Reading has a well established reputation as a cultural centre: it has several theatre venues, including The Hexagon – a multi-purpose venue that provides a programme of events including theatre, comedy, classical music and dance – The Concert Hall, 21 South Street (an intimate venue for comedy, theatre and music) as well as the Progress Theatre (the innovative repertory theatre where Kenneth Branagh took his first acting steps).
Reading plays host to semi-professional and amateur choirs and choral societies (Sainsbury Singers, Phoenix Choir, Reading Operatic Society, Reading Gay Chorus and many more). It even has resident orchestras, including the long established Reading Symphony Orchestra (RSO) and the Reading Youth Orchestra.
Our diary of events and festivals is outstanding - biggest and most famous is Reading Festival, running since 1971. The second largest UK music festival after Glastonbury - it attracts 80,000 fans every year, to watch headline acts from around the world.
Other events include the long running Community Carnival in May, the Children's Festival (three weeks in May - June), the Real Ale and Jazz Festival (July) and WaterFest (June).
The sports offer is equally impressive - the Royals (Reading Football Club, freshly promoted to the Premership for the 2012/13 season) share the Madejski Stadium with London Irish RFC. Reading Men's Hockey Club have been European Champions, as well as forming the core of Olympic sides. Rowing is equally well represented: the University of Reading Rowing Club is an important breeding ground for Olympic hopefuls and Reading Amateur Regatta is the second biggest in the country (after Henley).
Reading and the surrounding area has a surprising choice of museums of outstanding quality, with historic, informative and artistic displays.
These museums include The Museum of Reading which displays artefacts from Reading’s history, the delightful Biscuit Tin Gallery, the nationally important Silchester Gallery and Britain's very own copy of the Bayeux Tapestry (with the naughty bits removed!).
The Cole Museum of Zoology is based at the University of Reading and displays 400 of its 3500 species at any one time, while the Ure Museum (also at the University) holds the largest collection of Greek sculpture in the UK.
In nearby Cookham the wonderful little Stanley Spencer Gallery is a unique gallery devoted entirely to the artist - a renowned C20th painter and local boy.
Finally don't miss MERL - the Museum of English Rural Life is based on Redlands Road and tells the story of the English countryside, rural peoples and agricultural history.