RISC is the Reading International Solidarity Centre, on London Street (35-39 London Street, RG1 4PS, next to Great Expectations, near the junction with the IDR). Its most prominent aspects are the Global Cafe and World Shop, but it also comprises office space, meeting and functions rooms upstairs at the back, and a tiny but prodigiously planted roof garden which is occasionally open to the public. RISC is a charity and ethical is its middle name.
During the daytime Global is a bright, relaxed cafe/bar, rarely very busy, serving food and drink to local workers, shoppers and others. There are tables and chairs on the pavement outside for enjoyment of finer weather, the adjacent traffic and smokers. Most evenings there is live music and can get packed, with punters spilling out onto the street. At Silver Heels Band and some other gigs local swing dancers fill the tiny dance space available.
The atmosphere is almost invariably friendly and the clientele diverse in age, (apparent) sexual orientation and gender presentation (though usually predominantly white ethnic and middle-class).
Music varies from poetry slams and open-mic evenings through jazz, funk, folk, blues musicians and groups, and DJs (listed on their website). Some of these are regular events, some occasional or one-offs.
Drinks are draught Budwar and bottled beers, ciders, wine, spirits, soft drinks, real and herbal teas and good coffee.
Global serves food to 9pm from Tutu's Ethiopian Kitchen: sandwiches, baguettes, burgers, baked potatoes, wedges etc as well as Ethiopian food. They do a fixed-price Ethiopian buffet on Thursday evenings. They also offer take-aways (which can be delivered by Deliveroo, whose middle name is not ethical: tip your delivery rider generously folks!)
Global is closed on Mondays.
Shit and Not Shit Pubs in Reading's review of Global Cafe is "hugely unfair and sneering" – though droll, if you like their style (e.g.: "Decor: Imagine your old drama teacher lived on a barge. There you go."), and even, in places, reasonably accurate.
The shop stocks fairly-traded craft goods from the developing world, books covering world politics, human rights, sustainability (though generally ideologically rather than evidence based), development issues, feminism etc, CDs of world music, cards, teas, coffee, chocolate etc.
The centre has office space used by world development and support groups, meeting and function rooms which can be hired out, and which are used by local activist and voluntary groups as well as Red Hat Salsa who run dance lessons and social dances on Tuesday evenings.
The roof of part of the building (above the big function room on the top floor) was been rebuilt as part of a refurbishment project to take the weight of a garden, now planted with a dense collection of edible and "medicinal" plants, including medium-sized trees. The garden is open a few times each year, usually as part of the National Gardens Scheme. Tours of the garden give visitors a comprehensive introduction to the range of plants grown. RISC also offers help to schools to encourage outdoor classrooms through the Schools Global Gardens Network and is involved in the Food For Families project and the Reading Town Meal.
The World shop and other parts of RISC's operations are run with significant help from volunteers.