My perfect Reading weekend: Suzanne Stallard from Jelly

Claire Slobodian
Suzanne Stallard

Suzanne Stallard is a Reading-born visual artist and the founder and director of Jelly, a charity who have been championing the creative arts community in Reading since 1993. They run regular art workshops, bring art to public spaces at the Open for Art Festival and host artists at the Jelly Studio Space, currently at the Broad Street Mall.

This year, Jelly celebrate 25 years in Reading’s cultural scene with a series of special events in the run up to Open for Art (Friday 6 – Sunday 8 July). Look out for ’25 Stories’, where 25 people who have worked with or been connected to Jelly share their stories of the history and future of the organisation through film, performances, exhibitions and talks.

Here, Suzanne shares what she gets up to on her perfect Reading weekend: visiting art studios, getting creative inspiration from Reading’s cafes and exploring Cemetery Junction. Read on to find out how Suzanne spends her weekends in Reading.

Main image credit: Salvo Toscano, www.salvotoscanophotography.com

Heritage and culture

Open for Art 2017
Open for Art at Malmaison Hotel 2017. Image: Claire Slobodian

Sometimes I need to pop into the Jelly Studio at the weekends, especially this month as we are planning our work at Reading Contemporary Art Fair (Friday 20-Sunday 22 April) and then we are straight into Children’s Festival and then Waterfest on top of the workshops our brilliant artists run almost every weekend anyway. I love doing the one off weekend events as we never quite know what will happen and we get to meet familiar and new faces too – generally the hours are long but we all love it.

May is a great start to Open Studio season in Reading so I am very much looking forward to checking out the Caversham Arts Trail after their break of a year (starts Saturday 12 May). It’s followed closely by the Whiteknights Studio Trail (Saturday 9- Sunday 10 June).

The Open Studios are great to visit at the weekend, you can get to see artists (some of whom are in their own spaces) and talk to them about their work. I love the mix of Reading’s independent side in the town centre.

I am excited by the potential for arts in Reading. Reading feels quite experimental and willing to try things without worry of being judged.

Food and drink

Brunch at Picnic
Brunch at Picnic. Image: Claire Slobodian

At Jelly we have a brunch tradition where we meet at Picnic during Open for Art. We do all love a breakfast, or failing that, cake always works! I’ve been to the Thames Lido twice now, for a swim and to eat. That was amazing and even better when it rained!

If I need a bit of creative inspiration, I love going to Reading’s cafes and seeing artwork on the wall, such as Picnic, C.U.P or Workhouse. Shed and Milk have a map in their bathroom that was created by Barton Wilmore. It’s of Reading’s culture, so if in doubt, I pop in there and check it out.

Things to do

Cemetery Junction
Cemetery Junction. Image: Claire Slobodian

There are so many things happening in Reading: from the changing town and its mix of old and new, to the number of events happening now. Reading is starting to reveal its past with the Abbey Quarter reopening too. Being from Reading, I find it very inspiring.

I live ‘up the Junction’ so I love walking back along the canal. I like that I know all the neighbours on my street, people are friendly. There’s good local shops nearby and everything is walkable.

I am a big fan of walking. From the Junction it is so easy to walk along the Thames path in either direction, towards Caversham or Sonning, or up to the university around the lakes.

The weekends get so busy without even thinking about the venues, theatre and bands that are happening around town. Reading is a treasure trove.

Jelly Studio is at Unit 53, Broad Street Mall. Open for Art runs around Reading from Friday 6 – Sunday 8 July. Read more about Jelly.

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