Reading UK CIC and Reading BID view investment in arts and culture as a key component of place making for Reading – making it a better place to live, work and do business.

In 2016, Reading BID provided a number of grants for town centre arts and heritage projects as part of Reading Year of Culture through the ARENA programme. The most successful of these events created great spectacles in the town centre, entertaining and surprising shoppers and visitors.

As part of the legacy of Reading 2016, we will continue to make funds available in 2017 and welcome applications from Reading-based arts organisations for ARENA 2017 grants.

The theme for 2017 – waterways

Reading UK CIC is currently planning a new festival for Reading. The Reading-on-Thames Festival will showcase our waterways over eight days from 9-17 September 2017. We have submitted a major Arts Council England grant for the festival which will use our rivers and the Thames in particular as a stunning backdrop for arts and cultural activity. The programme planning for this festival is underway.

The Thames has played a key part in Reading’s development and heritage, from the site of the founding of the town to the mode of travel for the return of Henry I’s body from France. More latterly, it has played an important role in the town’s industrial heritage and most recently as an under-valued leisure space. We want to put Reading’s waterways and river heritage back at the heart of the town, to help create a more sustainable future for Reading and to help improve external perceptions of Reading.

The grants

Reading UK CIC and Reading BID have a number of grants available to help bring our waterways and their stories alive through arts, culture and heritage.  One of these grants is for a project to take place in a Thames location during the festival itself, the remainder as events building interest ahead of the festival through public spectacles in Reading town centre.

Pre-festival town centre ARENA grants – £1000 or £1500

Available for events mid-June to early September but will need to fit in with the existing calendar of town centre events.

Reading UK CIC manages Reading Business Improvement District, the commercial heart of the town, which encompasses much of the public realm in central Reading, including Broad Street, Market Place and Town Hall Square (but not Forbury Gardens). We are keen that the public spaces in the BID area are seen as spaces for arts and cultural activity.

We will be making nine small grants available for projects in the town centre. These could link to the Kennet / Holybrook or The Thames creating visual spectacles for the public using performing arts as a main tool. They must be public events that will create a buzz in our town centre to support Reading UK CIC’s work in promoting the town as great place to work and do business.

Decisions on business relocation are being increasingly driven by companies’ ability to recruit and retain the best staff and the physical environment is a key factor in this mix. These grants are designed to showcase our town centre as a great place to work, live and play. They will also act as curtain raisers for the Reading-on-Thames Festival. These events could take place at the weekend, but we also welcome applications for activities that take place over an extended weekday lunch period for the benefit of people working in town, Monday-Friday.

These events must take place in an outdoor public space in the town centre.

Reading town centre ARENA grants:-

  • Weekends – 2 grants for £1500 / 1 for £1000
  • Weekdays – 2 grants for £1500 / 2 for £1000

The town centre ARENA applications will be judged by a committee of town centre businesses, the Reading UK CIC team and a representative of the arts community. The successful events must carry the branding of Reading BID and Reading on Thames Festival.

Reading-on-Thames Festival ARENA grant – 1 x £3000

The Festival will take place from 9 – 17 September 2017, focusing on the stretch of the Thames in the centre of Reading.  There will be two large scale outdoor events on the Thames bookending the festival over the two weekends. This grant would be for an extra event on or along the Thames to be part of the official Festival programme.

The Reading-on-Thames Festival applications will be judged by the Festival Management Committee. The successful events must carry the branding of Reading on Thames Festival.

  • One grant of £3000 is available for the Festival.

Application criteria

To apply for one of these grants, applicants should submit their proposal based on the descriptions above and the following criteria:-

  • It must be relevant to the river theme for 2017
  • Be accessible to the widest audience possible
  • It should be visual, spectacular and surprising
  • The recipients of the grant undertake to promote the event
  • It should, where possible, involve the artistic talent from the Greater Reading area
  • It needs to be of a quality that would not be out of place in any major city centre
  • It should help showcase Reading as a vibrant and dynamic place to work, visit and live.
  • We are particularly interested in projects that will surprise and challenge outdated perceptions of Reading
  • It should engender a sense of pride in Reading

Application process

Please submit your proposal in writing to Reading UK CIC by email –  The deadline is 28 February.

The submission should be no longer than 1000 words and should include information on:-

  • the experience and track record of the individual or organisation involved to deliver a high quality arts event
  • funding model for the event and what proportion of the budget the ARENA grant will make up
  • how the success of the event will be measured
  • projects will be expected to provide full accounts and evidence of how the money has been used.
  • contact details
  • referee contact details
  • which of the 2 pots of money you are applying to

Reading UK CIC will let you know if you have been successful by mid-March

We reserve the right to request further information or a meeting before awarding the grants.


Reading UK CIC, The Library Building, Abbey Square, Reading RG1 3BQ