The best things to do in Reading in May

Reading Carnival

If you thought April had a lot of events, prepare for May. Despite that variable weather out there, you can tell we’re definitely into the summer in Reading because it’s carnival season and there’s suddenly so many things to do this month. Discover the best events, festivals and things to do in Reading in May with our list, including The Reading Carnival, Caversham Art Trail, Reading Children’s Festival, the Purple Turtle Blues Festival and a Eurovision watching party.

Main image: Reading Carnival,

Events in Reading in May 2018

If Beale Street Could Talk

Tuesday 7 May, Reading Film Theatre, £8, buy tickets

Reading Film Theatre is a great place to catch screenings of films you can’t see at our multiplexes. If Beale Street Could Talk was one such film largely ignored by Vue, It’s a beautiful, slow look at love, loyalty and humanity amid racism, imprisonment and oppression. From the writer of Oscar-winning Moonlight, it’s well worth seeing, and hearing, on the big screen for its tender, heart-aching soundtrack and incredible performances from r.

Reading Vintage Kilo Sale

Saturday 11 May, 11am, Matchbox, free entry, read more

A smaller version of the vintage kilo sale comes to Matchbox on Friar Street. You browse your way through retro clothing and pay by the weight of your haul, at £15 per kilo of clothing, whatever it is you pick up.

Caversham Art Trail

Saturday 11 – Sunday 12, Saturday 18 – Sunday 19 May, free, read more

See where local art is created and learn about art techniques as 27 Caversham artists open their homes, gardens and studios to the public for this trail. Work on display includes ceramics, painting, collage, stained glass, découpage, woven textiles, printmaking, jewellery and sculpture. Visitors will be able to watch demonstrations, have a go themselves, or buy art directly from the artists. Proceeds will support Sue Ryder and The Royal Berkshire Hospital Charity. See the trail route with the annotated map.

Reading Children’s Festival

Saturday 11 May, all day, Forbury Gardens, free entry, read more

Forbury Fiesta is a one-day family party of entertainment and fun activities for children, including games, music, dancing and dinosaurs. It’s the launch event for three weeks for special activities for kids across Reading including storytime from local author AF Harrold at Waterstones (25 May), Canoe Club taster sessions (27-29 May), and The Abbey School present a production of The Witches at South Street Arts Centre (14-15 May).

At the Fiesta, there’ll be a barbeque, music and a fun fair. Little ’uns will also be able to join in storytime sessions, art workshops, bike repair workshops, diddi dance classes and a chance to meet and learn about ‘giant pandas’.

Earth Living Festival

Saturday 11 May, 8am – 10pm, Caversham Court Gardens, from £15, book tickets.

This new outdoor festival celebrates wellbeing, art and nature with over 30 classes and workshops taking over the greenery at Caversham Court Gardens. There’ll be active things like Yoga, Bootcamps, Bollywood dancing and Tai Chi, alongside crafting and storytelling workshops, and lots of spiritual sessions such as Qi Gong, Sound Baths, and rewilding (think less Bear Grylls, more conservation projects). There’ll also be a marketplace with 25 stalls of vegan food, baked goods and a smoothie juice bar.


Wednesday 15 May – Saturday 18 May, 7.45pm, Shinfield Players Theatre, £12, book tickets

Shinfield Players Theatre presents Mary Chase’s lively Pulitzer-prize winning comedy. Made famous by the 1950 James Stewart film, the play follows Elwood P Dowd, a good-natured and charming man befriended by a playful spirit in the form of a large white rabbit called Harvey. Screwball comedy mayhem ensues when family try to commit Elwood to a sanatorium and more than one person sees the fun-loving rabbit.

Image courtesy: Ladybird Books Ltd

MERL Lates takeover Reading Museum

Thursday 16 May, 7-10pm, Reading Museum, £4 in advance or £5 on the door, book tickets

As part of the Ladybird books exhibition ‘How It Works’ the MERL bring one of their late night museum nights to at Reading Museum. There’ll be talks and activities inspired by Ladybird Books, live music from local riverbilly band Dolly And The Clothespegs, cocktails and a silent disco.

Does My Bomb Look Big In This?

Thursday 16 May, 8pm, South Street Arts Centre, £14, book tickets

Actress Nyla Levy was disheartened at constantly being cast in roles as a ‘jihadi bride’ or ‘terrorist girlfriend’. As a result she ran research workshops with school children and Muslim community leaders to piece together the complexities of disaffected youth. It all comes together in this fiercely witty show about a young British Muslim girl who joins Isis.

Aldworth Philharmonic Orchestra

Saturday 18 May, 7.30pm, St. Joseph’s College, Upper Redlands Road, £12, book tickets.

After a marvellously joyous performance in Saint Laurence Church as part of last month’s AYL Festival, the APO present an evening of Sibelius, Brahms and Knight.

They’re joined by violinist Elizaveta Tyun for the Brahms Violin Concerto, and APO Young Composer winner Alice Knight. The evening finishes with Sibelius’s Fifth Symphony – described by Classic FM as having “the greatest finale of all time”.

Makan Malaysia Supperclub

Saturday 18 May, 7.30pm, Nibsy’s Cafe, £40 with welcome drink, £35 without alcohol, book tickets.

Makan means ‘to eat’ in Malay and you’re certain to eat a lot at one of these relaxed, fun supperclubs from Malaysian-born duo Susie and Kat. They cook up a feast of (at least) six courses, this time featuring a Peranakan and Nyonya menu – a cuisine which blends native Malaysian cooking with influences from Chinese migrants. I attended one of their supperclubs at Susie’s home a couple of months ago and it was full of delicious, and huge, portions of nasi goreng, roti canai and a super spicy beef rendang. Their events are also BYOB and have a really fun, friendly vibe with fellow guests at mine sharing drinks and stories for hours.

Hen Ogledd

Saturday 18 May, 8pm, South Street Arts Centre, £12, book tickets

DoubleDotDash?! bring another unusual act, with a brilliantly bonkers description to South Street. This time it’s Hen Ogledd, which means Old North in Welsh, who do: “discombobulating pop prayer exploring artificial intelligence, witches, nanotechnology, pre-medieval history, robots, romance, computer games and waterfalls.” Have a listen below and see if pop prayer is your thing. Support comes from local act Cody Noon.

Eurovision screening party

Saturday 18 May, 4-10.30pm, Support U, Castle Street, £5, book tickets

Reading’s LGBT support charity throw a fundraising BBQ for what they refer to as ‘Gay Christmas’. Watch batty European warbling and see how badly the UK does at the fabulously over the top singing contest – I can’t imagine we’ll be getting many friendly block votes this year, can you? There’ll be burgers and sausages and vegan options, trivia, drinks and dressing up. There are only 50 spaces, so booking is needed.

Pint of Science

Monday 20 – Friday 24 May, various venues. See full event list.

Embrace your inner scientist and get involved in this week of science events across Reading for the national Pint of Science week. Pubs and bars partner up with the Science in Reading community to put on a week of talks, comedy and music inspired by the theme of Creative Reactions. A free science and art exhibition will be running from 20-24 May in Broad Street Bar & Kitchen, with a music night on Thursday 23 and a comedy night on the Friday 24. Talks to look out for include The Power of Lasers, Brain Control: Hormones to Computers and Welcome to the World of Tomorrow, where three scientists talk about how their work is looking to the future, in climate change, biodiversity and agriculture.


Tuesday 21 May, 8pm, Reading Film Theatre, £8, book tickets

Roddy Doyle’s film about homelessness in Ireland follows Dubliner Rosie and her family of four over a 36 hour period, as they are forced to live out of their car when their landlord decides to sell their family home.

The May Day Blues, Beer & Bourbon Festival

Friday 24 – Sunday 26 May, The Purple Turtle, free

The Purple Turtle goes blue for one weekend, with the return of their annual three-day free music festival featuring international, national and local acts from across the blues. Friday is headed up by London-based blues troubadours Urban Voodoo Machine, Saturday sees ‘80s Rhythm & Blues band Nine Below Zero, while delta blues act Black Peaches, headed up by long time Hot Chip member Rob Smoughton, take over the Sunday. There’ll also be food, beers and bourbon.

Off the Block

Friday 24 May, South Street Arts Centre, £18, book tickets

Reading Between the Lines theatre celebrate a festival of new play writing with their eighth outing of Off the Block. Four casts are each given brand new and unseen scripts at 9am on the Friday morning. By 7.30pm that evening they each perform to the audience.

Casts will feature RBL company members, as well as new faces from theatre, TV and film for a fast paced, exhilarating night out at the theatre. If you’re interested in entering RBL’s Find a Reading Writer competition, email [email protected]

Stories of Reading tour

Saturday 25 May, 11am, Reading University, £10, book tickets

Learn the hidden stories of our town with this volunteer-led tour of the museum’s varied galleries and their favourite iconic Reading objects.

Springwatch Canoe Tour

Sunday 26 May, Dinton Pastures, £10 per child, £15 per adult, booking essential

Families can explore nature on the water with this guided morning paddle at Dinton Pastures lake. Children (over the age of 4) will be taught to spot signs of spring, ducklings, goslings and more, and there’s coffee and cake after.

Tippa Irie Peace & Love Concert

Thursday 23 May, Purple Turtle, Free, book your place

Brixton Dancehall legend Tippa Irie returns to Reading with a live band for a pre-Carnival warm up show will feature four new tracks from rising reggae star Junior Watson and ‘Donstrumental Dub’ from a DJ and drummer called Horseman.

Mark Watson

Friday 24 May, 8pm, The Concert Hall, £21, book tickets

TV comedy panel regular Mark Watson brings a show all about empathy to the beautiful Reading Concert Hall. Inspired by the alarming state of the world, his show asks: if 99 percent of the world’s population is made up of other people, why can’t we understand them?

Reading Carnival. Image: Trinis in London

Reading Carnival

Monday 27 May, Prospect Park, free entry, read more

Celebrate Reading’s Caribbean community with the most colourful event in town. The carnival of floats and Mas bands will parade through town before ending up at Prospect Park. Everyone is welcome to join the afternoon of fun, food stalls, music and creative workshops in a celebration of our town’s diversity and our Bajan, Jamaican, Trinidadian communities among others.

The Amazons

Monday 27 May, 7pm, University of Reading Student Union, £16.50, book tickets.

The local rockers have been been busy touring the USA, Japan and Korea for the past couple of years. Now they’re coming back with a hometown show at the uni to play material from their new album Future Dust.

Adam Kay

Wednesday 29 May, 7.30pm, The Hexagon, £25, book tickets

The award-winning comedian Adam Kay has been a sell out at Edinburgh Fringe since 2016, His latest tour shares entries from his diaries as a junior doctor in an electrifying evening of stand-up and music. Copies of the accompanying book, ‘This is Going to Hurt’ will be available to purchase and get signed after the performance.

Dick Valentine

Friday 31 May, 8pm, Rising Sun Arts Centre, 8pm, book tickets

The energetic Electric Six frontman is practically a Rising Sun regular nowadays. He returns to Reading for a Club Velocity night with material from his new solo album Robocalls as well as stripped down versions of Electric Six songs. Go along and bounce around in the front room of the Rising Sun. Support comes from locals Here Are The Young Men & Uncle Peanut and Damien A Passmore.

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If you’re putting on an event in June, let Explore Reading know with our event submission form.

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