Reading Business Improvement District (BID) has announced the 2017 ARENA programme of Reading town centre arts and cultural events.

Running in July and August, ARENA will celebrate the best work of Reading’s arts and cultural organisations through a diverse programme of free outdoor events, taking as their theme for 2017 – Reading’s waterways.

ARENA launched in 2016 as part of Reading’s Year of Culture and is funded by Reading Business Improvement District to enable local arts groups to bring their talent and creativity to the town centre. The programme of free events complements many of the town centre’s annual showpieces such as Waterfest and Eat Reading. To tie in with the inaugural Reading-on-Thames Festival this September, Reading’s waterways will be the inspiration for the town centre programme over the summer weekends.

The ARENA programme will include a street carnival, live orchestral performances at Reading Station including a chance to conduct a full orchestra, remakes of classic river films, from ‘The African Queen’ to ‘Wind in the Willows’, a giant puppet event featuring some of Reading’s cultural icons such as Oscar Wilde, Jane Austen and Arabella Fermour as well as a pop-up paddle steamer in Broad Street and an artistic tracing of Reading’s hidden waterways with chalk drawings and 1000 balloons,

Bobby Lonergan, Reading BID Manager, said; “Last year, ARENA turned Reading town centre into a vibrant cultural space over the summer, making it more attractive to visitors. We are delighted to be funding many of Reading’s tremendously talented cultural organisations again this year, creating a platform for the arts in our town centre and providing more reasons to spend time in Reading.”

ARENA programme listings

Sunday 2 July – Floating Rivers of Reading 

Reading is built on water, some we can see, some we can’t. As part of the Open for Art weekend festival, Jelly will be inviting people to learn more about Reading’s waterways. Starting with a walk from the Open Air Art Challenge at Bel & the Dragon on the River Kennet, following the routes of overground and underground waterways and creating an immersive balloon installation in the town centre depicting Reading’s watercourses.

Saturday 8 July – The River of Creativity

The Rising Sun Arts Centre will be creating a colourful river along Broad Street with accompanying musical, dance and theatrical performances from local community groups as well as professional performers, culminating in a short theatrical performance for children.

Saturday 22 July – Route to the River

Aldworth Philharmonic Orchestra will be premiering two new compositions by young Reading composers at Reading Station celebrating the importance of water and the closeness of the Thames to our town centre.

Saturday 22 July – ReRowed in Reading – classic river cinema

With Reading backdrops and green screen technology, members of the public will be invited to become the cast of Reading remakes of classic river films, from ‘The African Queen’ to ‘Deliverance’ and ‘Wind in the Willows’. Real Time will be turning Broad Street into the set for classic river film making.

Saturday 12 August – Carnival of the World

Celebrating Reading’s diversity with the second Carnival of the World event featuring live stage performances and a Broad Street parade organised by Culture Mix Arts & Music

Saturday 19 August – Clandestination

Annual Day Dream Harvest will bring giants of Reading’s cultural heritage to Broad Street as puppets alongside a fictitious paddle steamer. Oscar Wilde, Arabella Fermour and Jane Austen will take the form of giant mobile puppets, each containing a secret destination.

All the ARENA programme of events are free and take place in public spaces in the town centre.

Further information at