Get ready for the greatest show in ReadingBy Paul Robins
July 01, 2009
Prepare yourself for a summer of fun, fun, fun, thanks to Live After 5
Can you hear it?
The streets of central Reading are coming alive with a spectacular array of live music and colourful cultural delights starting on Saturday.
Talented musicians will play in restaurants, coffee shops will stay open for longer, speciality food markets will visit and stunning outdoor concerts will help transform the face and feel of our town centre.
Part of a new initiative called Live After 5, this musical extravaganza aims to make Reading a fun, hip place to chill out and relax – by filling the lull between the end of the working day and the onset of the evening.
It is being funded by the Business Improvement District (BID), in which retailers pay a levy on their business rates which go into a pot to fund improvements.
And BID manager Guy Douglas says people in the town should prepare themselves for a summer of fun, fun, fun.
“Reading is going to be transformed through art and music,” he said. “The concept is about getting people to think of Reading town centre as a social place – a hip, cool, fun place to spend your time.
“The night-time economy is well assimilated with Reading town centre but the early evening seems to be somewhat lost.
“From 5pm to 9pm there is not much happening. We are using music to give people a reason to stay out after work and school or come to Reading if they are not already here.”
The fun kicks off with the launch of the Inside:Outside Festival – an exciting line-up of young musical talent who will be playing gigs in venues across the town throughout July and August.
There will be regular performances in the Pitcher and Piano in Friar Street and the Oakford Social Club in Blagrave Street, which will host a massive launch party on Saturday.
But, as the name suggests, the music will not be confined to the indoors.
For the first time ever, there will be open-air concerts in the town centre on Saturday afternoons to entertain families enjoying the summer sunshine.
Organised by local music maestro Jack Hepplewhite, up-and-coming artists will play unplugged gigs at South Court – at the back of Broad Street Mall – as well as in Forbury Gardens, Market Place and The Oracle Riverside.
“I want Reading to be Music City UK and in order to do that you have to put music outdoors,” said Douglas.
“There will be a different live concert in the town centre each Saturday. It will be family orientated and broadly accessible music from all corners of the world.”
But if you are too busy shopping to take the time out to enjoy the show – don’t worry, the catchy tunes will follow you around the town.
Busker’s stages will be set up in prime locations including Broad Street, where musicians will help strike a new beat outside the busy shops and stalls.
The scheme – dubbed Pitch Perfect – is part of Douglas’s vision to rid the streets of tuneless beggars and recreate the atmosphere of the South Bank in Reading.
“We are looking at ways of attracting more musicians to make them feel that the town centre is a place they want to play,” he said.
“I want to see something like the South Bank. It’s about bringing a vibrancy that you wouldn’t otherwise get and putting smiles on people’s faces as they walk down Broad Street.”
But perhaps the most ambitious part of Live After 5 is the year-round programme of music in restaurants and street cafés.
Whether you are having a quiet coffee with a friend or a special romantic dinner in one of Reading’s finest eateries, sweet melodies will add to the ambience.
The idea is that the musicians will come together as part of a new society called STREAM – the Society for the Transportation of Reading’s Evenings through Art and Music.
And if that wasn’t enough, there will be regular speciality markets in Market Place – starting later this month – offering a mouth-watering selection of delicacies from across the globe.
But it’s not just for show. Douglas has first-hand experience of the dramatic effects that this type of musical and cultural extravaganza can have.
Before coming to Reading, he spent 15 years in the Alaskan town of Fairbanks where he pioneered his Live After 5 scheme – and the results were stunning.
“It brought the community back to the town centre overnight,” he said. “When we introduced music in restaurants, suddenly people had to wait for tables on a Saturday night.
“Every placed was packed. It really took off. It gave people a good reason to come out at night.
“The music really transformed the place and I hope it will do the same here.”
And Douglas says all this colourful activity should swell numbers in the town centre, which will be good for businesses too.
“If one of the outcomes of Live After 5 is that we attract more people to the town centre then retailers will see the benefit, and hopefully the opportunity to extend their trading day.
“We can make the whole town centre have a mass appeal and give Reading an opportunity to show itself off.”
Saturday, July 4
Outside:Inside Festival Launch Party – Oakford Social Club, Blagrave Street. Celebrate the launch of the Outside:Inside festival.
Thursday, July 16
The Meltdown Stage – Pitcher and Piano, Broad Street. Curated by Jewels and the Jacuzzis.
Tuesday, July 21
Something Happened Stage – Oakford Social Club, Blagrave Street. Free gig.
Saturday, July 25
South Court Stage – South court, back of Broad Street Mall. Free, from 4pm, featuring various artists.
Outside:Inside Festival presents BBC Introducing Stage – Oakford Social Club, Blagrave Street.
With great undiscovered gems from Reading and beyond. From 8pm.
Thursdays and Fridays
The Buskers Stage – Broad Street. Live music with local bands, from 4pm.