issues to do with imprisonment, celebrity and sexuality, which I think still speaks to lots of people today.” It all began in November 2015, when the then chancellor of the exchequer, George Osborne, and secretary of state
Words from Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis, which was penned in Reading Prison, were stencilled on the wall of the building to promote the Inside exhibition.
“[Reading prison is] an extraordinarily significant piece of architecture with a very resonant history”
Top: Oscar Wilde (left) with his lover, Lord Alfred Douglas. Middle and bottom: About 50,000 visits to the exhibition were recorded – equivalent to around 750 a day.
for justice, Michael Gove, announced plans to dispose of some of the Victorian jails around the UK, including Reading prison, to make room for housing. Opened in 1844, the jail in the Berkshire town had been a working prison until 2013, from which point it was left empty for two years, with its future undecided. After the announcement was made in autumn 2015 that the site would be sold for development, the Artangel team had the idea of putting it into use on a temporary basis as an exhibition venue. “We were confident that if we could get the keys to the prison from the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and all of the other permissions in place, it would be an extremely resonant place for some exceptional international artists and writers and attract audiences from both in and around Reading and also from further afield,” says Lingwood. When asked why Reading prison was chosen, Lingwood is clear: it wasn’t Artangel who chose Reading jail, it was the “jail that chose us, because there is only one place in the world which has this history”. “We would probably not be talking about Oscar Wilde today if it wasn’t for Reading prison,” he claims. “Of course he would be a writer of great significance – having written The Happy Prince, The Picture of Dorian Gray, The Importance of Being Earnest – but his place in bigger history, the fact that he is the writer Who speaks so much to present day, to our cultural and social attitudes, is due to his experience in Reading prison.” In 1895, Wilde was sentenced to two years of hard labour in prison for ‘gross indecency with other male persons’. Most of this time was spent in the County Gaol at Reading, later known as HM Prison Reading. The prison, with its three-floor cruciform shape and long strings of cells stretching out from a central atrium, was deemed an advanced piece of Victorian architecture designed for what was considered at the time to be a ‘progressive’ penal regime, known as the separate system. This replaced large dormitories, considered ‘schools of crime’, with small individual cells, where inmates were kept on their own for 23 hours a day. “Most people have never been inside a prison,” continues Lingwood. “And this building, in particular, is not a medieval dungeon but a place where you can see the origin of the modern penal system.” In the months following Osborne and Gove’s statement, the plan was set out to create an exhibition which would
READING:UK The magazine for business in Reading
ART IN UNUSUAL PLACES bring people to explore what it means to be a prison inmate, focusing on the point of view of the work, which offered one of the deepest interpretations of the topic: Wilde’s De Profundis. The title translates as ‘out of the depth’ – a 50,000 word letter to his lover, Lord Alfred Douglas (addressed as “Dear Bosie”), whose relationship with Wilde was the reason why the author had been incarcerated. Along with The Ballad of Reading Gaol, this piece of art is directly inspired by Wilde’s experience in the prison. But, while The Ballad of Reading Goal was written after the author’s release, in France, where he died in 1900, De Profundis was composed within its walls. Lingwood describes the letter, published posthumously in 1905, which explores both the author’s feelings for Douglas and his life in prison: “Up until the early 1890s, Wilde was known for his wit, his brilliance with words. “But with De Profundis, for the first time, he reached deep inside himself and charted a complex emotional journey that Left: Steve McQueen’s installation, The Winter. Below: Marlene Dumas’ portraits of Lord Alfred Douglas and Oscar Wilde.
had happened to him while in Reading prison: accusatory, confessional, self-pitying, reflecting on the role of artist in society but deeply, deeply personal in a way that was very distinctive at that time. “It was only possible for him to write it like that because it wasn’t actually written immediately for the public to read, but rather as a private letter to his lover.” De Profundis became the centre of the exhibition: each Sunday, the letter would be read live by international artists in the former prison chapel, on the first floor, in performances lasting up to five hours. Around it, along the prison corridors and in some of the cells, paintings, sculpture, photographs, videos and writing made for the occasion were on display, along with historical material relating to the 19th century prison system. The plan for the exhibition proved so convincing that Artangel succeeded where many others had failed: persuading the MoJ to open up the jail. The project also secured key financial support from individual donors. The rest proved easier. Artangel could count on a “very well disposed” Reading Council, which swiftly granted planning permission for the scheme in July, as well as the partners running Reading’s Year of Culture, led by Reading UK CIC (see pages 19-23). At the same time, the arts organisation presented the project to a number of artists of international prominence from all over the world, inviting them to take part. The reaction was impressive. “We only started talking with artists in March 2016, so it was an insanely brief period of time before the exhibition started. But they responded in double quick time,” Lingwood recalls. The reason is simple: “Oscar Wilde and his experience in Reading prison exerted a powerful magnetic pull. Great
artists get offered a lot of opportunities of a very similar kind – it’s like: can you come to this festival in this city, can you do an exhibition in this museum? They don’t need more invitations of that kind. “But Wilde has been so important to so many artists, writers, musicians and filmmakers that they knew this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.” The list of world-famous artists who got on board is long. Filmmaker Steve McQueen, whose 2013 film 12 Years A Slave won best picture at the Oscars, made a sculpture inspired by the claustrophobic experience of being an inmate: the bed of one of the cells was made up and shrouded in a gold-plated mosquito net. German photographer and visual artist Wolfgang Tillmans made two self-portraits showing his distorted image reflected in a mirror in one of the cells, along with one in which he is absent and the mirror only reflects the wall. He also filmed through a window grill in the prison, looking to the town outside to show a severely restricted view of the world. Chinese artist and dissident Ai Weiwei was one of nine artists who, inspired by Wilde’s work, composed letters to (real or imagined) loved ones from whom they had been separated by state enforcement. The Beijing-born author drew from his own experience: in 2011, he was interned without trial for 81 days by the Chinese authorities. Along with him, ‘letters of separation’ were written by Irish writer Danny Morrison; Kenyan author Binyavanga Wainaina; South African novelists Gillian Slovo and Deborah Levy; Canadian poet Anne Carson; British Bangladeshi writer Tahmima Anam; Welsh novelist Joe Dunthorne; and British writer Jeanette Winterson. Iconic American singer-songwriter Patti Smith and Baftawinning British actor Ralph Fiennes were among the nine performers who took centre stage in the chapel to read De Profundis, along with actors Ben Whishaw and Maxine Peake; theatre directors, authors and performers Neil Bartlett and Kathryn Hunter; writer Colm Toibin; performance poet Lemn Sissay; and painter, filmmaker and performance artist Ragnar Kjartansson. Many other prominent artists visited Reading to take part in the initiative: from South African visual artist Marlene Dumas to American sculptor Robert Gober. The National Trust also backed the initiative, organising tours of the prison. Officially announced at the end of July 2016, Inside opened in September. Initially scheduled to run until the end of October, it was extended to the beginning of December due to demand. The exhibition was an overwhelming success. About 50,000 visits were recorded, equivalent to around 750 a day. One visitor in four came from outside Reading, including tourists from abroad. The event received extensive news coverage, both nationally – the BBC, The Sunday Times, The Financial Times, The Guardian, The Observer and The Evening Standard all
Above: A rare glimpse inside a recently decommissioned UK prison. Right: Actor Ralph Fiennes (top) and singer Patti Smith (bottom) read De Profundis.
“With De Profundis, [Wilde] reached deep inside himself and charted a complex emotional journey” READING:UK The magazine for business in Reading
ART IN UNUSUAL PLACES
34 dedicated long articles to it – and internationally it appeared in The New York Times in the U.S., Le Figaro in France, La Repubblica in Italy, and Allgemeine Zeitung in Germany. Readings of De Profundis, all sold out, were broadcast on BBC Radio 4. National Trust tours were all fully booked. As well as being included in Reading’s Year of Culture in 2016, Inside was part of the University of Reading’s ‘Reading International’ festival, which was supported by National Lottery funding. After such widespread success, the question has arisen on what to do with the site next. Visitors showed significant interest in this debate, with some asking to “preserve the building as a permanent museum” and others proposing to “knock down the wall and develop the surrounding area”, Lingwood recalls. The MoJ announced at the beginning of December that the site would be sold for housing, with a planning brief to be submitted to Reading Council by the end of 2017. The ministry added that it would work with the council and Historic England to make sure that the prison building maintains its “historic integrity”. After the announcement, a petition was launched to keep the prison open as a cultural community centre. It had been signed by almost 600 people when Reading:UK went to press. A campaign to preserve the site is also being mounted.
The popularity of the exhibition has started discussions about potential future uses for the prison site. The debate has been opened up to the public, with various options proposed.
Councillor Tony Page, deputy leader of Reading Council and lead member for strategic environment, planning and transport, had already made clear during the summer that the council is “fully committed” to securing “the very best future for this internationally important historic and culturally valuable site”, and that it will work with the MoJ to find “a development partner who can truly make our shared vision a reality”. The exhibition itself could play an important role in this discussion, having shown the cultural potential of the site. Lingwood hopes Inside’s success will be “a building block on which the town can grow a longer term approach”. He explains: “Reading prison is architecturally significant, culturally resonant – connected to one of the most fascinating literary figures of the last 150 years – and extremely well located. It is no more than 10 minutes walk from the station, five minutes from the town hall, it works well both nationally and internationally. “It will need imagination, it will need investment and it will need courage from the council and from big stakeholders in and around Reading to make something happen. “But I can assure you that towns and cities around the world would die for this kind of space. Reading doesn’t have to invent it, it’s there: the question is how people can best use it.”
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Reading was once home to one of the UK’s most celebrated architects, as Matthew Young reports
lfred Waterhouse’s influence on Reading may sometimes be overlooked. But there is no doubting the Victorian architect significantly helped to shape the town we see today. Born in 1830 in Liverpool, Waterhouse is best known as the architect behind London’s Natural History Museum, and is also famed for designing Manchester Town Hall and Strangeways Prison in the city where he once studied. He moved to Reading in the late 1860s and got to work on a number of important buildings that remain significant more than 150 years later.
Waterhouse designed his own residences: Foxhill House in 1868 and Yattendon Court in 1877, along with Reading Town Hall, which architectural experts consider the most memorable of his creations there. Foxhill is a striking, Gothic revival-style building on what is now the Whiteknights campus of the University of Reading, and was the first of many major works the architect designed in the town. Built in Whiteknights Park, it became his family’s main home outside of London, allowing Waterhouse to be closer to his family in Berkshire. He went on to live there for a decade.
“The Victorian architect significantly helped to shape the town we see today”
Waterhouse finished work on Reading Town Hall (main image and right) in 1875. He is also famed for designing the Natural History Museum in London (above).
Foxhill was designed so all of the main downstairs rooms opened onto a terrace, from where Waterhouse and his family would often spend time enjoying the view of Whiteknights Lake. It was, at the time, also graced by a beautiful rose garden, considered to be among the best in the south of England. To this day, Foxhill House is known as one of the most distinctive and unique buildings – not only on the university campus, but in Reading itself. Over the years, it has also been lived in by the viceroy of India, the chairman of the General Electric Company and, later, students from the university. It is now home to the university’s School of Law. Other buildings designed by Waterhouse and still in use are Old Whiteknights House, originally built for his father, and East Thorpe House, constructed for Alfred Palmer,
READING:UK The magazine for business in Reading
whose family owned the Huntley and Palmers biscuitmaking business in Reading. Palmer later gave the house to the university, which would become the first women-only hall of residence in the town. Waterhouse, described by his biographer Colin Cunningham as “the most widely employed British architect” for 20 years up to 1885, also designed the main building at Reading School. The boys’ boarding school has a rich history and can trace its roots back to the 12th Century when it was part of Reading Abbey. The dissolution of the abbey in 1539 came about as a result of the Great Plague, when parliament took over the building, with the English Civil War playing a part too, when it was used as a garrison by royalist forces. These factors led to its eventual brief closure in the 19th Century. In 1867 it was announced the school would reopen, and that the new buildings would be designed by Waterhouse. In 1870, the Prince of Wales laid the foundation stone of the building, which eventually opened in 1871. Waterhouse was also involved in the current incarnation of Reading Town Hall. Reading has had several town halls in its history: Yield Hall by the River Kennet, Greyfriars Church and then Reading Abbey’s hospitium. This was eventually dismantled, and replaced, in several phases in the 1780s, by the buildings that today make up the town hall. Waterhouse was hired to design a new front and extension for Reading Town Hall, which involved the partial demolition of the 1780s building. It took inspiration from the town’s famous terracotta brickworks with red and grey stones, and included a new council chamber and a clock tower. It meant the new town hall was able to look distinctive without being out of place in Reading. Waterhouse was an architect with a wide range of expertise. In 1877 he built a temperance house (a bar which does not serve alcohol) in the Silver Street area of the town, which was, in those days, one of Reading’s most notorious spots for crime and poverty. The bar was designed by the architect in response to
Waterhouse designed his own residences in Reading including Foxhill House (above left), as well as the re-opened Reading School in 1871 (above).
“Waterhouse was hired to design a new front and extension for Reading Town Hall” the troubled make-up of the region, and now stands as the Grade II-listed Rising Sun Arts Centre. By 1880, Alfred Waterhouse had moved away from Reading but was still designing local buildings. Most notably, in 1880, he was commissioned to design Alfred Palmer’s home, which was completed between 1880 and 1882. Born to wealthy mill-owning Quaker parents, Waterhouse clearly had friends in high places, with Palmer also being the high sheriff of Berkshire and a significant benefactor of Reading University. East Thorpe House eventually became the site of the university’s Museum of English Rural Life. John Painter, secretary of The Friends of Reading Abbey, says of Waterhouse’s influence in the town: “His impact on local architecture was very significant. It is quite clear that he built the town hall for people who know quite a lot about architecture. “His influence in Reading is wide. It was a brick-making place, and he contributed to the brick architectural structure of the town.” Waterhouse’s influence on Reading will no doubt keep inspiring people for generations to come.
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READING BY NUMBERS INSIDE SECOND HIGHEST CONCENTRATION OF SMES (AFTER LONDON) (SOURCE: CENTRE FOR CITIES – CITY MONITOR)
AN EXHIBITION ORGANISED BY ARTANGEL IN READING: •R AISED £260,000 THROUGH TICKET SALES
150 languages are spoken across the borough
26 MILLION PASSENGERS USE READING STATION YEARLY
• ATTRACTED AROUND 50,000 VISITORS
WELL CONNECTED = TRAINS TO LONDON TAKE 24 MINUTES BY DIRECT RAIL, WITH MORE THAN 200 TRAINS DAILY
CROSSRAIL IS COMING – READING WILL BE THE MOST WESTERLY STATION ON THE ELIZABETH LINE – LINKING READING WITH CENTRAL LONDON, THE CITY AND DOCKLANDS
Year of Culture 2016: - Theatre ticket sales rose 20% - Arts Council funding increased by 130%
Forecast to be the fastest growing UK city up until 2019 (Source: EY’s UK Region and City Forecast)
Best for A-levels ranked highest in average point score (Source:Department for Education)
£5.7 million upgrade to The Riverside at The Oracle
UK’s best place to live and work (Source: PwCDemos Good Growth for Cities 2016 Index)
Awarded Purple Flag status in 2017
A NEW £30 MILLION CANCER CENTRE WILL BE AMONG THE UK’S FIRST TO OFFER PROTON BEAM THERAPY
20% of University of Reading graduates remain in the area after graduation (Source: Reading UK CIC)
READING:UK The magazine for business in Reading
Royal Elm Park could start construction this year, with completion of the residential element, made up of around 630 homes, scheduled for 2021.
Royal Elm Park A planning application has been submitted for Royal Elm Park – a huge swathe of underdeveloped land around Reading FC’s Madejski Stadium – with a decision expected in March. A team of consultants led by the club’s chief executive Nigel Howe, are leading on the 15.5-ha scheme. These include Barton Willmore, Peter Brett Associates and NRY Architects. If approved, the development will feature a convention centre for business and cultural events, which is designed to accommodate more than 5,000 delegates. As well as flexible space for meetings conferences and exhibitions, the centre will also feature an ice rink. The application also proposes building around 630 homes on the site, many of which overlook a 10,000sq m park. The properties
will be made up of studios, one and two-bedroom apartments, as well as three-bedroom family homes and four-bedroom townhouses. A public square of over 8,000sq m will be used for street-food markets, open-air exhibitions and outdoor cinema screenings. The development also features a 250-room hotel and 102 serviced apartments, as well as a spa and a winter garden. The Millennium Madejski Hotel and existing Royal Berkshire Conference Centre will be linked to the new convention centre by a newly developed walkway. Also detailed in the application are plans to subsidise local public transport to the Madejski Stadium on Reading FC match days. Subject to planning approval, development could start on-site in
2017, with the aim of completing the hotel and convention centre in two years time. The residential elements of the scheme will be phased over five years, with completion expected by 2021. Nigel Howe, chief executive of Reading FC, commented that: “The project has been conceived as a major catalyst for Reading’s future economic growth, equipping the town to compete in the global convention and conference markets, and reinforcing its position as one of Europe’s most dynamic areas for inward investment and job creation. “It will also provide a significant financial benefit to the football club itself, improving the range and quality of facilities available at the Madejski Stadium and boosting the club’s finances as it fights for promotion to the Premier League.”
Thames Valley Science Park The Thames Valley Science Park in Reading will eventually deliver around 74,320sq m of flexible laboratory and office space in a campus style setting. Around 20 technology companies are due to move into the site – and four have now been announced as the first occupiers at the park, which is expected to open in August, initially offering more than 6,500sq m of space. Tentants signed up include: BioInteractions and Dextra Laboratories, which offer solutions for the pharmaceutical industry; Clasado BioSciences, a healthy eating biotechnology company and Fairsail, provider of cloud-based human resource management software, which was ranked by The Business Magazine as the Thames Valley’s fastest growing SME. It is currently based at Reading Enterprise Centre on the university’s Whiteknights campus. The final piece of concrete was laid in January for Gateway, the science park’s first building, which was marked by a topping out ceremony in January 2017. The initial investment for this was £35 million, with £30 million from the university and £5 million from the European Union’s Regional Development Fund. Elsewhere at the site, Proton Partners International will begin building a cancer treatment centre early in 2017, offering proton beam therapy, a specialised type of cancer treatment that is not yet available in the UK. The university is now making plans for the remaining 55,742sq m of the site and has just submitted a masterplan application to Wokingham District Council for outline planning permission. The university has also agreed to commission the design of a further building on the site, which is expected to be completed in late 2018. Dr David Gillham, director of the science park, said: “It is great to see such fantastic progress being made on the first phase of the Thames Valley Science Park. We look forward to welcoming our first tenants later this year as our community of innovative, technologybased companies begins to come together.” Once complete, the park could provide up to 5,000 new jobs.
The £75 million Reading Gateway regeneration, on the A33, close to junction 11 of the M4, took off at the beginning of 2017. The scheme includes 175 new homes, a hotel, 12 retail units, two car showrooms, a pub and a bank. Vacant since 2010, the 8.20-ha site had previously hosted office and research buildings. Plans, lodged by Kier Property in November 2015, were given the green light in spring 2016. The developer announced in October 2016 that it had signed a lease with Premier Inn for a 120-bed hotel to be built, and that over 75% of the mixed-use scheme was “under offer to national occupiers”. Phillippa Prongué, managing director (south) for Kier Property, said the hotel letting represented “a key milestone in the development of this scheme” and “will also create a significant number of much-needed new jobs in this part of Reading”. Stuart Rose, acquisitions manager at Whitbread stated: “Reading is a key town for Premier Inn to strengthen its presence in, and this site...fitted the requirement perfectly.” The hotel is expected to complete in winter 2017.
The Thames Valley Science Park (far left) will house 20 technology companies, and will soon have one of the first cancer centres in the UK to offer proton beam therapy.
READING:UK The magazine for business in Reading
The White Building (above) is located close to both the station and The Oracle shopping centre. Station Hill (right) will include 471 homes, as well as office and retail.
The White Building Boultbee Brook Real Estate’s White Building on Kings Road is undergoing a comprehensive redevelopment. When work is completed – a date has yet to be disclosed – the building will provide 8,653sq m of office space over seven floors six minutes from Reading station. It will include a 206sq m reception and a 292sq m roof terrace, 105 on-
site car parking spaces and 39 cycle storage spaces. Eco-credentials are being considered, with the building’s sustainability targeted for EPC rating B and a BREEAM excellent rating. CBRE Global Investors is development partner for the project, while SPPARC Architecture designed the plans.
Station Hill Work continues on the largest mixeduse scheme in the Thames Valley. Station Hill will include 86,399sq m of office space in four buildings, 8,360sq m of retail, and 471 homes. Developer Stanhope obtained outline planning permission for the two-hectare site next to Reading station in December 2013. Work is being carried out in partnership with Benson Elliot and initially involved the demolition of the Western Tower. Phase one of the development is now under way, and includes the demolition of the existing office buildings and shopping centre. In February 2016 the developer
received authorisation to include its recently purchased Telecom House office building on Friar Street into the scheme, adding 12,000sq m of residential development, making room for up to 281 flats and increasing the scheme’s expected number of homes to 471. A temporary space for community and cultural events opened at the site in June 2016. It is open to the public 24 hours a day, seven days a week and used as a venue for live music performances, film screenings and stand-up comedy acts. It also features a temporary cafe, called The Biscuit Tin, which could be in place for up to 10 years.
The full-scale redevelopment of SEGRO’s Imperial Way in Reading has been completed, with the opening of a 4,831sq m Audi dealership for The Sytner Group. The estate scheme is on a 2.83-ha site in the Thames Valley, less than a mile from junction 11 of the M4. It is now fully let, with the Sytner Group joining DPD, the parcel delivery centre, which has been operating on a 3,521sq m plot since 2014. The Sytner Group’s expansion in the Thames Valley is in large part due to its position as the UK’s largest motor dealer by revenue. Every year, it retails more than 135,000 cars and employs more than 8,000 people across the UK. Relocating from its existing Audi dealership in Reading, the group retained 75 jobs in the town with plans to expand to more than 125 employees by 2020. Gareth Osborn, business unit director for the Thames Valley and National Logistics at SEGRO, said: “Our team has worked closely with the Sytner Group during the design and build phase. “With the Sytner Group joining DPD, Imperial Way is now fully let and today marks the successful completion of SEGRO’s full-scale redevelopment of the estate. “In the past five years, SEGRO has developed 1.5 million sq ft in the Thames Valley, and we are delighted to have helped grow Sytner’s presence in Reading.”
READING:UK The magazine for business in Reading
Town centre schemes include the second phase of Chatham Square, the completed Blade and the conversion of Kennet House into 103 apartments.
Thames Tower, opposite the station will feature restaurants, cafes and coworking spaces on the ground floor, as well as a sky garden.
Thames Tower A 15-storey office development in Reading town centre, Thames Tower will be completed by March 2017. Developed by Landid and Brockton Capital, it will feature 16,722sq m of space, consisting of co-working areas, allowing for occupiers to collaborate on projects. Located on Reading’s central pedestrian piazza, opposite the station, it will include a 124sq m sky garden designed by MOHO London – which also worked on Landid’s One Valpy office scheme in Reading – and offers views of the town and the Thames Valley beyond for all tenants. The scheme will also include 743sq m of restaurants, cafes and amenity space, as well as a double height reception area. A yet-to-beannounced food and drink occupier is
set to move in after work finishes. The project was granted planning permission in July 2015 and work started shortly afterwards. It involved the regeneration of an 11-storey block, originally built between 1972 and 1974. This was stripped back to the frame, the floorplates extended and four floors added. Thames Tower was decorated with multi-coloured lights in December to launch the Light Up Reading campaign. The trail of 11 illuminations was a project aimed at “shining a light on the town” as part of Reading’s Year of Culture. Landid and Brockton Capital are also undertaking plaza works between the building and Reading station, installing a public amphitheatre in the space after completion.
cultural place, business space, living base The right choice for life and business • two weekly street food markets • sited on the rivers Thames and Kennet and home to GB Rowing • two professional theatre companies • the burial place of King Henry I • world top 1% university • best place to live and work in the UK (Good Growth for Cities 2016 Index) • two of the UK’s top ten schools (by GCSE results)
• museums, archives and artefacts in the top 2% in the UK • 800 listed buildings, 15 conservation areas, two scheduled ancient monuments and five historic parks and gardens
Interested in relocating to Reading? Contact: Sue Brackley, Reading UK CIC 0118 937 4340 firstname.lastname@example.org
• UK top 20 retail destination • festival(s) republic • 200 trains an hour to and from London
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