Reader event: Penny Readings

Penny Readings
St. George’s Hall, Liverpool
December 9th, 2007

By Chris High

In the annual Penny Readings, now in its fourth year of emulating Charles Dickens’s event of 1862 in which the great author described the room as “simply perfect”, The Reader Organisation have managed to encapsulate not only the very essence of Christmas, but also the very heartbeat of what Liverpool ’08 should be about. What better way to herald the arrival of Christmas than to spend a somewhat chilly Sunday evening in the luxurious surroundings of the Small Concert Room to listen to some of the city’s finest exponents of the spoken word reading festive extracts from Hardy, Dickens and Shakespeare?

Introducing some of the city’s musical foundations such as the Life Changers Empowering Ministries Gospel Choir – incorporating singers from seven different countries – and the Merseyside Dance Initiative’s, African Youth Dance, whose performance was filled with colour and unrestrained enthusiasm, BBC Radio 4 presenter, David McFetridge, held proceedings together as MC, reading extracts from Capsica’s Mersey Minis anthologies.

But it is the guest readers who make the event what it is and not least this year was Annabelle Dowler – Kirtsy Millar in The Archers and The Shepherd in The Liverpool Playhouse production of The Flint Street Nativity – who read from The Winter’s Tale and As You Like It, bringing scenes vividly to life with great energy.

Equally as eloquent were the University of Liverpool’s Brian Nellist MBE, who read from Thomas Hardy’s Under The Greenwood Tree and poet Jenny Joseph, reading from Bleak House and her own work, Led By The Nose, A Garden Of Smells.

As is traditional at the this event, however, it is the chosen passage from A Christmas Carol read by Philip Davis, Editor of The Reader magazine, that closed the show and so released the five hundred strong audience into the chilly night air with a lighter heart and a renewed sense of what the meaning of Christmas should be.

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Chris High is an author and freelance journalist. He also writes crime fiction book reviews, theatre, music and film reviews, and interviews writers, media personalities and musicians. We are not entirely sure what his tastes in cake are. Or if he even likes cake.

(Festival Girl is away)