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9–17 September 2017

A new festival for Reading putting the town’s waterways back at the heart of Reading with a programme of river-inspired arts and cultural events. Heritage | Theatre | Talks | Walks | Family activities River spectaculars | Music | Leisure | Art | LEGO®

A new arts and cultural festival for Reading The first ever Reading-on-Thames Festival will take place in, on and around Reading’s wonderful waterways between 9 and 17 September. The diverse programme ranges from theatre to swimming, opera to LEGO® building and coincides with Heritage Open Days.

Reading has been a waterfront town for well over a thousand years and we are really excited by the prospect of Reading’s rivers providing both the backdrop and inspiration for the new arts and cultural festival. We hope you enjoy the exciting programme, which brings new national arts organisations to Reading for the first time as well as providing a platform for local arts and community organisations to showcase their talent.

Reading-on-Thames Festival is sponsored by R+, Reading’s newest office building, with support from Arts Council England. R+ is delighted to be supporting the Reading-on-Thames Festival, putting arts and culture at the heart of Reading. R+ is a striking, copper-clad, office building, positioned diagonally opposite the train station. It was designed with lifestyle, well-being and sustainability at the forefront. In the reception, Kate Maestri’s three-dimensional artwork celebrates Reading’s geographical location.

River Stories by Walk the Plank Award-winning outdoor arts company Walk the Plank will be creating a special theatrical event, taking as its inspiration the rich tapestry of stories of the River Thames and its cultural and historical significance for Reading. Working with artists and the people of Reading, this multi-sensory spectacle will delight people of all ages with lights, music, fire and pyrotechnics. See and experience the river in a way you hadn’t imagined before. Shuttle bus from Reading Station (north side) to River Stories (see website for details). Caversham Court Gardens Saturday 16 September 7.45pm, doors at 6pm Adult £8 / child £5 / family ticket £15 Tickets from or 0118 960 6060

Reading’s Royal Burial, Henry I of England

Henry I of England’s body was shipped from France to England in 1136 to be buried in one of Europe’s most magnificent buildings: Reading Abbey. Reading’s nationally acclaimed theatre company, Reading Between The Lines (RBL), tell the extraordinary story of Henry’s last journey, as his body travelled the River Kennet to the magnificent Abbey he founded.

The Oracle Riverside Friday 15 September, 7.30pm FREE ticketed event. Book at

What’s the Point of Rivers, Anyway?

A series of events curated by Amy Sharrocks in collaboration with Barton Willmore, University of Reading, Museum of English Rural Life and Two Rivers Press looking at how we use our river and tracing how water has shaped our thinking over centuries. All talks and events are FREE and will take place in the marquee at Christchurch Meadows (except #RiverCity) #RiverCity (at Crowne Plaza Reading) Monday 11 September, 7.30 – 9pm Researchers, artists, academics, scientists and town planners debate questions of population, tides and city structures and consider Reading as a river city.

Cry me a River; water as a metaphor Saturday 16 September, 11am – 12.30pm Diverse writers and thinkers come together to explore the language of water from Virgil to Beckett. Murky Depths Saturday 16 September, 1 – 2.30pm Writers and researchers take a look at the darker side of life by the water: crime, death, ritual and fear. What’s the Point of Rivers, Anyway? Sunday 17 September, 11am – 1pm What do we want from our river in Reading and how can we negotiate water and concrete? Swimmers, artists and urban planners navigate a way through modern city life.

SITELINES presents Playground Victories

River Writing

A Light the Fuse & Scribbled Thought production. A huge playground waits to be conquered. Funny and physical, Playground Victories captures the highs and lows of our playground past, present and future. A joyfully comic theatre and circus show for all ages.

Follow the Thames from its meeting with the Kennet at Horseshoe Bridge up to Kings Meadow and reflect on the vivid imagery in Ian House’s poem ‘Masterstroke’ reproduced in individual phrases along the riverside in Sally Castle’s evocative hand-lettering. Search out the whole poem using the postcard guide to help and see the river in a whole new light.

Broad Street (outside M&S) Saturday 9 & Sunday 10 September 12 noon, 2pm & 4pm Running time 30 minutes FREE. No need to book, just turn up

Saturday 9 – Sunday 17 September Self-guided. Pick up a postcard guide for 50p from Reading Museum

Abbey on Wheels

Echoes Around View Island

Find out more about the history of Reading’s Abbey Quarter and the current Abbey conservation project. Come and see what has been found during the conservation project to date. Wear a virtual-reality headset and be transported to the top of the conservation scaffold to get a unique perspective of the ongoing work. Handle real objects from Reading Abbey.

Take a promenade across Caversham Lock and re-discover View Island, surrounding yourself with watery words. With a map and individual audio equipment, take a secret journey immersing yourself in classic and contemporary texts under the bowers of an old yew tree.

Caversham Court Gardens Saturday 16 September, 11am – 3pm FREE. No need to book

Sunday 10 September 10am, 11am, 12pm, 1pm, 2pm & 3pm £4. Book Meet Kings Meadow Carpark, Napier Road, RG1 8DF to collect your audio equipment and map. Book accessible performances at

Liquid History Mouth of the River

All of a Twist

An opera walkabout inspired by objects found in the tidal parts of the Thames. Liquid History use song, physical theatre and carnival to tell the story of the river’s mouth and the objects from its depths. The project has been developed with the help of mudlarks from the Thames Museum and the physical manner in which the Thames churns and turns the objects round and organises them onto the shoreline.

Inspired by Reading’s Victorian pumping station, this exhibition explores the science and technology of twisty turny stuff in, on, above and beside Reading’s rivers. Turbines, watermills, spinning, DNA, willow, spirogyra, thermals, tornadoes and the rivers’ flow itself have all affected Reading, its monks, red kites, rowers, canoeists and us one way or another.

Caversham Court Gardens Saturday 16 September, 1pm & 3pm

The Turbine House, Blake’s Lock, by Bel and the Dragon, off Kenavon Drive Saturday 2 – Friday 15 September 10am – 6pm

Pay what you can


River heritage walks with Two Rivers Press

Join LEGO® brick model-building company, Brick Galleria, to construct a scale model of Reading on Thames out of LEGO® bricks. Whether it is your house, a bridge or a boat on the river, let your imagination flow using the bricks provided and help create the biggest brick model of Reading on Thames.

Reading’s own publisher, Two Rivers Press, originated in a protest to maintain the tranquillity of the riverside where the Thames and Kennet meet. Their books continue to champion Reading’s rebels and traditionalists; the beauty of its rivers and the heritage of its industry; its art, poetry and history. Join their writers for a riverside walk during the festival.

Broad Street Mall Saturday 16 September, 9am – 5.30pm Sunday 17 September, 10am – 4.30pm FREE. More information at

Designed by

The River Thames LEGO® Brick Building event

Meet at Crowne Plaza Hotel by Caversham Bridge Saturday 16 September, 11am Sunday 17 September, 2pm 2 hours long. FREE

Fry’s Island Swim

Many of Reading’s places of historic interest will be opening their doors for England’s biggest heritage festival. A unique opportunity to visit a variety of magnificent heritage venues in Reading, many not usually open to the public. Walks, talks and tours bringing our local history and culture to life!

A 750m swim around Fry’s Island at Caversham Lock, opening up our glorious river Thames for an early evening group swim. Just a generation ago, swimming in the Thames here was commonplace. Join artist Amy Sharrocks and 50 other swimmers for a celebratory swim to bring the festival to a close. We will have safety boats and land support for the swim, but of course everyone swims at their own risk.

© Reading Museum

Heritage Open Days 2017

Thursday 7 – Sunday 10 September FREE. Full details of all venues and events at

Sunday 17 September, 5 – 7pm To take part in the Fry’s Island Swim, register at

Reading On Thames Festival Programme  

Check out all the events that have been planned for the Reading on Thames Festival from the 9th to the 17th of September.

Reading On Thames Festival Programme  

Check out all the events that have been planned for the Reading on Thames Festival from the 9th to the 17th of September.