The Wokingham Paper

‘Reading is built on partnership and an overwhelming sense of togetherness’ – council leader reflects ahead of vigil

James Furlong, Joe Ritchie-Bennett and David Wails
James Furlong, Joe Ritchie-Bennett and David Wails

“Reading is built on partnership, on its community cohesion, and on an overwhelming sense of togetherness. I am so proud to see people holding fast to these values and rejecting the politics of hate and division.”

That’s the view of Reading Borough Council leader Cllr Jason Brock. 

He has penned an open letter to people who want to mark the death of three people in the Forbury Gardens terror attack last Saturday night. 

Tomorrow night, there will be an online vigil at 7pm. Participants are asked to light a candle on Saturday, June 27, to mark one week since the terror attacks, which saw James Furlong, Joe Ritchie-Bennett and David Wails die and three more people were injured. 

The vigil will be live-streamed on Reading Borough Council’s Facebook page and include addressed from the borough mayor and other community leaders. 

Cllr Brock wrote: “The appalling attacks in Forbury Gardens on the evening of Saturday 20 June have devastated the entire community of Reading, and touched people around the country and across the world.

“Almost one week on, our thoughts remain with all those who were harmed by the event, whether physically, mentally or psychologically – in particular the families and friends of James Furlong, Joe Ritchie-Bennett and David Wails.”

Although Covid-19 restrictions means that there cannot currently be a physical gathering, Cllr Brock promised that there will be when it is possible. 

“I can reassure you that this won’t be the last time we mark this event, and there will be many more times in the future – when social distancing allows – that we can come together to remember and support all those affected by these attacks,” he wrote. 

“I want to thank all residents for their dignified and compassionate response. We must always remember that Reading is built on partnership, on its community cohesion, and on an overwhelming sense of togetherness. 

“I am so proud to see people holding fast to these values and rejecting the politics of hate and division.”

Cllr Brock’s letter in full

The appalling attacks in Forbury Gardens on the evening of Saturday 20 June have devastated the entire community of Reading, and touched people around the country and across the world.

Almost one week on, our thoughts remain with all those who were harmed by the event, whether physically, mentally or psychologically – in particular the families and friends of James Furlong, Joe Ritchie-Bennett and David Wails who sadly died.   

That’s why we’re holding a virtual vigil at 7pm tomorrow – Saturday 27 June – exactly one week on. Please join us online and light a candle to support #ReadingTogether in the face of these attacks. You can join the live stream at the Council’s Facebook page or on the new #ReadingTogether microsite. 

With social distancing guidelines still in place, we are asking people to commemorate this moment with us online, and join the private vigil live-streamed from the town at which the Mayor of Reading and other community leaders will address those watching. 

I know how much people around the town – indeed around the country – want to come together at this difficult time to show their support and to share their pain with friends, family and their wider communities. Due to the ongoing Covid-19 situation this is not possible, but I can reassure you that this won’t be the last time we mark this event, and there will be many more times in the future – when social distancing allows – that we can come together to remember and support all those affected by these attacks. 

There are also other ways to express solidarity and support those affected including signing the online book of condolence or making a donation to the official #ReadingTogether fund, which will support those affected by this tragedy, and help fund a permanent memorial.

Please remember to take care of yourself in the aftermath of these shocking events. If you have been affected and feel you need support, please contact Thames Valley Victims First support line on 0300 1234 148 or use Victim Support’s live chat facility. Find out more about local organisations that can help on the #ReadingTogether website.

Yesterday I wrote an open letter to the people of Reading reflecting on events of the last week, and you can read it in its entirety here.

Finally, I want to thank all residents for their dignified and compassionate response. We must always remember that Reading is built on partnership, on its community cohesion, and on an overwhelming sense of togetherness. I am so proud to see people holding fast to these values and rejecting the politics of hate and division.

Thank you, always.

Councillor Jason Brock

Leader, Reading Borough Council

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