Reading black history mural to be restored before site sale

Image caption The mural was painted on the side of the Reading Central Club, which was closed since 2006.

Restoration work has begun on a mural at the centre of a row between community groups and a local council.

The future of the black history mural in Reading has been uncertain after the club upon which it was painted was put up for private sale.

The borough council has dismissed arguments suggesting the artwork, and therefore the contribution of black people in the town, is under threat.

Cleaning and surveying it, it claims, will help preserve a "cultural icon".

The mural was initially painted on the side of the Reading Central Club, which was been closed since 2006 following a police drugs raid.

Image caption Community groups have previously held protests about the mural, claiming it is under threat.

Concerns were raised after Reading council announced it was putting the building up for sale on the open market after bids from community groups failed.

However, after signs of deterioration the council has decided to restore the mural in a two-week process that began on 9 October.

Reading Borough Council Leader, Jo Lovelock, said the artwork remained "of huge importance to the black community, the wider community and the council.

"We are taking action now so that it can be professionally and sympathetically cleaned by experts in this field, and for the structure to be surveyed so that we can establish the best way forward."

In September, protests were held in Reading accusing the local authority of wanting to sell its "spiritual home".

The council claims it will invite bids for the building "later in the autumn" and expects any offers to include plans to secure the mural's future.

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