A PROJECT to restore the iconic Black History mural on the old Central Club building has been launched.

The future of the mural and building remains uncertain after Reading Borough Council decided to put the land on the open market following a range of community bids.

Restoration work started on Monday after a section of the beloved artwork fell off, with council leader Jo Lovelock insisting the mural will be preserved for future generations regardless of the outcome of the bidding process.

She said: “Reading’s mural is a cultural icon and remains of huge importance to the black community, the wider community and the Council.

“It represents the town's long history of celebrating different cultures and promoting tolerance and the council has been completely clear that it remains fully committed to securing its future.”

One community group, Aspire, claimed to offer a £10m bid at a Policy meeting in June, but the council insists no cash value was ever put forward.

The site on London Street has been closed since 2006 and prospective bidders were previously encouraged to take on the land with a £220,000 contribution from the council, but this has since been withdrawn due to ongoing budget pressures.

The derelict site holds huge value to the council, but previous efforts to engage with the community have fallen short.

Cllr Lovelock added: “The mural is now 27 years old and has shown recent signs of deterioration.

"The council is therefore taking action now so that it can be professionally and sympathetically cleaned by experts in this field and for the structure to be surveyed so that we can establish the best way forward.

“We have also been in contact with the mural artist to invite him to discuss its future treatment and preservation.

“The survey work will mean the council will be in a much better position to identify the next steps and to establish the best way of securing the mural for future generations.”

The council will be inviting new and existing bidders to come forward later this year in an effort to resolve the building's future.