The Culture, Health and Wellbeing International Conference, 24th-26th June, took place in Bristol this year and The Reader Organisation were very much a part of it.
In his speech on day two, ‘Arts Health and Wellbeing: Personal reflections and political perspectives’, Lord Howarth of Newport championed the work of The Reader Organisation. From the offset, he remarks that
‘the marginalisation of the arts in the curriculum threatens to take our community backwards’
but that despite this, the arts remain very strong in our society and this is shown by art institutions all over the country creating their own health and wellbeing agendas. Lord Howarth used the work of The Reader Organisation as one of two examples of how the creative power of the arts make a huge impact on the health and wellbeing of individuals and communities. His experience in two Get Into Reading groups, the first being in Brixton and the second Aqua House, a community drug and alcohol service in Chester, confirmed for him the effect great literature has on individuals within a supportive group setting. Both happened to be reading Shakespeare plays and Lord Howarth remarks,
‘The complexity of Shakespeare’s syntax, so far from being a barrier, with guidance of the facilitator, was gateway to an experience of beauty and a stimulus to emotion and insight.’
Lord Howarth goes on to introduce the evaluation of the work of The Reader Organisation, undertaken by CRILS (Centre for Research into Reading, Information and Linguistic Systems at the University of Liverpool) and how he believes that the research will shed light on how it is that shared reading aloud of literature. Professor Philip Davis describes this as an
‘exploratory and meditative holding ground for human meaning’
benefits wellbeing. Our Literary Learning Manager, Casi Dylan, joined Professor Philip Davis and Dr Josie Billington from CRILS, at the conference to explain the function of the language of literature in:
- providing models of thought-bearing feeling in human predicaments
- offering a mode of creative, performative and participatory reading and group-interaction that is genuinely collaborative in the release of human creative powers
- constituting an alternative to the overly prescriptive language of therapy
If you are interested in the research behind our hugely successful shared reading model, visit the Research page on our website. CRILS also featured in the news recently, in a Telegraph article entitled ‘Shakespeare and Wordsworth boost the brain’
If you would like to watch Lord Howarth’s speech at the Culture, Health and Wellbeing Conference 2013, click here and make sure you pay particular attention around the 47 minute mark, in which he explains the work of The Reader Organisation, his experience of attending two groups and the research of CRILS.