Community leaders, councillors and representatives of Reading’s many communities all gathered recently for a Christmas lunch.

The event was hosted the Reading Pakistani Community Centre in London Road, East Reading and was attended by Imams, councillors, political activists and members of the town’s diverse communities.

It was the first Christmas lunch held since 2019, after Government imposed coronavirus lockdowns prevented large gatherings in 2020 and 2021.

Guests started arriving at 12pm, and after a period of mingling, sat down and were encouraged to speak briefly about themselves.

The Imams from the Aisha Majid in Earley and the Reading Islamic Centre in South Street voiced gratitude for good community relations.

They also voice respect Christmas as a religious holiday, and said they enjoyed good relationships with Christians in Reading, at the event that was attended by Reverend Sonya Wratten from the Minster Church and Robert Dimmick, a former town mayor and a member of the Society of Saint Francis.

Councillor Rachel Eden (Labour, Whitley) the Mayor of Reading, said: “We’re so proud of our Reading aren’t we?

“What makes us special is the people, who come together in good times and bad, to make our town better.”

Reflecting on her border walk around Reading in the summer, and what she learnt from it, councillor Eden said: “It reminds me of that proverb: if you want to walk fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, go together.”

Tweeting about the lunch, Matt Rodda, the Labour MP for Reading East, said: “It was a privilege to join friends from across Reading’s different communities for the Reading Pakistan Community Centre [RPCC] Christmas meal.

“Thank you to the team at the RPCC for being such generous hosts – it’s great to see this important event make its return.”

After the speeches, all stood for the Pakistan national anthem.

Reading Chronicle: Guests at the Reading Pakistan Community Centre Christmas lunch stand for the Pakistan national anthem. Credit: James Aldridge, Local Democracy Reporting ServiceGuests at the Reading Pakistan Community Centre Christmas lunch stand for the Pakistan national anthem. Credit: James Aldridge, Local Democracy Reporting Service

Then guests enjoyed Pakistani cuisine and songs from the Sangeet Group from Slough.

Members of the newly formed Reading Private Hire Association (RPHA) were also at the event.

Kamran Saddiq, the chairman of the new union, welcomed the opportunity to speak with councillors about their campaign to have access to the eastbound King’s Road bus lane for a trial period.

The RPHA has also highligted other issues they face, such as waiting times for licenses and MOT certificates.

Guests attended the event on the invite of Muhammad Saleem and other members of the RPCC.

Celebrating the success of the event, Amjad Tarar, secretary of the RPCC, said: “We thank all for a great turn out at our annual Christmas lunch, organised by RPCC first established in 2005 under the leadership of Muhammad Saleem, it provides a great opportunity to bring together the proudly diverse community of Reading in this festive period, with guests from various interfaith groups, the deputy Local Policing Area commander for Reading, Matt Rodda, leader of the council Jason Brock, along with many councillors, the Mayor and many other dignitaries.”

The lunch was held on Wednesday, December 14.