Penny Readings 2015: Northern powerhouses, Astounding Broccoli Boys and Dickensian cheer

Maxine 1 - Caro Rowland
Maxine Peake on stage at the Penny Readings 2015 (credit: @CaroRowland on Twitter)

Last night, St George’s Hall in Liverpool was full to the brim with festive spirit as the Penny Readings 2015 took place. For just over two hours, the glittering Concert Room – which Charles Dickens himself deemed as “the finest room in the world for reading” when he read on the very same stage – saw the sell-out show wow the audience with seasonal literature, music and entertainment, all for the price of just one penny a ticket.

Our star readers came in the form of ‘Northern powerhouses’ Maxine Peake and Shaun Evans, delighting and moving us in equal measure with their choice of readings. We were treated to a double helping of D.H. Lawrence with extracts from Sons and Lovers and The Rainbow, perfectly brought to life by Maxine’s dulcet tones, with her take on the Morel’s family Christmas awaiting the arrival of eldest son William back from London rightly called ‘captivating‘ by one of our many audience members – a feeling that was surely shared by the whole room. The Dickensian spirit of the Penny Readings was in full effect with Shaun’s piece from David Copperfield, which saw the title character in particularly high spirits, and his characterful reading of the ‘devilish good fellow’ brought frequent gales of laughter from the crowd. Maxine ended with a poignant Christmas piece – The Oxen by Thomas Hardy – although arguably her most challenging role of the evening came when she was called upon to draw the famous Reader Raffle, which had some incredible prizes on offer including a Kiehl’s gift-set, tickets to The Alice Experience and The Beatles Story, hampers from Asda and LEAF, Independent Liverpool cards and a signed authenticated picture of Liverpool FC midfielder Phillipe Coutinho!

Shaun Evans reading from Dickens (credit: @Sbarber5bp on Twitter)
Shaun Evans reading from Dickens (credit: @Sbarber5bp on Twitter)

Another memorable performance came from the ever-entertaining Frank Cottrell Boyce, who read from his latest hit novel The Astounding Broccoli Boy after regaling us with tales from his schooldays and in particular the case of a nun who may or may not have been concealing a Dalek status…Frank also pleased the crowds by signing copies of the book in the foyer afterwards. Angie MacMillan treated us to an exclusive preview of the latest in the A Little, Aloud series – A Little, Aloud With Love, due to be published in early 2016, and the Christmas cheer was brought back into proceedings with special guests Adele, Madison and Josh from Norman Pannell Primary School telling us the story of How The Grinch Stole Christmas. As ever, Phil Davis invoked the festive spirit with the traditional reading from A Christmas Carol, bringing the scene from the Cratchits’ dinner table to life.

Musical interludes were brought courtesy of The Ukulele Uff & Lonesome Dave Trio with their set of singalong classics including the love song for insects Never Swat A Fly and Irving Berlin’s Blue Skies, the super-talented piano player – and composer! – Evie Gill-Hannan, and the AINE Gospel Choir, finalists from the BBC Songs of Praise Gospel Choir of the Year 2014, who led the whole cast and crowd in a soulful rendition of Lean On Me to bring this year’s proceedings to a rousing close.

It was a real compliment for our supporters Publiship to call this year’s show the ‘Best Penny Readings ever’ and the #PennyReadings hashtag on Twitter was full of similar highlights from those in attendance:

Absolutely loved our first at . Thanks for organising a great evening! 🙂

all sounding/looking beautiful for the magical

Loved listening to made me laugh and nearly cry at end of reading…

Thanks and for a fab night.

Shaun Evans and Maxine Peake backstage with staff from Whitefield Primary School
Shaun Evans and Maxine Peake backstage with staff from Whitefield Primary School

With so much festivity and goodwill in abundance, we like to think that Dickens would be proud.

All that is left to say is a massive thank you to all of our performers, supporters, stall holders including News From Nowhere, Royden Revolve Rotary Club and The Reader Cafe, staff members and everyone in attendance for making the Penny Readings 2015 so memorable. Here’s to next year! In the meantime, to borrow a phrase or two from Bob Cratchit:

“A merry Christmas to us all, my dears. God bless us!”

Maxine Peake headlines Penny Readings 2015

The Penny Readings 2015 is just under two weeks away and we’re excited to announce our headline act for this year’s show.

Maxine Peake
Maxine Peake, starring at the Penny Readings 2015

Actress Maxine Peake will take to the stage at St George’s Hall, Liverpool on Sunday 13th December to join our annual festive extravaganza. Familiar from television and film roles in Dinnerladies, Shameless, Silk, The Village and The Theory of Everything, Maxine recently played the title character in a radical re-imagining of Hamlet at the Royal Exchange in Manchester, making her the first female Hamlet on a major stage for 35 years.

In The Reader 55, she was interviewed by Philip Davis about her propensity to take on challenging roles, as well as making the connection between acting and screenwriting:

“It is not about being confident. I don’t go ‘I am a good actor’. I want to take bigger risks and enjoy it more […] Now the way I try to think about everything is: Why not?

Shaun Evans
Shaun Evans

Maxine will appear at the Penny Readings alongside Liverpool-born actor Shaun Evans, star of Inspector Morse prequel Endeavour, Whitechapel and BBC Two’s recent The Scandalous Lady W.

We’re also delighted to have Publiship supporting the Penny Readings 2015.

This year’s Penny Readings sold out in a record 90 minutes, with anticipation high for another seasonal celebration of reading, music and entertainment. Dickens will make his regular appearance in the form of the festive classic A Christmas Carol, and we can promise many more treats in store to start Christmas in true Reader style.

The show will start at 6.30pm on Sunday 13th December in the Concert Room. Doors will open to the foyer at 5.30pm, where stalls and refreshments will be available.

Shared reading group members and The Reader volunteers have been notified of their ticket allocation and will receive their priority reserved tickets from their group leader and volunteer coordinator within the next week. Public tickets for the Penny Readings 2015 are sold out.

Penny Readings 2015: How to get your tickets

Penny Readings fest 1 onlineLast week we announced the date for this year’s Penny Readings, and now we can reveal more information on how you can get tickets to this year’s festive extravaganza of reading, music and entertainment.

First, a little reminder of the fundamentals:

Where? St George’s Hall (Concert Room), Liverpool
When? Sunday 13th December, 6.30-8.30pm (entrance to the foyer from 5.30pm onwards, with stalls and refreshments)
How much? Tickets are free – just bring your penny on the night!

Shared reading group members and The Reader volunteers will be assigned priority ticket reservation from now until 5pm on Friday 13th November. A maximum of 2 tickets per group member/volunteer can be reserved, although due to possible high demand and a limited number of tickets available there is no guarantee that all requests will be fulfilled.

Group members and volunteers will be able to request tickets from their group leader or volunteer contact and must include the following details: first name and surname, name of group and group leader (applicable to group members) and contact details (telephone number and/or email address).

Ticket allocation for group members and volunteers will be confirmed during the week commencing Monday 23rd November.

Tickets will be available to the general public from 10am on Tuesday 17th November, and will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis via the online booking link at http://pennyreadings2015.eventbrite.co.uk/ and by calling 0151 729 2220. There will be a maximum of 2 tickets per order.

Please be aware, there are no afternoon Ha’penny Readings taking place this year. Children and young people can attend the Penny Readings with an ordered ticket.

We’ll be keeping you updated with more Penny Readings news in the run-up to the big night – in the meantime, follow the #PennyReadings hashtag on Twitter for all the latest…

The Penny Readings 2015: Date Announced

It’s the biggest event of the year, and we can announce that the Penny Readings is returning to start the Christmas season in true Readerly fashion. The all-important date for your diaries can be found below…

The Concert Room

On Sunday 13th December, we’ll be filling the beautiful Concert Room in St George’s Hall with audience members ready for an evening of festive readings, music and entertainment galore. Now in its twelfth year, we’re looking forward to another seasonal extravaganza harking back to the days of Dickens – all for the price of one penny.

Stay tuned in the coming weeks for more details on our Penny Readings line-up, and the important information on how you can get your tickets.

The Menlove Treasure: The end is in sight…

The grass turned silver, the stone doorway shone red. The long, skinny shadows of the children twitched across the shovelled earth.

“Old tradition says they are the gates to hell,” he says, “also they are haunted by Lady Menlove who forgot to come back for her treasure. Sometimes you can hear her whistling the tune.”

Rylan realised that they were now back in the twenty first century. That if Charlotte was still inside the safe, then she had been there for a hundred cold, dark years…

menlove_treasure_front2_200x279The snippets above are all thrilling excerpts from the previous chapters of The Menlove Treasure, the latest serial from award winning author and screenwriter Frank Cottrell Boyce. Have you unearthed it yet?

Written exclusively by Frank for City of Readers and their Give Us 5 campaign, The Menlove Treasure is a wonderful tale for the whole family to discover and enjoy, set in the mysterious old Mansion House in the middle of a Liverpool park, and following Frank’s script for an episode of the latest series of Doctor Who, is another journey through time. Over five chapters, we’ve joined schoolboy Rylan on his journey to find the truth about the strange torn painting and match up the past with the present. What other thrills will be in store?

Chapter 6, the final chapter in the serial, will be unveiled exclusively at the Ha’Penny Readings this Sunday 21st December at Liverpool St George’s Hall via video link, read by Frank himself, and will be available on the City of Readers website soon after. If you haven’t already discovered the story, or if you want to refresh yourself, you can read all five previous chapters on both the City of Readers and The Reader Organisation websites to get right up to date.

You can still be amongst those who get to hear the final chapter of The Menlove Treasure live and exclusive – there are a few tickets left for the Ha’Penny Readings, our festive, family-friendly extravaganza. The show starts at 2.30pm, and will be full of reading, entertainment and fun – the perfect way to start off the Christmas celebrations. You can purchase your tickets online by visiting: https://pennyreadings2014.eventbrite.co.uk (maximum of 4 per order)

City of Readers and Liverpool City Council are also organising a book donation scheme so that the city of Liverpool can share the gift of reading this Christmas. Donations of either new or second hand books, especially those aimed at children and young people, can be dropped off at the special book bins, which can be found at the following locations around the city:

  • Toxteth Annexe
  • Liverpool Central Library
  • Norris Green Library
  • Childwall Library
  • Calderstones Mansion House
  • Goodison Park

You can find out more about the scheme and a special City of Readers supporter on the Liverpool Echo website: http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/everton-star-samuel-etoo-launches-8260409

Featured Poem: Brown Penny by W.B. Yeats

Our selection of Featured Poem this week has been inspired by the Penny Readings, which is just over a month away. Tickets are available today to the public, and they’re expected to sell fast so make sure you get in early and don’t miss your chance to be at this year’s festive extravaganza of reading and entertainment. All the details can be found on our website: http://www.thereader.org.uk/events/penny-readings

A penny doesn’t just get you entry into our famous Penny Readings; in this poem by W.B. Yeats it seems it can predict the future and the promise of love, although it may be ‘crooked’…

Brown Penny

I whispered, ‘I am too young,’
And then, ‘I am old enough’;
Wherefore I threw a penny
To find out if I might love.
‘Go and love, go and love, young man,
If the lady be young and fair.’
Ah, penny, brown penny, brown penny,
I am looped in the loops of her hair.

O love is the crooked thing,
There is nobody wise enough
To find out all that is in it,
For he would be thinking of love
Till the stars had run away
And the shadows eaten the moon.
Ah, penny, brown penny, brown penny,
One cannot begin it too soon.

W.B. Yeats

The Penny Readings 2014

The Reader Organisation’s most popular annual event is returning for its eleventh year and is already highly anticipated – and today we can announce the dates for when you’ll be able to get your hands on tickets to the Penny Readings 2014, which returns to St George’s Hall in Liverpool on Sunday 21st December.

Tickets will be released to the general public in the week commencing Monday 17th November. This year, tickets will be allocated on a first come, first served basis, available both online, at Calderstones Mansion House and further distribution points to be announced at a later date.

Members of our shared reading groups will be able to apply for priority tickets two weeks before general release, on Monday 3rd November, and can apply through their group facilitators.

As ever, you’ll be able to apply for tickets to the family-friendly Ha’penny Readings in the afternoon as well as the evening event.

The Penny Readings have become a staple of the festive season in Liverpool, so make sure you pop the dates in your diary! Stay tuned for more information on what promises to be another spectacular show of reading, music and entertainment coming soon…

Penny Readings fest 1 online

 

 

The London Penny Readings 2014

Penny hi resThe London Penny Readings
Sunday 12th October, 5-6.30pm
The Clore Ballroom at Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre, London SE1 8XX

The Reader Organisation is proud to announce that our second London Penny Readings will be taking place next month.

Our extremely popular public reading event, based on a tradition made famous by Dickens, is coming to the Southbank Centre on Sunday 12th October as part of the London Literature Festival. This year’s festival concentrates on the themes of freedom, justice and democracy, celebrating the optimism of the human spirit and the ability of the arts to transform and change lives, and we will hear some of the greatest classic and contemporary literature that touches upon and celebrates the freedoms and struggles faced in human life.

Joining us for the London Penny Readings are special guest readers including writer, The Guardian columnist and patron of The Reader Organisation Erwin James and Frank Hewetson, one of Greenpeace’s ‘Arctic 30’ activists who was held in prison in Russia for protesting against oil exploration in 2013.

We will also be joined on the day by some of our shared reading group members from our London project, where we currently run a number of groups in a variety of community settings, and for whom literature has played a special role in helping to shape their lives:

“It’s been cathartic and touched things in me that I didn’t expect to be touched. In a very organic way. We are all from somewhere else, very different backgrounds and we’ve found something in common.” – shared reading group member, Southwark

Sticking to Dickensian traditions, entry into the event will cost no more than a penny on the day, but you can register now to guarantee your place for the evening: https://londonpennyreadings.eventbrite.co.uk

Stay tuned to the blog and our other social media channels for more exciting news about the London Penny Readings as we countdown to the date.

Find out more about the London Literature Festival, running from Tuesday 30th September to Monday 13th October, on the Southbank Centre website: http://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/whatson/festivals-series/london-literature-festival