So the Bank Holiday was a lot more about sitting in the sunshine than being a culture vulture. However, I did go to the Beer Festival which had live music from local bands all night and beer…obviously. The music has a bit of a blue grass feel and some of the acts from ‘Are You Listening?’ Festival popped up again. I decided to be patriotic and drank Welsh, which was also a chance to revive my Welsh GCSE. Brewers seem keen to fox the English with Welsh names i.e. I vaguely recall seeing an ‘Ysbyty Seidr’ (Hospital Cider) there before. ‘Cwtch’ means cuddle so you had to ask the bartender for a hug in order to get a pint of that. My favourite name was the cider ‘Gwynt y Ddraig’ which I believe means something like ‘Breath of the Dragon’. I don’t know whether it’s everybody’s idea of cultural activity but it is a pretty big date in the Reading calendar and CAMRA have an interesting place in sustaining our brewing heritage. I remember one museum curator told me that they got CAMRA members to help out with a display on the local pub in village life which is a really nifty way or interacting with different kinds of organisations.
Aunt Elsie’s Spring Fling stall holders
I was a little more refined at Aunt Elsie’s Spring Fling which was held in Market Square in Reading. Tea and bunting, vintage clothes and furniture, local arts and crafts – yay! It’s a really great show case for local makers. When I wanted to try on a vintage dress from Alexandra Vintage I ended up strolling into the HQ of the organisers 42 Market Place where there are open days and workshops.
One of the affiliated organisations Jelly has been around for ages (I still call it by its original name ‘Jelly Legg’d Chicken’) finding space for art and artists around Reading. It has parallels in the wider ‘slack space’ movement. This is an interesting phenomenon where artists and makers set up shop in disused retail spaces, and it seems to flourish in times of recession. It certainly brightens up the town centre to see art instead of ‘for rent’ signs and piles of bills through the windows of disused outlets. I’ve come across another nice example Slack Space Colchester.
I have made it a mini-mission to uncover some more detailed research on ‘slack spaces’ and these kinds of community art projects, specifically how museums may support them. When I hunt down some more information expect another post.
Lisa Dwan looking at script for ‘Not I’ (UniRdg Communications)
I’ve had quite a ‘cultural week’ which gave me the idea for a series of blog posts. Being so close to Oxford and London, Reading can sometimes feel a bit like a cultural ‘Narnia’. However, this week reminded me that there are lots of committed and talented people doing things in the local area. These blog posts will highlight some of the stuff that’s available to the culture vulture. NB there will be no attempt to be comprehensive – just things I hear about/go to. That being said, if you tell me about things then I am more likely to attend and talk about it. Also these are not intended to be artsy critiques, just some info and musings.
Lisa Dwan performed Samuel Beckett’s rarely staged ‘Not I’ in the Minghella Building at the University of Reading last Friday. We got a chance to see the original manuscript and I would recommend following Lisa on Twitter, she’s got some interesting behind the scenes photos. The play was just under 10 minutes long but it was really hard to get a sense of time or space in the darkness as ‘Mouth’ talked incessantly from 8 feet above the stage. I came out feeling shellshocked but in awe of Lisa Dwan’s performance. It’s something I would never have thought of going to see before I came to Reading, which is why it’s so great to have the Beckett Collection on campus.
The other event was the ‘Are You Listening?’ Festival. For £10 (which went to Mencap) you could listen to local bands at a range of venues around the town. Of what I saw I can recommend The 3.1419 Wonders, Quiet Quiet Band, and Tail Feather. Damien a Passmore and the Loveable Fraudsters’ ‘garage-country’ or ‘CowPunk’ take on Warren G’s Regulate was brilliant. I also listened to and liked, but did not see, Sophie Henderson through the floorboards of the excellent cafe Milk while munching on my chocolate and banana cake downstairs. The festival was a bit ‘men with guitars’ heavy so it was nice to have a talented female singer songwriter on the programme.
Image of Reading Gaol’s Aliens and Irish ledger (Berkshire Record Office)
And finally last night I went to something organised by the University of Reading Department of English Literature and the Berkshire Record Office last night. Oscar Wilde made Reading Gaol famous but this exhibition and event looked at the internment of Irish detainees following the 1916 Uprising. The ‘Enemies of the State’ Project is an interesting example of how research, collections and public engagement can come together. There was also nice veggie food and a live Irish band which is always a good thing.
This weekend there’s the Reading Beer Festival. Which is CAMRA so I’m counting it as ‘cultural’. I am also going to try to make it to Aunt Elsie’s Spring Fling which is a kind of pop-up art/vintage market – usually with tea and cake. And in case you start to suspect that I am in any way highbrow I should mention that tonight at the cinema it’s ‘Iron Man 3’