The ‘Abbey Ruins Revealed’ celebration will take place from 11am on Saturday 16th June 2018, following a three year £3.15 million conservation project.
The abbey’s re-opening ceremony, after being closed for almost 10 years, will be a focal point of this year’s Water Fest, Reading’s annual free celebration of the town’s waterways – now in its 29th year – with a host of exciting activities throughout the day.
The much anticipated opening of the recently conserved Grade I listed Reading Abbey Ruins will take place at 11am. Reading’s Mayor, Cllr Debs Edwards and HM Lord-Lieutenant of the Royal County of Berkshire, Mr James Puxley, will officially open the ruins to the public with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Residents and visitors are encouraged to come along and help celebrate this momentous event.
Cllr Sarah Hacker, Reading’s Lead Member for Culture, said: “I’m delighted we’ve been able to combine two fantastic Reading events: Water Fest is a much-loved family day out and has been a solid fixture of Reading’s summer for the last 29 years. Combining this with the opening of Reading’s Abbey Ruins, with a whole host of historical themed performances and activities, as well as all the usual Water Fest favourites, makes this a day out not to be missed!”
The whole Abbey Quarter will be transformed to bring its exciting 900 year history to life. There will be entertainment in the Abbey Ruins and across the Forbury Gardens – with the chance to wander around the newly opened ruins and admire the conservation work that has taken place. Characters from the abbey’s past will make an appearance, including King Henry I himself, and visitors can listen out for the haunting sounds of ceremonial bells.
The day will be packed with historic themed activities and historical re-enactments. In the Forbury Gardens, ‘Earl Rivers Regiment of the Foote’ will be bringing the explosive seventeenth century to life with Civil War military drills and there will be a medieval village, where people can see the 12th Century bought to life with sword fights and weapon displays.
Parades of beautifully decorated canal boats, live music, refreshments, children’s entertainment and craft and community stalls, as well as the much-loved annual duck race, will be on offer at Water Fest between 11am and 5pm, which is organised by Reading Borough Council in partnership with the Kennet and Avon Canal Trust.
Blue Collar Food Market will be offering delicious street food at their ‘Feastival’ in the Forbury and the whole family can join in with the Jelly’s animal mask making session ready for the Water Fest procession in the afternoon.
There will be a new photo exhibition ‘Hung, drawn and quartered,’ by local photographer Chris Forsey in the Turbine House and after visiting the exhibition, people can take a break from the hustle and bustle of the event, chill out and listen to live music at the Bel & Dragon.
Reading Abbey Revealed is a major project, made possible through £1.77 million funding support thanks to National Lottery players and the Heritage Lottery Fund and match funding of £1.38million from Reading Borough Council.