Community leaders, councillors and residents across Reading have united in support of listing the town’s cherished Black History Mural (BHM).

More than 5,000 people have signed a petition in just one week calling for the mural, on the former Central Club building on London Street, to be listed.

And the mural has now been officially put forward for listing by two organisations, one focused on the Afro-Caribbean community in Reading and the other focused on conservation.

READ MORE: Petition to protect black history mural sparks councillor controversy

Marcus Thomas a spokesman for Aspire said: “We have launched other petitions but we have never seen one grow this fast.

“Some of the comments about what the mural means to people is so beautiful. The BHM must be protected.”

Reading’s Conservation Area Advisory Committee applied for the mural to be listed in June this year, with Historic England saying it would consider it as part of the Reading High Street Heritage Action Zone.

And now Aspire, a Reading-based Community Interest Company registered by the Caribbean Associations Group, has sent its own application in to Historic England.

Aspire says the application has the backing of 20 other Reading-based community groups, while Reading Borough Council (RBC) has also stated its support for the listing.

Councillor Karen Rowland said: “The mural is a fixture in Reading, representing our town’s rich cultural history.

“I am delighted that on the first day of Black History Month we can announce that Heritage England is already in the process of considering the mural for listing to give it a national level layer of protection.

“As a council we remain absolutely fully committed to retaining it and restoring it in its current location. It is here to stay and a national listing by Historic England will only cement that position further.”

If listed, the mural by Alan Howard will become the first piece of black public art by a black artist to be listed anywhere in the United Kingdom, according to Aspire.

Keith Kerr, a spokesman for Aspire, said: “What a glorious outcome that will be in the zeitgeist of Black Lives Matter and the start of the celebrations of Black History Month.”

Each October, the UK celebrates Black History Month, an opportunity to recognise the outstanding achievements of black Britons and black communities.

The site already benefits from a level of local protection by being located in a Conservation Area, which means that planning permission is needed to demolish the building.

It is also identified in the Council’s Local Plan, with an explicit requirement of any schemes to redevelop the site ‘to retain the iconic mural on the northern frontage’.

Listing would add a strong extra layer of security, providing statutory protection.

The council chose to sell Central Club to Redline in 2018, rejecting Aspire’s bid and angering its members who shouted “shame on you” at councillors.

READ MORE: Reduced offer for Reading’s former Central Club believed to have been accepted by council

The sale was confirmed in 2019, subject to planning permission, with plans for a seven-storey building including housing and community space, but the council is now believed to have accepted a reduced scheme due to the Covid-19 pandemic.