How Reading has changed in the last 10 years

Neighbours in the town have said that ‘the only constant is change’ in response to new people, cultures and languages which have led Reading evolving.

The ways the town has changed are reflected in Census data, which is collected every 10 years to give local and national government an insight into the state of the population.

Reading is well known for its diversity, with 46.5 per cent of the population belonging to a Black and Minority Ethnic community.

That is the joint second-highest proportion in the south east after Slough and up from 35 per cent in 2011.

A product of diversity and immigration is the languages spoken. Naturally, the vast majority of people speak English.

But census data also shows that several thousands speak different languages:

That has an impact on the landscape of Reading as well, as ethnic groups set up community centres, and also use churches and places of worship.

The substantial amount of Polish people in Reading is reflected in the Piwnica Restaurant in London Road, and the former community centre located there.

Poles are predominantly Catholic, and at The Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Watlington Street the liturgy is celebrated in Polish.

Nepalese people have come to Reading as Gurkha Veterans, students and workers.

READ MORE: Reading Nepalis celebrate religious holiday and community achievements

The Nepalese community has set up several associations, including for veterans.

For faith concerns, a Buddhist temple was opened nearby in Earley last August.

Many of the people attending the temple are Gurkha veterans and families from Nepal.

Reading Chronicle: The statues of Buddha at the Buddhist Gumba house at 128 Church Road in Earley.The statues of Buddha at the Buddhist Gumba house at 128 Church Road in Earley.

Romanians who have come to Reading run several shops too, with The Traditional Romanesc restaurant taking over from Buon Appetito in Chatham Street.

Romanian Orthodox worship services are held by the St. Stylianos and St. Catherine Orthodox Christian Parish at Holy Trinity Church on Oxford Road.

Among other languages in Reading, more than 1,000 people speak Urdu, Portuguese, Spanish and Italian.

Urdu is a language from the Indian Subcontinent. It is the national and official language of Pakistan and is also recognised as an official language in 11 states of India.

The town has a variety of businesses run by people from the Indian Subcontinent, as well as a Hindu Temple, several Mosques, and the Pakistan Community Centre in East Reading

Indeed, according to the census data, all ethnic groups have increased since 2011 apart from British, Irish and Black Caribbean.

The impact of these ethnicities is felt in the town as well, as Reading is reputed to have the largest Bajan community outside Barbados, and its own news outlet, Reading Caribbean Express News. 

Meanwhile, the Reading Irish Centre is present in Chatham Street and the town has two Irish-themed pubs, O’Neill’s and The Gateway in Greyfriars Road.

A video demonstrating the linguistic diversity of the town was shared on Reading Borough Council’s Facebook page.

Neighbours in Reading are mostly welcome to the changing demographics of the town, reflecting that the ‘only constant is change’.

Residents shared their views of the town’s increasing diversity when the Local Democracy Reporting Service shared the council’s language video on the Old Reading Plus Group Facebook page.

John Lancarshire said: “I’m just thinking about my office. I don’t know if it’s representative, but I have local work colleagues from (first or second generation): France; Italy; Czech Republic; India; Russia; Lebanon; Ireland; Portugal; The Gambia; Sweden.

“I love the Nepalese food at Sapana Home; the herbs, spices, and olives from the Turkish shops on Oxford Road, getting my sardine pâté and Serra d’Estrela cheese from the Portuguese mini-market along there – great Portuguese cafe nearby too. Polish sausage and pierogi from West Street.

“I miss County Delicacies, where it was all in one place, but, wow! the variety and quality you can get shopping around town the days is pretty amazing.

“I have to say, the biggest single change I noticed was about 20 years ago when more Eastern European countries joined the EU. Up until that point, the warehouse at the company I worked for was predominately staffed by BAME, but within two or three years most had got up and gone to Canada, I think, and the largest demographics were from the Baltic States; Poland and the Czech Republic.

“The only constant is change.”

Agreeing, Sean Duffy said: “I remember moving back here from Northern Ireland in 2006 and, as said, the only constant is ‘change’.

“Which isn’t a bad thing necessarily.”

Mick Jones said: “Reading has always been multi-cultural. Back in the 70s it was understood that East Reading was Asian, West Reading was West Indian [ Carribean].

“North Reading had the posh houses and us in South Reading were the poorest.”

Yet more change has come since the Census was taken. 

The town has had a substantial Ukrainian community, which is reflected in its community centre on South Street. 

Reading Chronicle: The Ukrianian community centre in South Street received a deluge of donations following the start of the full scale war. Credit: TVPThe Ukrianian community centre in South Street received a deluge of donations following the start of the full scale war. Credit: TVP

There has been an influx of Ukrainians since the Russian invasion of 2022, with people in Reading opening up their homes to approximately 131 guests from the war-torn country. 

Reading has also seen an increase in Hong Kongers since a 2021 visa programme  made migration easier amid tensions between the former British possession and the Chinese Communist Party. 

Commenting on the increasing diversity in Reading, Jason Brock (Labour, Southcote), the council leader, said: “Reading is a popular place to live with the population increasing by 11.9 per cent to 174,200 since the 2011 census.

“The number of households has risen by 7.6 per cent to 67,700 and this number is predicted to rise to 69,119 by 2043. This puts more demands on services, our roads, schools, and other areas outside the council’s direct control, such as health provision.

“Reading has always been welcoming to people from many backgrounds and the town has a very diverse population.

“The Council is committed to ensuring all Reading residents are given a chance to benefit from the town’s economic success.

“There is too big a gap between Reading’s most and least prosperous neighbourhoods, which also impacts on people’s health and wellbeing.

“The Council works hard to close this opportunity gap by driving achievements in skills, education and training, as outlined in our Tackling Inequality Strategy.

“Our ethos is to ensure everybody in Reading can benefit from the town’s undoubted success.”

Reading Chronicle | Town Centre