READING EAST MP Matt Rodda talks this week about community spirit in the town and the efforts behind securing a future for Reading Gaol. He writes:
I never ceased to be amazed by the community spirit in Reading.
It is one of our greatest strengths which can accomplish so much when we work together.
And this has been demonstrated so wonderfully by the whole Borough coming together in our collective efforts to secure for our town a future for Reading Gaol.
At times, battling the Ministry of Justice and convincing them of the historic and artistic importance of the Gaol has felt like fighting a losing battle.
But with the passion and tenacity that is always present in Reading, the campaign persevered.
With the collapse of the private sale to Artisan Real Estates coupled with the wave of support for Reading based celebrities, I am thrilled, Reading Borough Council made their bid to retain the site as an arts complex for the local community.
Indeed, the Gaol can now boast itself as a canvass for a Banksy which shows that the next chapter of this Gaol is far from written and can still play an active role in the cultural future of Reading.
It would have been quite easy for Reading Borough Council to turn their back on such an ambitious project, but recognising the importance of this site, they have given hope that this iconic site which is woven through the history of Reading can be secured.
They have stepped up to the plate and done their bit when most other councils would have shied away.
The challenge remains to convince the Ministry of Justice that the preservation of our history and heritage is more important than turning a quick profit at our expense – but overcoming that challenge became a whole lot easier with the backing of our local council.
I will continue my role in lobbying ministers in Parliament to do the right thing by our town and support the retention of the Gaol for our community – but with added support of Reading Borough Council, our campaign has become even stronger.