Reading has finally sprung forward and there’s so many events and things to do this April that this list is double its usual size – there’s almost too much to do! We’re not complaining though. Make the most of the spring with our list of the best things to do in Reading in April including steam fairs, Easter egg hunts, beer festivals, food markets, secret gardens, art fairs and walking tours this month.
One Million Tiny Stories about Reading
Monday 1 – Saturday 6 April, 7.45pm, Progress Theatre, £12, buy tickets
This joint production with Progress Youth and Adult Theatres is based on Craig Taylor’s One Million Tiny Plays About Britain. We see a series of charming vignettes inspired by the lives of the young Reading performers: A Highdown School girl gets her first crush in Forbury Gardens; two divers take their last leap at Central Swimming Pool; a conscientious MP visits a foodbank in Tilehurst; tempers fray at the 99th Reading Scout Group AGM; and, after drowning his sorrows at the Jazz Bar, a Reading FC fan misses the bus home.
Friday 5 April, 8pm, South Street Arts Centre, £5.50, buy tickets
Long-running local music promoters DoubleDotDash!? present gig nights full of “unpopular music in Reading” (their words). This month they bring in Leeds band Bilge Pump, who do a “thick broth of art-punk fractured progressive noise, condensed into atonal pop songs free of power chords”. Sure, that might read like nonsense, but come on, admit it, you kind of want to know what that sounds like, don’t you? I know I do. Support comes from locals Old Ghoul.
DMDT presents: A Night Of Shoegaze, Post Punk And Drone
Friday 5 April, from 7.30pm, After Dark, £4, book tickets
Gigs are coming back to the After Dark 🤘. There’s a new local music promoter in town and they’ve teamed up with London label Club AC30 to bring us 2000s shoegazers Air Formation and American post-punkers Ceremony. They’re supported by two of Reading’s finest: more post-punk from Kill Committee and Head Drop who do “motorik drone music” (nope, me neither – perhaps their EP review will give you a clue). The night rounds off with indie and shoegaze tunes from DJ Matt Catling and tickets includes entry to their new monthly indie night, Rip It Up, also at the AD.
BANFF Mountain Film Festival
Friday 5 April, 7.30pm, The Hexagon, £16, buy tickets
The action and adventure lovers film fest is back at the Hexagon. In a series of quirky shorts you’ll follow some of the most inspirational (and/or bonkers, depending on your view of outdoorsing) adventurers in the world. Films follow ‘Outback Mike’ who treks the Australian wilderness with nothing but a time capsule of antique stuff from 1932 and you’ll meet 97-year-old George Etzweiler who started racing up Mount Washington at the age of 69 to honour his late wife, and hasn’t missed a race in 30 years.
Mikkeller Tap Takeover
Friday 5 – Saturday 6 April, all day, BrewDog, free entry
Mikkeller are a mad, innovative Danish brewery founded by a physics teacher and a maths teacher in a kitchen. Today they’re a bit of a cult name and do ridiculously-named, but tasty experimental beers such as Stick a Finger in the Soil and Wood Will Fall Down – they also recently opened a bar in Shoreditch with Rick Astley, yes that Rick Astley, maybe he’s still big in Denmark. Rickroll yourself to BrewDog and try them on tap.
Terry’s Reading Architecture Walkabout
Saturday 6 April, 11am, Outside Three Guineas, £5 donation to charity, booking essential.
Nope, this is nothing to do with that sticky-floored, Australian-themed sports bar. Terry Dixon has been running not for profit walking tours of Reading for years. He’s a passionate and enthusiastic tour guide, showing off the best bits of our town and sharing snippets of history to visitors and residents alike. This walk will take you through Reading’s architecture highlights: ‘the New, Old, Good, Bad, downright Ugly and the Missing’ including buildings from Reading’s four world-famous architects. Proceeds go to two charities: Age UK Berkshire and Action for Children.
Sunday 7 April, 4pm, The Blagrave Arms, donations welcome
Regular Reading Pride host, the fantastically-inappropriate Wilma Fandango runs a bingo session to raise funds for this year’s Pride festival. It’s a fun event, but don’t go expecting it to be in any way PC.
Sing-a-long The Greatest Showman
Sunday 7 April, 2pm and 7pm, The Hexagon, £17/adults, £13.50/under 16s, buy tickets
Hugh Jackman’s The Greatest Showman was the feel good musical film of last summer, showing at every single one of our open air cinema screening events. Here, The Hexagon welcome the producers of Singalonga Sound of Music to get you all singing along at the top of your voice for the family-friendly, circus-themed musical. The lyrics show up on the screen, fancy dress is actively encouraged, full audience participation is expected and a live host will teach you a dance moves.
Margaret Fingerhut piano recital
Tuesday 9 April, 7.30pm, Palmer Building, Reading University, £12, buy tickets
The fabulously-named international concert pianist presents a special piano recital series in conjunction with Reading City of Sanctuary. Margaret’s grandparents were refugees from Ukraine (just like mine, as it happens) and this concert is part of her UK tour Far from the Home I Love to raise awareness of refugees in the UK. Margaret has chosen a programme to focus on famous composers who were refugees, including Chopin, Handel, Grieg, Haydn and Rachmaninov.
Ladybird Books Family Fun Day
Tuesday 9 April, The MERL and Reading Museum, £5/child, read more
Reading’s best museums team up to provide a day of fun crafts and activities for children to celebrate the opening of the new exhibition Ladybird Books: ‘How it works’. Families can drop in and pay on the day, and there’ll be a fun trail from one museum to the other through our beautiful and historic Forbury Gardens and Abbey Ruins.
Tuesday 9 April, Face Bar, £8, buy tickets
London’s energetic new four-piece indie band emerged last summer and have since appeared on Radio 1 and touring in support of Sundara Karma. They do toe-tappingly catchy songs with an ragged, raw edge. Support comes from On Video and Chalk City.
Talking Heads by Alan Bennett
Tuesday 9 – Saturday 13 April, 7.45pm, Oakwood Centre Woodley, £12, book tickets
Woodley Theatre present a trilogy of Alan Bennett’s witty, observational monologues: ‘Soldiering On’ brings us Muriel, a no nonsense pillar of the community and volunteer. ‘A Lady of Letters’ follows Irene who writes to cure society’s ills as she sees them, while in ‘Bed among the Lentils’ Susan is a bored and unhappy vicar’s wife who starts a relationship with an Asian grocer which ultimately changes her life.
Thursday 11 – Sunday 14 April, Open Hand Open Space, free, read more
Open Hand Open Space is the art community based at the former Brock Barracks. For this public exhibition, three OHOS artists – Peter Driver, Robert Fitzmaurice and Sarah Britten-Jones – join creative forces to showcase recent works relating to power, identity, site and socio-political commentary. There’s an opening and chance to meet the artists from 6-8pm on Thursday 11 April.
Thursday 11 – Sunday 14 April, Forbury Gardens, free entry, find out more
Get your crackers at the ready. Reading’s most popular street food market returns to Forbury Gardens with vendors hawking gourmet cheese toasties, halloumi fries, mac’n’cheese, cheesecake, feta souvlaki and more. There’ll also be non cheese options, if you must, and a crackin’ bar serving beer from Tap Social in Oxford, summery cocktails and wine. See you on a hay bale. Read more about Cheese Feast.
Jazz at Progress
Friday 12 April, 7.30pm, Progress Theatre, £17.00, book tickets
Once a month, Jazz in Reading host a night of music at Progress Theatre featuring leading British and international jazz stars. This month it’s ‘60s jazz trumpeter Henry Lowther (he was on stage at Woodstock, don’t you know?) and his band Still Waters. Look out for lots of flugelhorn.
Club Velocity present: The Derellas, Go Go Cult and Horserock
Friday 12 April, Readipop, £8, book tickets
If you want something a bit more punk than flugelhorn, the fun Club Velocity is the night for you, with UK glam punks The DeRellas and local Billy punks The Go Go Cult. Rounding out the bill is surf rock band Horserock.
Carters Steam Fair
Saturday 13 – Monday 22 April, Prospect Park, free entry, read more
The arrival of Carters Steam Fair in Prospect Park always marks the start of spring for me. Carters has been running since the ‘70s and is still a family-run operation who start their touring season in Reading every Easter. The fair is full of glorious vintage wooden rides including the chair-o-plane and the steam yachts and, even if you don’t go on a ride, it’s worth a visit to catch sight of the gorgeous caravans and hand-painted sign writing. Tokens are 50p each, most rides are about 4 tokens.
Saturday 13 April, 8pm, South Street Arts Centre, £16, book tickets
Two years ago Mock the Week comic Andrew Maxwell was nominated for an Edinburgh Comedy Award for his five-star set Showtime, described as ‘a memorable cocktail of personal stories, astute political observations and the odd surprise foray into character cameos’. Now’s your chance to see it in Reading.
Harris Gardens Open Day
Sunday 14 April, 2-5pm, Harris Gardens, collection on entry.
The walled garden at the University of Reading Whiteknights Campus is only open to the public on the second Sunday of the month to raise money for local causes – this month it’s Reading Botany Masters. Grab the opportunity to explore the hidden gem of Reading’s five hectare botanic garden while it’s in spring bloom.
Comedy at Milk
Tuesday 16 April 8.30pm, Milk Bar, £5, book tickets
Milk’s comedy night is another place to catch Edinburgh Festival sets without a lengthy train journey. This month Tom Rosenthal, the star of Friday Night Dinner and Plebs, previews his Edinburgh show, along with Andrew Bird, who’s prepping a routine for his new tour, and Reading’s own Jonathan Elston.
Friday 19 – Saturday 20 April, South Street Arts Centre, £15, book tickets
The Grumpy Goat, Harris Arcade’s excellent ale and cheese shop (and officially one of our best things in Reading) bring their fun craft beer and music festival back to South Street for their third year. This time it’s even bigger and better than ever – with 14 craft breweries from Berkshire and across the UK. There’s also music from local DJs and a selection of street food to keep you fed. Read our Craft Theory beer and music festival guide.
Craft Theory Fringe Events
Thursday 18 – Saturday 20 April, various venues
As well as the official beer fest this year, a lot of local beer stops are running fringe events to keep the beer fun going all weekend. Double Barrelled Brewery are running a tap takeover from Wander Beyond Brewing and Georgian Feast will be there to serve up delicious street food. The Fox & Hounds in Caversham are bringing Thornbridge brewery beers to all 14 of their taps, and at The Greyfriar they’re collaborating with locals Elusive Brewing and Manchester’s Beatnik Brewing for a showcase of a couple of casks from each brewery and a Meet The Brewers event each day. There’s various times and dates, so check each location for their details.
Mega Easter Egg Hunt
Sunday 21 April, from 9.30am, Wellington Country Park, free but park entry is £9.75, read more
Children can squirrel out 12 giant Easter eggs on this treasure hunt through the wild and woody country park before enjoying the rest of the day at the adventure playground or in many of the action adventure activities. Find them all and kids can win chocolate prizes to take home. I came here as a little kid and remember it being one of my most fun Easter holidays.
Sunday 21 April, Irish Centre, Free
Friendly secular service Sunday Assembly celebrate an alternative Easter Sunday with the story behind chocolate Easter eggs. Fiona Lahive from Cocoa Research UK at Reading University, will talk about how the cocoa bean that has had such a profound impact on our culture. There’s other talks, group activities, volunteering opportunities and a band – The Word of Bob. Singing along to rock covers is encouraged.
Mary Queen of Scots
Tuesday 23 April, 8pm, Reading Film Theatre, £8, buy tickets
Theatre director Josie O’Rourke makes her silver screen direction debut with this artful exploration of the turbulent life Mary Stuart and her relationship with cousin Queen Elizabeth II. It takes in betrayal, rebellion, and conspiracies that imperil both thrones – and change the course of history.
Tuesday 23 – Saturday 27 April, Various times, The Hexagon, from £31.50, buy tickets.
The adult take on Sesame Street is now 15 years old, and just like a teenager, it’s still behaving badly. The wisecracking puppet-led musical centres on a group of puppets in their early 20s who live in a gritty New York neighbourhood and get up to all sort of adult activities.
Songs include ‘The Internet is for Porn’ and puppet sex number ‘You can Be As Loud As You Want to When We’re Making Love’. Despite the song titles, it’s still a sentimental, feel-good show and draws a dedicated repeat crowd (while checking facts for this write up, I found a theatre critic who claims to have seen Avenue Q 60 times!). It was shocking and hilarious 15 years ago, but are we beyond the time where a character called Lucy the Slut is still amusing? Let’s see…
Thursday 25 April, 8pm, Reading Film Theatre, £8, buy tickets
I’ve been trying to see this powerful Lebanese family drama since a friend told me it made I, Daniel Blake look cheery (Yes, I’m that odd person that watches depressing, uncomfortable movies). Frustratingly though, the closest cinema run I can find is in Oxford. I’ll be saving myself the schlep and the train fare by getting the 21 bus to this screening at our independent Reading Film Theatre at the uni. Caperum’s heart wrenching story sees a Beirut child sue his parents for having been born, before ending up on the street caring for a stranger’s baby. In Arabic and Amharic with subtitles
Thursday 25 April, 8pm, South Street Arts Centre, £5, buy tickets
This fascinating-sounding debut theatre show from Strike Up Theatre give voice to Reading’s ‘Silent Generation’. The theatre company spoke to Reading residents born between 1925-45, when children ‘should be seen-and-not-heard’. The show voices their thoughts and feelings about being heard in today’s world, now they are in their 70s-80s. After the show there is a post-show debate in the bar, with all audience members invited to join.
Mayor’s Big Charity Quiz
Thursday 25 April, 7.30pm, The Town Hall, £20, book tickets
Every year, Reading’s Mayor runs a fun pub quiz (not in a pub) to raise money for their chosen charities. This year it’s in aid of Berkshire Women’s Aid, Launchpad, YMCA Reading and Berkshire West Your Way. Teams can be up to six people and tickets include a meal of spaghetti bolognese with garlic bread and entry to the quiz.
Until Friday 26 April, all day, Pau Brasil, Free, read more
Learn more about the lesser seen Brazil as Katesgrove cafe Pau Brasil host an exhibit from photographer Rosa Gauditano. Her series of colour and black and white images focus on the life, culture and struggle for survival of Brazil’s indigenous people. On 12 and 26 April at 7.30pm there will be video screenings of documentaries she made about the Xanvante people.
Reading Vegan Market
Saturday 27 April, 10am, Station Hill, free entry
It’s been one year of the monthly vegan market at Station Hill and Reading’s plant-based scene has grown a lot since then. We’re now familiar with regular names Vegivores and We Are Friends, as well as La Petite Bouche Bakery and Hartland Fudge. Get street food, goodies to take home, including cakes, sweets and vegan cheeses as well as beauty products more from local ethical start-ups.
Artisan Food Fair
Saturday 27 April, 10am- midday, The Oasis, Baker Street, free entry
A small but quirky new foodie market bringing artisan products to west Reading as part of the Baker Street Neighbourhood Association. There’s bread and pastries from Barebread Baked, jam from The Jam Lady, Malaysian sauces from Makan Malaysia, dried fruits from Cherry Me, coffee from Anonymous Coffee Co and Eggs from Beechwood Eggs.
Are You Listening Festival
Saturday 27 April, from 12pm, various venues, £25, buy tickets
Get your wristbands at the ready for Reading’s real best music festival. AYL is a one day festival bringing over 70 bands to venues across town in aid of Reading Mencap. This year bands include horn-blasted indie-funk Bad Sounds, drum-synth duo Big Lad, and Flamingods, with their fusion of world, jazz, funk, and rock influences and the same community spirited, cheery atmosphere that fills town every year. Read our full guide to Are You Listening Festival 2019.
RISC Roof Garden Open Day
Saturday 27 April, 12-4pm, RISC (enter at rear of London St), £3.50, read more
Get a chance to check out the award-winning sustainable roof garden above the Global Cafe. They have an edible forest, 185 species of plant and water harvesting and it’s a beautiful site in the sunshine.
Sunday 28 April, 11am-4pm, Broad Street, free
Broad Street becomes an open air art market for the third time this month thanks to local art charity Jelly. Look out for local artists displaying paintings, original photography, drawings, limited edition prints, hanging textiles and more. It’s great to see art brought to our public spaces and a fun opportunity to pick up a piece of locally-produced art for your home.
Afternoon Tea Cruise
Sunday 28 April, 3.30pm, Caversham Pier (near the Crowne Plaza), £28.50, book online
Reading baker Laura from Bench Rest is serving a delicate afternoon tea on a boat once a month until September. She’s partnered with Thames Rivercruise so you can sample mini sandwiches, scones, cakes and petit fours from the deck of one of their boats, all while admiring the scenery along the Thames from Caversham to Mapledurham and back.
Doctor Who Escape Room: Worlds Collide
All month, Escape Hunt, £30/person, book now
The new activity centre opened upstairs in King’s Walk is part of the biggest escape room chain in the country, so it doesn’t have the local charm of Time Trap, but it does have big ideas. This month they’ve launched their Doctor Who-themed special room, where you have to solve a tear in the fabric of space and time. You’re in the offices of ChronosCorp HQ, where you have 60 minutes to use their prototype time machine to prevent the Cybermen from attacking the Earth. Groups of 4-6 recommended.
Hello! I'm Claire, the founding editor of Explore Reading. I'm a Reading native and former digital director of Time Out Shanghai. I founded Explore Reading so no one can say, ‘there’s nothing to do in Reading’, again. When not editing Explore Reading, I'm probably drinking a Manhattan.