Six events to see at Reading-on-Thames Festival

Claire Slobodian

The Reading-on-Thames Festival returns for its second year of interactive arts and culture events celebrating Reading’s river heritage. This year has less of a real river connection as the early theme of last year seems to have been a bit lost to a broader ‘culture’ sphere. But there is more focus on other parts of Reading instead now, bringing the arts to some of our great spaces, such as The MERL, The Concert Hall and bringing new performances to town. There is also a bigger programme of over 18 cultural events taking place across town from Thursday 6 – Sunday 16 September.

Events include guided night walks, film screenings in unusual locations, storytelling and open air theatre. Find out more about which events to see, what to attend and how to book tickets in our highlights below.

Highlights at Reading-on-Thames Festival



In Place of War work to bring community and cultural events to places of conflict and inequality. With Grrrl they bring together revolutionary women artists from around the world to tell stories of life, conflict, inequality and change through music. Mercury Prize winner Speech Debelle, Brazilian Dancehall queen Lei DI Dai, Zimbabwe Rapper Awa Khiwe and more fuse together techno, ghetto bass, hip hop, dancehall, reggae, soul and electronica in this celebration of women from across the globe. Not something you see in the genteel Concert Hall every day.

Thursday 6 September, 7.30pm, The Concert Hall | £15/adult £8/concessions, Book tickets.

Reading Film Trail

Riverside museum

The London Short Film Festival has curated a special tour of shorts responding to Reading’s waterways, heritage and communities. Films will be projected at great venues across town, including the Turbine House at Blake’s Lock, South Street Arts Centre, The MERL, St Laurence and 2 Forbury Place (that’s the middle big office building opposite the Forbury). Each venue will show a different film, on loop for the duration of the festival. Each one is under 60 minutes long. I’ll be heading to ‘English Pastoral’ at the MERL, three short films that look at our rural landscapes across the 20th century.

On Saturday 8 September, there will a guided tour around all the film locations, with London Short Film Festival’s Artistic Director Philip Ilson who will give notes on each film in the trail.

Thursday 6 September – Sunday 16 September, free, see the full film programme.

The Reading Midnight Run

Ok, first up, it’s not a run, and it’s not at midnight. But it is in Reading. In fact this is the event that will probably make you see the Reading you know in a different way. It’s a six hour walk. Yes I know, wear comfy shoes, but there will also be stops for food and drink along the way. The walk will take you from west Reading, through some hidden gems in the town centre and up to east Reading, showing you some of the lesser-known nooks and crannies of the town before ending in a hidden location at midnight. Along the way you’ll encounter art displays, performances and talks to make you see Reading in a new light.

Saturday 15 September, 6pm – midnight, starting point will be emailed to you, £20 with food, £10 without food, book tickets

Up, Down and Along by Laura Mugridge

Laura Mugridge

Award-winning theatre-maker, comedian and storyteller Laura Mugridge has spent the past few days walking along the Thames with five Reading residents to hear their stories. For this series of public riverside walks, she weaves all their stories into a performance, featuring music, comedy and a silent disco in a field. Each of the Reading residents will remain anonymous, so you never know whose stories they are, but none are famous or renowned, they’re all women, and they’ve all made Reading better in their own quiet way. A brilliant way to appreciate the stories of others and the stories of our town.

Saturday 15 – Sunday 16 September, 11 AM, 2 PM  & 6 PM, starting from the Thames Lido, £7, book tickets.

The Dedication of Reading Abbey


Last year, Reading Between the Lines stormed Reading with an open air production of A Royal Burial (pictured) – literally, the heavens opened. This year the innovative local theatre company go al fresco again with a preview for their winter show Henry II along the Oracle Riverside. That’s free and tickets are flying out the digital door, so book now.

Sunday 16 September, 1.30pm and 4.30pm, The Oracle Riverside, free, book tickets

From Town to Boundary

Christchurch Bridge along the Thames Reading
Christchurch Bridge along the Thames Reading

Our local independent publishers Two Rivers Press partner with Reading Tree Wardens to take you on a circular riverside walk from the Christchurch Bridge to the Horseshoe Bridge.  It takes in Reading’s history, arts, industries, trees and nature along the way.

Saturday 15 September, 10.30am or 2pm, meet at Caversham pedestrian bridge, free, email [email protected] to book.

Want more events?

See the full programme of events at the Reading-on-Thames Festival website.


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