The Reading Central Club mural is a distinctive 36 metre long depiction illustrating local aspects of Black History with global icons like Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks and Bob Marley.
Opened by Reading Borough Council as Central Reading Youth Provision in 1978 the popular Central Club became the heart of Reading’s Black community.
The venue attracted a wider audience at weekend reggae events featuring top artists including Freddie McGregor, Sugar Minott, Marcia Griffiths, Beres Hammond and the Twinkle Brothers. Sound system DJs Coxsone, Mikey Dread and Jah Shaka played regularly at the Reading based venue.
During the day Central Youth Provision offered cultural activities for young people including computer studies, spelling bees and workshops. With Perry’s Caribbean Cuisine providing hot food, a domino club for the elders and RASPO Steel Band workshops upstairs, Central was the place to be for Black culture and music.
The building is distinctive for its colourful mural depicting local and global aspects of Black History.
Commissioned in 1988 by Reading Borough Council, artist Alan Howard embarked on a project with the community to create mural images of Reading’s African Caribbean people involved in founding Central Club including David Archibald, Jeff Allamby and Cleo Lee.
Featured alongside are a number of positive historical Black role models like abolitionist, nurse and women’s suffrage supporter Harriet Tubman who escaped from slavery before the Civil War to rescue others.
Marcus Mosiah Garvey was the founder and first President-General of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League. He organised the first American Black nationalist movement based in New York City’s Harlem and established the Black Star Line in 1919.
Writer and abolitionist Olaudah Equiano purchased his freedom from slavery in 1766. Mother of the freedom movement Rosa Parks was best known for her pivotal role in the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955.
Civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr is famous for his ‘I Have a Dream’ public speech at the 1963 Washington march for civil and economic rights and an end to racism in the United States.
Human rights activist Malcolm X inspired the 1960s Black Power movement and is best known as a vocal spokesman for the Nation of Islam. Haitian general Toussaint L’Ouverture led a successful slave revolution in the French colony of Saint-Domingue (Haiti).
Also illustrated is Jamaican reggae pioneer Bob Marley who got his big break with The Wailers in 1972 when they signed to Island Records. He went on to become an international superstar selling more than 20 million records throughout his career, using his music to spread the positive message of Rastafari.
The final panel of the mural and the various symbols look to the future and depicts a number of tools that people use to shape the future.
In 2020 campaigners moved to preserve the 30 year old mural by applying for it to be nationally listed with Historic England as a wall of historic cultural significance. Read more.
Reading Borough Council statement 28 September 2020
“The Council has, from the outset, been utterly categorical that Reading’s iconic black history mural – which remains an Asset of Community Value – will be retained as part of any development. We are also very clear that this remains the case if the revised scheme is permitted. The same applies to retaining community space as part of the proposed development.”