14 Sep 2021

In November 2020, Reading Museum and Oxford Road Community Primary School embarked on a joint-project to explore and celebrate the history of the Oxford Road.

This work formed part of Reading's High Street Heritage Action Zone (HSHAZ) project, in partnership with Heritage England and Reading Borough Council. 

In this blog, read about our work with the school and its brilliant pupils, the wider HSHAZ project, and what the students created to celebrate the stories and future of their community.

What is the High Street Heritage Action Zone scheme?

In September 2019, Historic England (a public body that helps people care for, enjoy and celebrate England's historic environment) announced that Reading had been chosen, among 68 areas across the country, to receive funding for the creation of a High Street Heritage Action Zone (HSHAZ). With match-funding from Reading Borough Council, the High Street Heritage Action Zone would conserve and celebrate the heritage and distinct culture of each area, whilst supporting local businesses and communities. Learn more about the HSHAZ on the Reading Borough Council website.

One of the areas within Reading's High Street Heritage Action Zone is the Oxford Road. A major thoroughfare through our town, the Oxford Road is a diverse hub of cultures, creativity, and community. Many people have moved to the Oxford Road in its long history, each contributing to what it has become today: a place described with pride as 'the world in one place' by generations of people who have lived and worked there. This history formed the centre of our recent online exhibition, produced by the HSHAZ: Oxford Road Stories.

Oxford Road Stories website header image
The Oxford Road Stories online exhibition celebrated the community, culture and heritage unique to the Oxford Road area.

Our work with Oxford Road Community Primary School

We were excited and really interested to find out how it felt to be a part of the Oxford Road community, and learn from young people what they loved about the place they called home.

Working with Oxford Road Community Primary School, we asked pupils to interview family members about their lives on the Oxford Road. We gained wonderful responses, including happy memories of favourite shops of years-gone-by, the Oxford Road carnival, and the Oxford Road Library.

In December 2020, we were looking forward to delivering online workshops with the children in January 2021 to start the project. Unfortunately, the second lockdown scuppered our plans. But both Reading Museum and the Oxford Road Community Primary School were able to work together to adapt the project for a much shorter period of time.

Online teacher insets took place in March 2021, and we delivered the workshops with the children in April. These featured resources and objects from the Reading Museum collection, as well as first-hand accounts from the community collected during the HSHAZ project.

You can explore these resources, together with short films we produced about the Oxford Road, featuring interviews with members of the local community, on our teacher resource pages.

At the same time, the school and its students worked incredibly hard to explore life along the Oxford Road: from focusing on the theme of transport in the area, to taking part in Caroline Streatfield's project 'Hidden Recipes from the Ancestral Home'.

Image for Hidden Recipes from the Ancestral Home.
This project celebrated the huge range of food and cultural heritage in the Oxford Road area.
A student with a recipe card from the Hidden Recipes from the Ancestral Home project.
This card is just one of many created for the Hidden Recipes from the Ancestral Home project!

The students' work

On the 2nd of July, we were excited to visit the school for the presentation of work by students in years five and six. We were delighted to see that although the presentation was only by years five and six, the whole of KS2 had actually been working on the topic. Year three were invited to watch the older pupils' presentation along with the museum team and the Mayor of Reading. All the children were very excited to meet the Mayor and were very impressed that he knew about their project and was keen to learn more about what they had done to celebrate their Oxford Road.

The pupils had created an amazing range of work. They had designed transport for the future to improve the busses on Oxford Road, created bird houses for local wildlife, and made a commitment to visit and look after the local garden where the bird houses will be situated. They had learned about local people and businesses in the area, as well as exploring architectural features on the local buildings. They created leaflets and the banner celebrating the area's culture, diversity, history, and future that is featured at the top of this page.

A student with a timeline showing the Oxford Road's history.

What the future holds

This joint-project has now been embedded into the school’s curriculum and will be an integral part of their local history studies as well as a core theme in their art, design and technology projects.

Oxford Road Community School has demonstrated how this project and these resources can form a central part to a school-wide cross-curricular project.

As a result of the project, the young people have earned a Discover Arts Award, an award that demonstrates their ability to research, learn new things and share what they have learned with other people. It is a testament to their leadership skills and creativity.

This has been a really exciting project showing the resilience, creativity, power and pride of the Oxford Road Community. It really is a ‘world in one place’.

Thank you for joining us in learning about this incredible work by Oxford Road Community Primary School.

To find out more about how Reading Museum works with schools, both near and far, visit our schools pages.