Creative Writing Interpretation of a High Street Sound Walk in Reading

A Reading of London Street

[Aundre Goddard]

Hi, my name is Aundre Goddard, and welcome to A Reading of London Street. You should be by the Black History Mural. I will be your host and guide throughout this journey. Please listen out for moments where I instruct you to move as this will keep you safe when crossing the road and enhance your experience on the walk. Enjoy.

This is London Street. I, as well as many other people from Reading, have travelled through here at some point during their lives. This place, this space, on the face of it looks like any normal street, but if walls could speak…if walls could…we would see that what lies behind these walls is a history that celebrates over 800 years of British identity, guided by me, and brought to life by narratives of those from present and old. Take this walk in their shoes and I will transport you to a place where we can fully embrace what it means to be.

Something flares like a match in the dark, lighting the way, a crackling that rolls
from side to side – cut short as if with a sweeping gesture, repeating as it fades.

 [Second man]

(Time stamp: 01:16)

So when I was young – a car passes – I might just have been, like, oh, there’s Central. There's pictures of historic Black people on the wall. But now when you look at it and you understand your history more… (Traffic continues to pass) I've learnt more as I've got older. And these people on the wall were trying to do things to make it easier for us. Do you know what I mean? So sometimes, that legacy, when I look at that, I think to myself, why can't me or a couple of my friends be on a wall like that – the sweeping gesture is repeated – in 50 years to come? But, actually – a distant voice calls – these guys tried to do something good in Reading.

The scratch, as of a record, winds up the contribution and, amid a mixture of wateriness

and knocks, laidback music plays with a slight reggae inflection.

[Woman]

You'd be surprised, the first time even I saw our king, Haile Selassie, he is there, already, in the mural. (The reggae-style music continues in the background) So you come from, especially, like, The Oracle and like a centre of the heart of Reading to see, you know, a lot of, I have to say this, Black faces. You just, like… I think, like, eye-catching. So I think that's a nice feeling, you know, people, especially like me, to see faces, people I recognise.

The reggae-style music switches to more of a dub style, with the rhythm accentuated,

though now it’s somewhat muffled, playing as if through a wall.

[Woman]

(02:32)

Everybody thinks of Reading Prison as Oscar Wilde. (The beat continues) So Central Club, to us, is our Oscar Wilde. (Bells or prison bars clang) That's what it means. (A bell tolls) You can't get any deeper.

A swivelling siren suddenly cuts out, succeeded by crackles.

[Aundre Goddard]

Please walk along the mural and around the corner until you get to the entrance of this building.

The music fades back in, to the whoosh of passing traffic. A vehicle door clunks.

The music draws closer still but on one side only before sliding into the background.

On the other side, barely moving, a lorry labours in low gear. Footsteps tap,

followed by more clunks. The lorry finally makes progress but is swiftly cut off.

Hi, I'm back. My uncle used to bring me here when I was a boy. Central Club was a hub for Reading’s Afro-Caribbean community. During my teenage years, I used to attend events filled with music, food and dancing. This building used to stage the sickest nights. I remember the DJs.

The music resumes in the background with, in the foreground,

the labouring of heavy vehicles. Then the traffic cuts out to leave just the music.

[Second man]

I was originally in a group or sound, if you want to call it, called Shades of Black. (The music continues in the background) We sort of joined with the firm. So we was looking for, like, a location to practise, so we used to go and practise, like, twice a week. So we’d practise mixing and talking on the mic and when you’re going to bring in. And just… It's completely different to what it is now. The guys there were really, really helpful and they said, ‘Look, you could go upstairs and use the upstairs room.’ And we were like, ‘What? Central’s got an upstairs room?’ A lot of people didn't know this but there was an upstairs room in Central. So we used to actually have a little lockup there and keep all our decks and stuff and that there, all our records.

The music plays at its original level before dropping back again,

under a roomful of voices.

[Woman]

When we used to go there – both in the background now, the crowd chatters and the music plays – it was an enjoyable thing. Really. You'd leave home and you'd dress up to the nine. Really put your best on, what you can afford, and you’d go out and enjoy yourself. And when you come back, you’d feel good. You’d meet up strangers and you'd be talking to them like you've known them for years. You’d be hugging someone and you don’t even know who the arse they be.  (Giggles)

The music and voices continue in the foreground, before cutting out.

[Aundre Goddard]

(05:38)

Please turn around and take notice of the building with the grand pillars. The Great Expectations pub is across the road. There are traffic lights to your left. Please use them to cross the road. Stop the recording, and when you reach the step of the Great Expectations, press play and I will meet you there.

A pause.

Bells ring out, punctuated by tap-tap-tap.

Horses’ hooves clatter and voices fill the street.

[Boy]

‘Ello. He said you’ll be here. (The bells peal and the tapping continues at intervals) He told me to tell you to hang about until he catches up. (A carriage rattles past) Golly, your shoes are looking rather worn. (A fiddle starts up in the background) Take a few steps forwards and I’ll put some life into them. (The fiddle plays and a bell chimes) Place your foot on the step for me, please. Thank you. (Voices converse in the background) There's a lot of customers here because of some – struggles with the word – institution. They like to discuss the arts they practise and share knowledge.

A man recites in the background.

Who is that, you ask? That person you can hear right now is Mr Dickens. You know…Charles?

In the foreground, horses’ hooves clack and the metal parts of bridles

and other pieces of tack clink like coins in pockets.

A man laughs and someone else coughs as the fiddle plays.

He’s reading from A Christmas Carol tonight. I can't read, so I like to listen. (A dog barks in the background and a clock bongs the hour) Ssh! The door’s unlocked. Let's watch.

The clock continues to chime, much closer to,

with the clatter of horses and carriages consigned to the background.

A quill scratches on parchment.

[Stagehand] Are you ready?

[Charles Dickens] Indeed I am. (Assuming a much colder voice) ‘If they would rather die,’ said Scrouge, ‘they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.’ (The fiddle carries on playing in the background) ‘If they would rather die…’ (A few more scratches on parchment, then, in his own voice…) OK, I'm ready.

The tapping and voices continue in the background.

A drink is poured.

[Charles Dickens] (In Scrooge’s voice) ‘I wish to be left alone,’ said Scrooge. ‘Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer.’ (A man in the audience coughs) ‘I don’t make merry myself at Christmas and I can’t afford to make idle people merry. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned – they cost enough; and those who are badly off must go there.’

(Adopting a kinder voice) ‘Many can’t go there; and many would rather die.’

(The same man in the audience coughs again and another drink is poured)

(In Scrooge’s voice) ‘If they would rather die,’ said Scrouge – a glass is set down – ‘they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.’

Members of the audience gasp, a man groans and someone mutters, ‘No, no, no.’

[A woman in the audience] Such a terrible thing to say!

A carriage rumbles by.

The fiddle plays and the tapping takes place in the foreground once more.

[Boy] (Aside) He’s coming. Act natural. (Normal voice) ‘Ello, Mr Dickens, sir.

[Charles Dickens] Hello, young man.

You and your friend trying to sneak a peek, were you?

Well…

I hope you enjoyed what you heard. You know,

you remind me of someone I wrote about. Farewell.

Ta-ta.

Hooves clatter past.

[Boy’s mum] Oi, come on, your tea’s ready.

[Boy] I’ve got to go now. Bye. (Already further away) Thanks for your custom.

Muffled, carriage wheels rumble down the street

and people chat and laugh as the fiddle plays on.

The fiddle, voices, carriage wheels etc vanish in an instant.

[Aundre Goddard]

(09:15)

All right? Sorry I took so long. Follow me towards the window at Global Café.

London Street’s heartbeat moves with a global rhythm. Skipping stones across many ponds. Come, let's see what's going on.

A motorbike roars off.

This building is a palette of cultures with a wide variety of entertainment. Drum and bass, jazz, hip-hop, world music, flamenco guitar… You name it.

Music plays amid coughs and conversation.

I remember those poetry nights. They were really special.

A song called ‘Little Mystery’ plays in the background

as a crowd of people chat.

[Woman]

There were quite a lot of super-eccentric poets there. A guy called Ian, he performed a lot, and he was…he was a lot of fun. Had his glasses perched on the end of his nose and quite often had, like, just really, really funny poetry and delivered with this real sense of kind of tongue-in-cheek seriousness, which was really good fun. The great thing about it was it was just a massive mix of age ranges of people who were Reading residents and then people who were there at university just kind of cutting their teeth on the scene, which was really, really cool. I just…I just remember really enjoying it. I just remember, like, we were all kind of cramped in that back space and sat huddled around tables and there was a lot of beer and, yeah, just this really, really cool space that’s just a real celebration of, like, human life and creativity.

The song continues in the background as voices fill the space.

The voices likewise slip into the background.

[Same woman]

The artistic scene and the artistic people in Reading is lovely. On, on…in whatever concept…context. I mean, there are people there who are…that, you know, being an artist is so important to them. It's their identity. It's in their blood. And then you have other people who, you know, perhaps were doctors or teachers or accountants or students studying something completely unrelated but, you know, at night they were poets. And that was also really cool with this sense of, like, it doesn't matter how much of your time you dedicate to this thing. When we all come together in that space, we are all artists, and that's pretty cool.

The song ends abruptly with the hiss of a carbonated drink

as it’s squirted from a siphon.

More liquid is poured and ice cubes tinkle as they rise up a glass.

[Same woman]

(11:46)

Oh, do you know what I remember, Tutu's Kitchen, Tutu's Ethiopian Kitchen, her food is amazing. It's so good. (The glass fills) She used to, she used to cook in the kitchen at RISC. (A utensil clinks against crockery) So I went there and had the first Ethiopian food I’ve ever had in my life. (A tap runs, the gas burner of a hob ignites) And it was delicious, and then whenever it was open, I went back. (Laughs) Cos it was so good.

Crockery clicks, a tap runs, crockery clinks, a knife raps against a chopping board,

cutlery rattles against crockery, utensil scrapes against utensil and a blade

slices food items. A tap runs again and a voice masks further preparation.

A low tone continues as a broadcast begins and a man speaks in Arabic.

Chopping and clattering continue in the foreground. There is a flourish of music,

then the man’s voice resumes. Metal bangs and clangs, drowning him out.

Machinery drums. A knife knock-knock-knocks against a chopping board.

[Tutu]

I remember my launch day. We have 144 people turn up. (The taps and raps of food prep continue) These people, I never see them in my life. I don't know who they are. But they have this community spirit about them. They come to support me. (Pips crackle, echo and fade) So we…the queue was crazy, to, like, the bus stop because the bus has nowhere to stop because of people queuing to get in. (The crackly pips return and weave in and out) So I think that community spirit, you know, carried me all the way, like, 12 years. I mean, you go there, nobody cares where you come from. So people, they remember that – an electronic whine passes from side to side – like there’s a community sense and, even for me, you know, to be a part of that... (The whine crackles and wanes) You know, sometimes you see people, you don't think you want to speak to them, but when you talk to them, they are, you know, like, smart and have a history to tell you. So I think all that, you know – the crackly whine resurfaces – represents what London Street’s about, you know, a place everybody can hang around and nobody cares where you’re from.

The crackly whine reaches a crescendo and swiftly, conclusively, fades.

[Aundre Goddard]

Take a few steps towards the right of the building, by the passageway. You know, the one with the metal gate. There's someone there.

Let's head into the alley.

Water trickles and flows.

[Young woman] Move it, you bootlicker!

A body of liquid hits the ground from a height.

[Aundre Goddard] Oi, watch it! (Calm again) Sorry about that. (A crow caws) Up there used to be Sims Court. They were apartment blocks in the early 1800s. We’re at the side of RISC now. Notice the half-timber used in these walls. Imagine the hands that made this building. It’s still standing here today.

Water continues to trickle and flow.

Take a moment and guide your hand across the grain of the wood and see how it feels.

The wood contains a deep rumble.

Let’s exit the alley and turn left.

In a moment, stop the recording. Exit the alley, turn left and walk up London Street. Once you have crossed South Street, restart the recording and continue the next leg of your journey. I'll see you there.

(15:55)

Horses’ hooves clack on the street. A fiddle plays in the background.

[Young woman] Hello, excuse me. Can you direct me to Dr Addington’s surgery? I was told it was around here somewhere.

[Aundre Goddard] Dr Addington, the one who treated King George?

Yes, that's the one. My father has gone mad and I fear he may… He may…

[Aundre Goddard] Don’t worry about it. Sure. It's right around the corner.

Another horse clacks past, then…vanishes…

To be replaced, on the same stretch of street, by the whoosh of modern-day traffic,

the thump of music from within a building and the chatter of people outside.

[A young woman] Hey, what are you two doing standing and staring at that black door?

[Second young woman] What are you saying, are you two coming or what?

[Aundre Goddard] Oh, you're talking to us.

[Young man] Come and join us in the queue. It's Fatboy Slim. Remember?

I’ve got a bottle of voddy stashed away, mate. You know you want some.

Put that away. You’ll get us caught, numpty. Look,

the line is moving. Take a few steps forward, then.

All right, all right, calm down.

[Aundre Goddard] You’d better move along the queue. It’s only two doors up.

[Young man] I swear, if they don't let us in cos of you, we're done.

Done! I've been looking forward to this night for ages,

and I won't have you take it away from me.

OK, jeez…

We’re moving. Get your IDs ready.

(Clothing rustles)

[Young man] Oh, you’re having a laugh, aren’t you?

Really? Come on, mate. You had it a minute ago.

(Clothing is patted)

I will leave you behind. Here’s my ID.

Listen, I've got it somewhere. I know it. (Rustling)

[Man in background] All right there, mate?

See, I told you. Look, are you sure you’re

not coming in? You might regret it.

[Man in background] Thank you. Cheers. Cheers.

[Aundre Goddard] Maybe next time.

OK, fine. Suit yourself.

Much, much closer now, big beat music plays,

with a deep bass and loops of rhythm.

 

The music suddenly becomes muffled again, with traffic whooshing by out on the street,

before both stop abruptly.

[Aundre Goddard]

(17:54)

Let's continue to walk up London Street until you get to the bus stop.

A man asks, ‘Is it on?’ Another responds, ‘Yeah.’ A record crackles,

then a deep bass plays with a salsa rhythm coming in over the top.

[Second man]

Matrix was my favourite location of all because Matrix at that time was one of the biggest clubs in England, in the sense of it had people from all over England coming to party there. (A male vocalist sings as the track continues) Whoever was popping and the in thing, they brought. They had Pay As U Go, they had More Fire Crew. They had Shola Ama, they had Kayla Rock. They had Heartless, they had So Solid Crew… Everybody was there. Do you know what I mean? And we even done some under-18 events at Matrix as well, which I’ve still got the flyers up to now. It had, like, DJs like Mikee B from Dreem Teem, who was, like, a massive garage DJ at the time. MC Viper. And these guys are legends in the garage scene. Do you know what I mean? So I've still got them flyers up. I'll never part with them flyers.

The same track plays as part of a DJ’s set, with cheering and whistling.

The deep bass pounds, more on one side than the other.

 

The vocals stop amid thuds of rhythm

and more cheering and whistling.

 

Back outside, a car passes, rattling over something in the road.

The track plays on, but muffled.

[Same man]

Back then, I was just little Terence. (An engine runs in the background) So I remember, even, and it’s…as crazy as this sounds… If you were there at the time, you'd understand this, that even just walking into the nightclub and holding your record box… Because it wasn't laptops back then, or CDs, it was a record box. We had this silver-case record box. I can even get you a picture and show you them. But as a DJ, when you used to walk into a club, the DJ was somebody. Also, back then, you could park right in the middle of the road. There was cars going from the top of London Street all the way to the bottom, especially when there was big events on at Central Club or at Matrix. And I just remember, like, both sides of the road were jammed with cars. In the middle, and you'd try and find a parking space, and couldn't find it there. And you'd go to the back and if you parked at the back, then you could hear the bass of the club rumbling at the back doors and stuff. And you'd get closer. People are outside… Like, it was a complete different atmosphere. Do you know what I mean? So, yeah, good times. That's why I'm smiling now, even just talking about it. (Laughs)

(Another man laughs)

The hiss of a heavy vehicle braking is swiftly cut off.

A bus engine hums in the background as if from the inside of the bus.

 The engine thrums in the foreground as doors hiss open.

 

[Boy] Hi, Dre.

[Aundre Goddard] Aundre? Aundre…? W-W-What are you doing here? (The engine idles) Wait, what am I doing here?

[Young Aundre] Just waiting to catch the bus. Do you want one?

[Aundre Goddard] No, thank you. Sorry, but where’s Mum?

The bus continues to idle. People chat and laugh in the background.

[Aundre Goddard]

(21:28)

Please take a minute and wait by the bus stop. When I was a child my family and I would use this bus stop frequently. If you look across the road, you will see an alleyway with a black gate. That’s the After Dark Club. My dad used to work on the door there and every so often when I was a young boy waiting for the bus, he would give us lollipops. (A bell dings) They would definitely soften the blow when missing that bus.

The bus doors hiss.

[Young Aundre] You sure you don’t want one?

The doors squeak and seal themselves shut.

The bus thrums, then is no more.

Muffled, bells peal, horses’ hooves clop, carriage wheels roll.

A door opens and the bells, hooves and carriage wheels continue, only clearer.

[Thomas Huntley, his employee and Aundre]

(22:14)

Oh, excuse me, sorry. (Horses’ hoovers clatter past) Hurry. Grab the biscuit powder, Currant Tunbridge and macaroons.

Yes, yes. Yes, boss.

Hello, I’m Thomas Huntley. We’ve just opened and my shop is close by. Would you like to try some cakes or biscuits before you head off on your travels?

[Aundre Goddard] Hi, Mr Huntley. (Still shaken) Yeah, sure thing. Let me just …

(Bells continue to ring)

Where did the younger version of me go?

(Bridles and other metal pieces of tack jangle)

Are you all right?

Yeah… I’m all right, thanks.

Our Savoy biscuits will make you feel better.

I wouldn’t pass up on a biscuit or two. Where are we going?

(A dog barks in the distance)

It’s just up here towards the end of London Street. Stop when you get to the blue plaque.

The bells continue in the background.

[Aundre Goddard]

Walk with me until you get to the plaque that says ‘Huntley House’.

Muffled, hooves clack, people chat and bells ring.

A door opens.

[Aundre Goddard] Wow, this looks amazing.

[Thomas Huntley] Thank you. We sell a variety of baked goods here but our specialty is biscuits. We have Captain’s biscuits, rusks, biscuit powder, Savoy biscuits, which is the one you’re holding now. What are you waiting for? Tuck in.

A gentle piano piece plays.

[Aundre Goddard]

Thomas’s brother Joseph used to make tins for the biscuits directly across the street. (A motorcar passes) They later merged with George Palmer after Thomas’ death to become Huntley & Palmers biscuit factory. During the Great War, they produced shell casings and food rations for the British army. (Something heavy is dragged) My grandma used to work for this company – a bell tings – when she arrived from Barbados. This is the case for many people in Reading. They all hold a part of heritage – a throaty motorcar accelerates past – with Huntley & Palmers biscuits.

A telephone rings and the piano stops.

[Aundre Goddard]

Pause the recording and use the traffic lights at the top of the road. Head back down London Street towards an alleyway with a black gate on your left. Once there, you should see a black door with the initials ‘AD’ painted in yellow. When you have arrived, press play to continue.

[Aundre Goddard]

(24:40)

This is the After Dark Club. (A live band plays the intro to a song) So many amazing bands have played here. Radiohead, Supergrass, the Manic Street Preachers. My dad used to work on the door here during the 70s, 80s and 90s. Let’s see what he’s saying.

The band plays in the background.

[Aundre’s father]

Declan…used to put on the bands. Right? They had the rock bands and so forth. And when he put the bands on, we used to have a rocking night in the After Dark. A really, really rocking night in the After Dark.

The music gives way to indistinct conversations and laughter.

Into the aisle, the pathway to get into the After Dark, you couldn't move, you couldn't sneeze, in from London Street to the entrance door to the After Dark. (An alarm wails in the background) It was ram-packed.

A band plays ‘Generation After Dark’.

Before it was called the After Dark, it was called the Alexander School of Dance. (The band continues in the background) And the people that bought that from the Alexander School of Dance was a group called the Crawdaddy. And it changed from the Crawdaddy to the Paradise Club, changed from the Paradise Club to the After Dark Club. (The band plays on) And it was not just West Indian people in the After Dark nightclub. It was not just West Indian people in the Paradise Club or the Caribbean Club. There was all type of races in there. English, Asian, Blacks and Whites. We were all in there. And we all enjoyed ourselves.

The song slides into the foreground.

[Man]

(Sings) The end is near, but I dance on

Can’t believe I could last this long

I guess I feel the music in me

My body, mind and soul feel free

Checkpoint Charlie in its excess

The 80s music night success

My younger days gone, now I’m old

But feel the indie in me and ‘Fools Gold’

 

Living, loving, laughing memories

Of all the black walls and the balconies

We dance all through the night but made our mark

Always and forever generation After Dark.

 

The crowd cheers and whistles as the song comes to an end.

 

[Aundre Goddard]

It's been quite a trek. Let's head back down to where we started whilst we hear from some of the local people about what they would want future generations to know about London Street.

A record crackles, then the deep-bass track plays

with the salsa rhythm coming in over the top.

[Terence]

So, for me, I probably would be saying to the grandkids, ‘Do you know what, this is where your granddad used to come and party, on this road.’ (The music continues in the background) And they'd be like, ‘What? Here? Like, there's chicken shops here now, Granddad.’ Do you know what I mean? Or, ‘There's apartments here.’ Where I'd be like, ‘No, we used to party. At the beginning of the street, we had the Central Club and we used to go there . We used to party and you could get food and play table tennis in the daytime and it was a community. You go a bit further up, you had Matrix and we used to rave there, and that was the garage era and the champagne era and stuff like that. Then you had After Dark. And I remember going in there on a Sunday with my granddad and playing dominoes, and then they would have, like, venues and stuff like that as well.’ So my grandkids would be like, ‘No way, Granddad. No way.’

A crowd of people chat over the laidback music with the slight reggae inflection.

[Second woman]

I'd let them know the fun that I had growing up. (The track and voices continue) If they want to know about Central Club, I’ll say, ‘Well, your nan used to go there.’ So Central does have a lot of memories for a lot of us. Both christenings, weddings…we've had it all at Central Club.

The music stops.

A knife chop-chop-chops, and food sizzles.

[Tutu]

I think I would say to them, ‘That's Mummy's journey start. And because of this place… And look at you where you are’ because also that helps me to bring them where they are at the moment. Because of that… Because I have a job, I have a purpose. So I will definitely…I will say that to them.

People chat and ‘Little Mystery’ plays in the background.

[Third woman]

Yeah, I know that it's not Reading centre, but it kind of feels like the centre for me. (The song and voices continue) But just walking up and down that area, just, just meandering up that road and, like, breathing in the mix of smells and sights and, and talking to the people and the total eclectic mix there… I just thought, ‘This is… This is amazing. This is home. This is where all the cool people are.’ I think it just… It's lovely when you get that huge celebration of, of culture.

The song continues in the background.

Then the music switches to ‘Generation After Dark’.

[Aundre’s father]

I'm part of Reading. I don't care where I go. I'm part of Reading. I did not only grow up in Reading, I grew up in England. And this is where I was resident…and this is where I came back to when I finished my term in the armed forces. (‘Generation After Dark’ echoes in the background) I don't want to live anywhere else but into Reading.

The echo gathers and builds as an alarm bleeps in the distance.

[Aundre Goddard]

This is London Street.

This place, this space, on the face of it looks like any normal street – a vehicle passes – but what’s stored in these stones is quite unique.

I’m going to call it a day.

I’ll catch you soon.

Traffic passes, in both directions.

A motorbike roars into the distance

on the same road up and down which

horses’ hooves once clattered and carriage wheels rolled.


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