More details have been revealed on plans to turn the Cemetery Junction arch into an arts and heritage hub.

A community group in Reading launched a bid last year to acquire the east Reading arch and turn it into a National Lottery-funded heritage and arts hub.

The Grade II listed arch, which provides a gateway to Reading Old Cemetery, was advertised for auction sale by Reading Borough Council (RBC) in May 2019 as it was no longer required.

But the council withdrew the listing later that month to allow the local community to develop and progress its bid.

READ MORE: Cemetery Junction arch could become arts and heritage hub

Volunteers have set up Junction Arch Heritage and Arts (JAHA) as a Community Interest Company (CIC) and applied for National Lottery Heritage Funding in their efforts to acquire the iconic arch in east Reading.

JAHA has just received a grant from the Reach Fund to carry out project viability work. This will consist of a market survey, a valuation report and will also consultants’ fees.

Initial proposals included a café, community herb garden and art exhibitions.

The latest plans for the Junction Arch Heritage and Arts Hub have expanded on this and include:

  • Food hall/street food and bar
  • Co-working and meeting rooms
  • Small outdoor ‘artisan and food’ market
  • Wellbeing pod
  • Restoration of the cemetery
  • Pedestrian and cycle pathway
  • Community garden

JAHA says it needs to raise more than £200,000 in funding to go ahead with the project.

Restoring the cemetery and arch

They group says the cemetery would be restored and cared for in a way that is sympathetic to both the heritage and nature it contains and also mindful to the feelings of the families who visit the graves of their loved ones.

The principle pathways would be cleared to their original width, with the aim of re-instating the original plan for a ‘Victorian Garden Cemetery’.

The arch would also be restored to its original look.

Food hall, street food and bar

To the left as you pass through the Junction Arch, there would be an outside food and bar area.

A permanent building constructed from shipping containers would house the kitchens and bar.

The food area would focus on representing the ‘indie trade market’, featuring the many cuisines of the diverse surrounding community on a rotating ‘pop up’ basis provided by Blue Collar.

READ MORE: Blue Collar to take on Reading’s Friday street food market

The bar would feature locally produced craft and artisan ales and only be available as a supplement to the food offering.

JAHA says the food hall and bar will appeal to locals, students and the pre-theatre crowd from the Reading Rep Theatre that will soon open within a couple of hundred yards of the junction.

READ MORE: Reading Rep Theatre to open new theatre in 2021 – look inside the venue

Walking and cycling

Currently the only access to the cemetery is through the arch, but the other gateway would be re-opened to encourage walking and cycling.

With the reopening of its other gate on the Wokingham Road, JAHA says the cemetery will become a “green, multi-branched pedestrian and cycle pathway that will open up and connect areas of East Reading”.

Secure bike racks would be installed to encourage healthy transport.

Local history and art exhibitions

The downstairs rooms in the arch would often feature exhibitions of local heritage and art that reflect the rich diversity of the area.

For example, the stories behind the people buried in the hundreds of graves in the cemetery would be revealed in an ongoing exhibition feature and exhibitions of heritage would change regularly to focus on particular elements of the multi-cultural local community.

There would also be a focus on the work of new local artists, while local schools would be given an opportunity to showcase their pupils’ work.

Co-working, meeting rooms and a wellbeing pod

There would be both indoor and outdoor co-working and meeting room spaces, targeted at small businesses.

Additionally, a wellbeing pod is planned to help the local community deal with the after-effects of Covid-19.