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From A Levels to talking culture with the Vice-Chancellor

It’s A level results day and I still remember getting my results.  They were handed out in sealed envelopes so you had the added stress of having to open the envelope to find out what they were.  It felt like the rest of my life was in that envelope – of course it wasn’t and many things in the years since have had nothing to do with those slips of paper.

One thing that those results did influence was my relationship with the University of Reading.  I got the results I needed to accept my first choice course but, being contrary, I decided I wanted to accept my second choice and I graduated with a BSc (Hons) in Rural Environmental Science in 2000.

Yesterday I returned to my former university to meet with Vice-Chancellor Sir David Bell.  We were meeting to discuss the future of art and culture in the town.

I believe a close relationship with our university in very important to the future success of Reading.  It’s a major employer and brings thousands of students into the town, many of whom stay and settle in Reading adding to the town’s economy.

During our meeting it became apparent that Sir David Bell and I have similar ambitions for the town’s cultural scene.  We both recognise that we are entering a very exciting period in the town’s cultural development and acknowledge how hard our cultural groups, musicians and artists have worked over the past few years to make this happen.

The University has Reading International in progress and has recently opened the institute of Heritage and Creativity.  Town and gown have also worked together to gain joint National Portfolio Organisation status for the University’s Museum of English Rural Life and Reading Museum.  I look forward to the university and council working together for many years to come.

Sir David Bell asked me what my main aims were for culture in the town and initially it’s solving the communication problems we have.  Creating a single website that lists all that’s going on is much needed as is the promotion of our Made In Reading offering in local restaurants, bars and, importantly, hotels.

We also had a quick chat about how we’d like to see the Reading Prison site developed.  Personally I’m keen to see the site used to enhance the town’s historical and cultural offering.  The prison is a grade one listed building next to Reading abbey, which is a scheduled ancient monument, and the Green Flag winning Forbury Gardens.  Although I recognise a need for housing, and most importantly affordable housing, but I do no think the prison site is the right place for it.

When it comes to art and culture in Reading I am confident our relationship with the University will be a productive one and, together, we will achieve more than we ever could alone.

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