University of Reading researcher Toby Barlow spoke with Junior in January 2021. They discussed Junior's involvement in the Oxford Road community through his teaching of martial arts over the past 23 years.
Below, discover highlights from their conversation!
Junior is a local martial arts instructor who has been teaching local children in the Oxford Road area for 23 years. Oxford Road is also his home now too. Junior used to live at Cemetery Junction, but now lives on Cranbury Road where he teaches his classes at St Mark's Church. As well as his classes, he is also involved with workshops and displays in local schools as well.
Junior starts by telling us about Bridge Hall, which is on the East side of the Reading West Station; he tell us that 'many moons ago' it was the only place in the area that taught karate to children. People from every nationality and religion, and from all parts of Reading would come along and it was a very diverse group of people meeting compared to other clubs and activities in the area.
Junior tells us about how important the clubs are for inspiring children. He tells us how a lot of children will come to them to train, having been told by their schools that they aren't good at sports. But the club would turn them around and prove them wrong. Junior says "everyone gets treated the same. All for one and one for all." He has had students go on to do lots of great jobs too, some join the police force, others have got into the England squads. A lot of people he taught have moved out of Reading now, but they come back and visit and always pop in to say hello, he explains that the martial arts clubs are like one massive community.
Junior talks about the importance of the No.17 bus, which has always taken residents from one side of town to the other, particularly connecting Oxford Road and Cemetery Junction, and allowed communities and friends to meet and mix.
Junior remembers the old Reading Football ground Elm Park; "on Saturdays you would want to avoid that area. It was the only time I would say. It was like scrapping most of the time it was not like nowadays. The horses would march the fans down oxford road, everyone was there".
We asked Junior how had Oxford Road changed for him. The main changes that he has noticed while working and living in the Oxford Road area is the diversity of people that he sees day to day has increased greatly.
When asked what he liked about Oxford Road, Junior said "Everything is on your doorstep, you can’t go wrong down there." He explained how, even during the lockdown, when a lot of shops were closed and you couldn't travel around, you could still get everything you needed along Oxford Road. He also tell us how "you can’t really get much better transport, there's the train station, the bus routes, and all the different cultures too!" He tells us about an Asian Food shop at the bottom of Kensington Road that he enjoys shopping in, and other shops that he can go to late at night and always seem to be open.
Junior also explains how he feel that "everyone there seems to me more friendly and they will speak to me as I walk down the road."
When asked about what could be improved on the Oxford Road, Junior told us how he feels the varying parking restrictions along the road were not good for the area and for people trying to visit. "The way the traffic wardens are is absolutely ruthless". He also mentions the identity of the Oxford Road, and how "many people from Reading have heard about Oxford Road but they might not know if they’re on it!" Junior tells us that Oxford Road to him is from the Reading West Bridge to Mr Cod!
Junior used to run team building projects with the Council and get local people together for small self defense classes, this is something he is really interested in being able to do again.