Reading’s Afro-Caribbean communities are planning a peaceful protest march from the ‘black history’ mural at the Central Club on Mill Lane to the council offices on Bridge Street via the town centre, starting at 4.30pm on Monday 25 September.
Reading’s Caribbean Associations Group (CAG), through its Aspire community interest company, made a bid to obtain the Central Club and its famous mural from Reading Borough Council (RBC) earlier this year. The council rejected the bid in July, preferring instead to put the building on the open market.
The protest comes after an impassioned CAG meeting in August where calls were made for a public demonstration to support their bid, which included a £10 million investment in a landmark building on the site, resurrecting the club as a ‘spiritual home’ for Reading’s Afro-Caribbean diaspora, and preserving the mural from destruction.
“We believe we have a right to that land by occupancy, and the council are asking us to buy an asset that we already own,” said Aspire CIC chair Keith Kerr at the August meeting. “We have the community behind us and we demand our birthright.”
The Katesgrove Labour group at RBC issued a statement after the meeting to say that Aspire had not actually offered the council any money to acquire the building.
“The council is committed to carrying out the work required to preserve the mural which has significant importance for the African-Caribbean community,” said Katesgrove councillor Sophia James.
“Whilst it is a democratic right to protest, I ask that members of the community who are passionate about the Central Club and mural engage with other democratic processes such as putting questions to council and talking to local councillors.”
“It is as a last resort that we have decided to dispose of the site on the open market. We are passionate about making sure the retention of the mural is a priority for any buyer,” added Sophia James.
- Council attempting to ‘erase’ Reading’s Afro-Caribbean history
- Reading’s Caribbean groups ‘demand their birthright’ with the Central Club
- Aspire CIC website and Facebook page
- Do not sell the Central Club to commercial developers petition
- Spiritual home for the black community in Reading (Councillor Sophia James)