The Junction Arch at Cemetery Junction in Reading is an iconic landmark that is so much part of the identity of the area. It will become the central identifiable feature of a mini complex of buildings that will bring people together by mixing food, work, leisure and culture, in a vibrant single space. This will be Junction Arch Heritage and Arts Hub, or JAHA.

JAHA will become an exciting explorative space consisting of: a heritage and art exhibition space; a small food hall/bar; a versatile co-working and meeting room area and a community garden. There will also be a small outdoor artisan and food market pitched to the local community on occasion, to encourage thecommunity use of the sites. Currently the only access to the cemetery is through the Arch, but its other gateway will be reopened to allow the cemetery to  encourage healthy transport as a tranquil route for pedestrians and cyclists, through a bucolic green space away from busy main roads.

The Heritage and Arts Hub

The Junction Arch will be beautifully restored to how it would have looked when it was built and will house the exhibition space on one side of the arch and provide office space on the other. The two new buildings, the food hall/bar and the co-working and meeting room extension, will be single storey and will be built up against the inside of the outer walls of the cemetery, in the area immediately beyond the Arch, mindful to be subservient and ancillary to the main listed structure. These new buildings will have plants and foliage covering them, so that they merge discreetly with the greenery of the space beyond (see artist’s impression and plan below).

Vegetables for the food hall will be grown against their walls and on their roofs. The co-working and meeting rooms will have an outside area and the food hall/bar will also have an outside seating bordering a community herb garden. There will be secure bike racks to again encourage healthy transport.

The Food Hall/Bar

The small food hall with its supporting small bar will focus on representing the ‘indie trade market’ featuring the many cuisines of the diverse surrounding community, on a rotating ‘pop up’ basis. The cuisines on offer could include Pakistani, Nepalese, Indian and Ethiopian as well as other favourites. Its subsidiary bar will feature locally produced craft and artisan ales designed to supplement the food offering only. These offerings will appeal to both locals and students from both the nearby further education college and the university. Such an offering will also be enticing to the pre-theatre crowd from the Reading Rep Theatre that will soon be opening within a couple of hundred yards of the junction, helping to strengthen and expand on an invigorated cultural focus and ‘hub’ for the area.

Co-working and Meeting rooms

Along with supporting small indie food traders as Reading recovers from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and recession, co-working spaces and meeting rooms will be available at JAHA. These spaces will appeal to small businesses as many of them are realising that they do not need permanent premises. JAHA will provide a state-of-the-art space for this, with inside and outside areas for working and meeting. JAHA will attract professionals and companies from the densely populated area around the Arch for whom the spirit and ethos of a unique relaxed heritage site, will be an appealing setting.

Cemetery and identity

With the reopening of its other gate on the Wokingham Road, the cemetery will become a green, multi branched pedestrian and cycle pathway that will open up and connect areas of East Reading. As the Arch is an integral heritage component of Old Reading Cemetery, a reinvigoration of the site will see a welcomereturn of locals to a much loved area. As a result, the cemetery will be cared for once again and its principle paths cleared to their original width (see picture below).  This will be achieved with volunteers from the local community working as a supporting element of Reading Borough Council, to once again reinstate the cemeteries original plan as a ‘Victorian Garden Cemetery’; a welcome pastoral setting right within a bustling area of Reading. JAHA will stand at its western entrance, a welcoming gateway, inviting locals and visitors to the area alike into the tranquil space within. With Reading Rep’s new Theatre opening close by, the Cemetery Junction Arch can become significant element of the entire ‘cultural hub’ centre envisaged for East Reading.