St John and St Stephen’s has a long history of engagement with the arts. Newtown is a vibrant neighbourhood where street art, writing and artistic recollections of Reading’s last gas holder have recently been the subject of press and associated online and in person exhibitions. We are blessed with an abundance of musical talent in our congregation. As well as  our music groups and occasional choir, church members are involved in various local musical and arts pursuits.

Film

Our annual Lent Film Club explores the way cinema presents stories about ourselves in which we can trace themes common to all humanity: love, loss, truth, beauty, identity, diversity, conflict and mortality. This year’s film club theme was Something to Believe In:

Music and Dance

St John’s has a lively tradition of cabaret evenings and talent shows, and even managed to broadcast a couple of virtual events during the pandemic, including a 70th birthday party cabaret event and a Christmas concert. From Indian dancing to classical guitar, from atrocious jokes to our very own conjuror, there’s something to entertain everyone!

Chorate Chamber Choir is a mixed-voice chamber choir which performs sacred and secular music from the 13th century to the present day. They are regular performers at St John’s and their concerts raise funds for charitable causes such as ReadiFood and Shelter.

The Scamping Rogues are a lively barn dance band made up of church members. They often offer their services free-of-charge if your event is raising money for a good cause. Swing your partner and do-si-do!

Art

Newtown and East Reading are home to a surprising number of artists and writers. Events like Winterval Windows bring everyone out onto the streets to enjoy the residents’ illuminated window art, while our local guerrilla street artist has brightened up the area with his vibrantly decorated electricity boxes. Our own Café is used for occasional art exhibitions such as our Dust and Glory exhibition of art and poetry for Lent.

The online art exhibition Gas Tower Gallery showcases art, photography, poetry and stories inspired by Reading’s last gas tower, and features work by several church members. The church also hosted a physical art exhibition, which many people from the community enjoyed as an opportunity to say goodbye to this well-loved landmark in our neighbourhood

Café Théologique

Café Théologique is a place where, for the price of a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, anyone can come to explore the latest ideas in theology. Usually occurring at Zero Degrees Bar in Reading town centre (but also available online via Zoom), twice a term a speaker is invited to give a talk and lead a discussion on a wide variety of challenging issues, from the poetry of R.S. Thomas or Jay Hulme to whether archaeologists have discovered the real house of Jesus, from body-shaming to the sea as a space of spiritual encounter. More details are available on Café Théologique’s website and Facebook page.