Arts Council England have announced its new National Portfolio (NPO) for 2018-22 – a fresh, ambitious and wide-ranging group of organisations that will bring new energy to the arts and cultural sector, while reaching more people in more places than ever before. Among the organisations receiving funding over four years are four from Reading for the first time in what the Arts Council describe as “significantly increased investment in Reading.”

The National Portfolio includes organisations across England of all sizes and scales, with museums and libraries coming into the portfolio for the first time.  Some organisations are well-established nationally or internationally, like the Royal Shakespeare Company. Other portfolio organisations are just starting out.  The new members include


Readipop is a music and arts charity based in Reading with a strong reputation for delivering innovative and engaging arts projects. Readipop makes a positive difference to the lives of people in need and believes creativity is vital for a fulfilled life. Readipop develops and delivers high quality projects that bring diverse musicians, artists, performers, participants and audiences together to create engaging, inspiring experiences for all. Readipop has a proventrack record of producing excellent projects in Reading, the Thames Valley and nationwide.



Culture Mix Arts

Culture Mix Arts is a not for profit organisation specialising in business development and carnival arts. We deliver high quality steel pan music education services to all ages, and Caribbean style carnival arts projects and entertainment to all sectors. CultureMix is the home of RASPO – Reading All Steel Percussion Orchestra one of the UK’s premier steel bands. Our mission is to widely promote and raise awareness of the benefits of participation in carnival arts and music by encouraging access, education services to schools, professional development, employment and entertainment locally, nationally and internationally.





Reading Town and Country Museums Partnership

The Reading Town and Country Museums Partnership (RTCMP) is a consortium of the University of Reading and Reading Borough Council’s two leading museums (MERL and Reading Museum), and have been awarded £1m over four years to ensure they play a leading part in the transformation of Reading’s reputation as a cultural centre.

The MERL and Reading Museum’s strategic partnership is at the heart of Reading’s place-shaping vision, developing and delivering high quality cultural experiences that enrich the lives of people from Reading and beyond. As a National Portfolio Organisation (NPO) ACE investment in this partnership will focus on securing a sustainable basis for developing new and inspiring opportunities for people in and around Reading to experience and enjoy Reading’s rich and distinctive heritage.

NPO funding will enable the two museums to continue building on the strengths of existing links. Among its plans will be a new vision of the Silchester galleries at Reading Museum, involving expertise from the University’s archaeology department and increased investment in schools and learning programmes for young people through a shared Youth Strategy.

In addition, The MERL will lead on the consortium’s ambition to develop work with creative practitioners and artists to engage new audiences, including promoting artist residences and new ways of displaying the Museum’s collections.

Both museums have undergone important recent transformations: Newly reopened galleries, facilities and learning spaces at the MERL and Reading Abbey Revealed, a project led by RM to develop the Abbey Quarter as Reading’s most important historic area. Together with a track record of successful joint working, the new Reading Town and Country Museums Partnership is strongly placed to exploit the combined strengths of our common commitment and ambitions to deliver excellence for local communities.

Hedley Swain, Area Director, South East, Arts Council England, said: “We’re really pleased to welcome The Museum of England Rural Life (MERL) and Reading Museum to the 2018-22 National Portfolio. Both organisations sit at the heart of Reading’s place-shaping vision, creating and delivering high-quality cultural experiences that enrich the lives of people from Reading and beyond. MERL brings our wonderful countryside to life through its collections, exploring how farmers and craftspeople have influenced the way we live today and will continue to do so in the future.

“Reading Museum has a wonderful collection that provides an insight into the town’s history. Both museums sought to build a really strong audience for their work, developing partnerships, working with schools – with one of the most successful loans services in the UK – and reaching out to those who don’t typically visit museums. We’re very pleased to be able to support this museum partnership, particularly its work with younger audiences from areas of low-engagement and low-income – providing them with an inspiring cultural experience.”

Councillor Sarah Hacker, Reading Borough Council’s Lead Councillor for Culture says: “I am so pleased that the Reading Town and Country Museum’s Partnership have won this award. It is a brilliant reflection of the achievement of the partnership, and is a further step towards the recognition of Reading as a national cultural hub and will open up the rich heritage of the town more than ever before.”