Arts Council Award brings together Reading Museums and work experience opps for local residents

Arts Council Award brings together Reading Museums and work experience opps for local residents

27 March 2013 Stall in Union Street, Reading (Dann-Lewis collection, MERL)

The Museum of English Rural Life (MERL) will be awarded £275,000 and will work with Reading Museum on a new programme for 2014/15, including a series of Reading in Conflict events commemorating the First World War Centenary in 2014.

MERL, which is owned and managed by the University of Reading, has received the award as part of a funding package worth more than £375,000 made to museums in the region by Arts Council England’s Renaissance Strategic Support Fund.

The Renaissance funding will enable both museums to share skills and collections to create a programme which reaches out to and engages with local communities.

The project will also benefit the local community by addressing issues of employability, through incorporating a programme of ‘fair access’ internship and work experience. It will also provide opportunities for those normally excluded from volunteering, due to financial reasons, to acquire skills and experience enhancing their ability to secure employment or gain access to further training or education.

Reading Museum’s strengths in community engagement will complement the University Museum’s expertise in digital resources and curation in order that both museums can make more of their collections accessible online.

Both Museums hold high quality local history collections relating to Reading’s rich photographic heritage, including the Dann Lewis and Collier collections and the Reading Chronicle collections, which will be part of a major shared exhibition at RM on Reading and photography.

Other collections to be featured will be the strong war-time related collections, such as the Evacuee archive held at MERL, which will form the basis for Reading’s programme of events for ‘Reading in conflict’ and rural wartime, planned around the First World War centenary in 2014.

Kate Arnold-Forster, Director of MERL, said: “Reading Museum and the Museum of English Rural Life are two of the region’s most significant museums. We are delighted to be able to combine forces on this exciting project that will share our excellence in collections and audience engagement that will contribute to many key developments, including our joint plans for 2014 WW1 commemorations.”

Cllr Marian Livingston, Lead Councillor for Culture and Sport at Reading Borough Council, said: “The announcement of this ACE project funding for the Museum of English Rural Life and Reading Museum is fantastic news for Reading. It continues a history of successful collaboration between the University of Reading and Reading Borough Council to make our town’s collections accessible to people both locally and nationally.”


Listen and learn from one of Britain’s finest voices at Uni Museum

SlimPanatellaOn Sunday 10 March renowned singer/songwriter Hilary James will take a Museum of English Rural Life audience through a witty romp of ancient and modern English comic song.

Described by BBC Radio 4 having as ‘One of Britain’s finest voices’, Hilary is also offering fans an unmissable opportunity chance to take part in a pre-concert singing workshop. Hilary will introduce singers to some beautiful folk songs as well as offer advice on style and technique.

The museum, which is owned and managed by the University of Reading, has been hosting Reading-based singer and musician Hilary James’ ‘Songs, stories & traditions’ folk series for several years, during which time fans have enjoyed guest appearances from celebrated performers across the folk scene. For this year’s first event, Hilary is joined by regular contributor, world-renowned mandolinist, Simon Mayor and multi-instrumentalist and raconteur Richard Collins.

Hilary said:  “This will be a day of sheer fun! Close to Mother’s Day, what better present could there be than to make your mum cry with laughter! If she’s a keen singer, why not treat her to a place on my workshop! We’ll have great fun – as well as plenty of tea & cake! The rest of the family can join us for the evening concert!”

The trio usually perform together as the recently reformed ‘Slim Panatella and the Mellow Virgins’ playing largely American country, old time & blues. However for this one-off concert they will turn their versatility to the story of English comic song, from bawdy ballads to modern ditties, Noel Coward to Jake Thackray and more!

Alison Hilton, Marketing Officer at MERL, said: “We are looking forward to a hugely entertaining day. Local singers should definitely take advantage of this rare opportunity to sing along with and pick up tips from Reading’s internationally recognised singer!”

Hilary James’ singing workshop takes place from 2 to 5pm and costs £35 (£45 including concert) and booking is essential. The concert starts at 6pm, (with real ale bar from 5.30pm) Tickets are £15 (£12 concessions) Booking is advisable but some tickets will be available on the door.  Further information and tickets are available from the Museum by calling 0118 378 8660 or by visiting the MERL website at