A SCHEME to promote arts and culture in Reading is celebrating its first full year.

Reading Place of Culture puts arts, culture and heritage at the heart of the town, and aims to make Reading a better place to live, work and visit.

A summary report, going before the council’s Housing, Neighbourhoods and Leisure Committee on Wednesday March 13, provides an overview of the first year and details the three main strands of the scheme: the Reading on Thames Festival, programmed and managed by Reading UK CIC; the Cultural Commissioning Programme, led by Reading Council and The Cultural Research Programme, co-produced by the University of Reading and the Whitley Researchers.

Research work has included wide reaching explorations into local residents’ experiences of and barriers to arts, culture and heritage in their communities and borough wide.

Key findings have shown that overall, people in Reading are proud of their local area, but there are ongoing issues they want to resolve such as social isolation, crime, traffic and lack of facilities.

Plans for the second year include engaging communities with Reading on Thames Festival to ensure the greatest positive impact.

Councillor Sarah Hacker, Reading’s lead member for culture, heritage and recreation, said: "As this report shows, the first year of the Reading, Place of Culture Scheme has been a great success.

"Thanks to the generous support from the Arts Council England, Historic England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund via the Great Places Scheme, Reading is starting to position itself as a leading cultural destination with arts, culture and heritage at the heart of our town.

"Culture and heritage play a vital role in Reading and I’m delighted that the town is gaining in reputation as a location of cultural excellence.

"We are seeing new programmes and research of exceptional quality to transform cultural opportunities for residents and visitors to the borough."

Reading Borough Council and its partners – including Reading UK CIC and Reading University, successfully secured a grant of more than £550k from the National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF), Arts Council England and Historic England in 2016, as part of the national Great Place Scheme.

The funding covers a three year period to support programmes running until December 2020.

Find out more at http://readingplaceofculture.org/.