The Reader 48 is here!

The final issue of The Reader magazine for 2012 has arrived and what a cracker it is, just in time for the festive season. Not only does it have a beautiful new cover, an original work titled ‘Aussie Outback’, by Cheshire artist Michael Troy, but it is packed with literary gems to last you through these cold months.

In Issue 48, you can enjoy:

  • US ‘soldier poet’ Brian Turner, author of ‘The Hurt Locker’, as the Poet on His Work
  • An extract from Howard Jacobson’s brand new novel, Zoo Time
  • ‘Imagining the Patient’, a thought provoking interview about literature and medicine with Iona Heath, the outgoing President of the Royal College of GPs
  • To mark its one year anniversary, Professor Philip Davis sets out a manifesto for the pioneering work carried out by the Centre for Research into Reading, Information and Linguistic Systems
  • New poetry from Andrew McNeillie, Chris Hardy, Emma Curran, Melissa Lee-Houghton and Sarah Lindon.

All this, on top of the usual great features from Brian Nellist, Angela Macmillan, and Casi Dylan, humour from Ian McMillan, and the diaries of The Reader Organisation, which includes ‘Poetic Justice: A Narrative of Belfast Breakthroughs’ from Patricia Canning.

If you are already a subscriber to the magazine, then your brand new issue should be arriving through your letterbox in the next couple of days. If not, why not?! You can take out a full year’s subscription, or purchase the single issue, on our website.

Have yourself a readerly Christmas!

Worlds of Wonder: An Olympic Evening with Danny Boyle and Frank Cottrell Boyce

From Charlotte Weber, Liverpool Hope University Reader-in-Residence

Pandaemonium, The Great Gatsby, Frankenstein, Jane Austen and Dickens – these were just some of the literary greats who appeared alongside

Danny Boyle and Frank Cottrell Boyce entertain the audience (c.Alan Edwards)

such contemporary icons as David Beckham, The Queen, Mr Bean and J.K. Rowling in Danny Boyle and Frank Cottrell Boyce’s electric presentation in front of students and staff of Hope University yesterday evening.

The event, which was held in the University Chapel and hosted by The Reader Organisation and the Faculty of Education as part of the Hope Readers partnership project, involved the pair who were part of the creative team behind the London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony discussing the literary influences on ‘the greatest show on earth’.

The Hope Readers project aims to inspire a future generation of primary school teachers with a deep and meaningful love of books and reading, which they will be able to pass-on to the children and young people they will go on to teach. The event yesterday was opened by Director of The Reader Organisation, Dr Jane Davis, who thanked the teachers and individuals who had inspired Danny and Frank when they were at school and who helped them to where they are now.

When asked about why he felt it was important to come and speak to the students at Hope, Danny commented,

Part of the privilege of our position is to be able to share our experience with people like the students at Liverpool Hope. Reading for pleasure is the fuel for everything and books, music and films are the creative platform to access the most amazing ideas.

Both Danny and Frank presented themselves to the audience as obsessive readers, with Danny referencing the controversial poet John Cooper Clark and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel The Great Gatsby as having had a massive influence on him.

The enthralled audience (c.Alan Edwards)

The pair were keen to showcase the books that had influenced their vision during the creation of the opening ceremony as well, and Frank read a section from Humphrey Jennings’ book that documents the Industrial Revolution, Pandaemonium. In fact the book, which Frank gave to Danny as a Christmas present one year, became such a huge inspiration on the ceremony, that the opening sequence, in which huge furnaces and chimneys rose from the ground of the Olympics stadium, was named after it. At the end of the talk, Frank passed a copy of the book that had been signed by both of them over to Jane Davis, to be used as part of the Hope Readers project.

During their conversation, Danny quoted C.S Lewis’ words, ‘We read to know that we are not alone’. Later, after he had read from Paul Farley’s hilarious poem, ‘A poem for the Queen’, which was used as inspiration for the sequence with James Bond and the Queen at Buckingham Palace and which refers to the Queen ‘waking up / in the blue silence of seven hundred rooms’, Danny said,

I would encourage the Queen to read. Because if there is anything that could tell her, when she wakes up in that massive house with seven hundred rooms, that she is not alone – it would be in a book!

Frank Cottrell Boyce, who scripted the opening ceremony and who is patron of The Reader Organisation and Professor of Reading at Hope, responded to a question from the audience about his feelings on being an inspiration to future generations by saying that it was simply a matter of ‘passing-on’ what you receive:

You can only give back what you are given, in one form or another: you feel impelled to pass-on what you love. And that is why teaching, and being an educator is a position of such massive privilege.

After the presentation had concluded, with a reading by Frank of his highly-acclaimed book The Unforgotten Coat, and several rounds of applause from the audience, both Frank and Danny headed over to the Eden building – the university’s Faculty of Education – for over an hour of meeting students and staff, photographs and book-signing.

There has been a massive buzz in the air at Hope about the event for the past two weeks, and it is even more palpable the day after. Both students and staff  agree that it has been one of the best moments at the university, and that it has inspired them and made them think differently about their role within Education. One PGCE Primary student commented:

The Danny Boyle and Frank Cottrell Boyce talk was great. I’m really inspired to actually read some of the books I know I should read, but have never got round too! I’ll be passing my enthusiasm onto my primary school staff (and pupils) to get reading. What fantastic ideas, and people, to bring to the university! 

The signed copy of Pandaemonium will be on display in the Garden Room in the Education Faculty and Frank has promised to return to campus again very soon to celebrate the success of The Unforgotten Coat in being nominated for the Guardian children’s fiction prize.

Thanks to everyone who attended and made it such a special, lively and exciting event.

Danny and Frank spent over an hour signing books for all the students who attended (c. Alan Edwards)

The Reader 47 is here

As the summer sunshine begins to fade, we’ve got the perfect companion to accompany you into Autumn: The Reader 47. The magazine has a brand new look for its 15th birthday, with original cover art, ‘Storm’, by Pamela Sullivan. Every issue from now on will feature work from an up-and-coming artist, and we’ll be featuring an interview with Pamela on the blog in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, once you’ve finished admiring the cover and actually opened the magazine, you will find a treasure-trove of new writing, thought-pieces, and reviews, including:

This is on top of all the usual features, such as Casi Dylan’s keep-in-touch piece for Read to Lead trainees, Brian Nellist’s ‘The Old Poem’ and ‘Ask the Reader’, and humour from Ian McMillan, as well as lots of new poetry, including the winner of BUPA’s Care Home Creative Writing Competition.

If you’re already a subscriber then you should be hearing the welcome thud of the magazine through your letterbox any day now, and if not, then what are you waiting for?! You can buy an individual copy for £6.95, or subscribe to receive a full year’s worth of Reader literary goodness via our website. For further inquiries, email


The Reader 46 arrives

Just as the sun starts to shine down on us with more frequency, so to compliment its rays comes the shining new edition of The Reader magazine (complete with a cover as bright as the summer sun), bursting to the brim with tons of literary goodness guaranteed to make you feel good.

Among the many highlights within Issue 46 are:

  • An extract from Tim Parks’ latest novel, the unnerving and insightful The Server (Harvill Secker, May 2012)
  • New poetry from Julie-ann Rowell, Neil Curry, Caroline Price, Marina Sanchez and David Attwooll
  • Sue Colbourn interviews Matthew Knight, a clinical psychologist with Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, who has been using poetry in therapeutic settings since the late-nineties, with some staggering results – including a wonderfully moving account of a man who spoke after four years of silence upon reading Wordsworth  – the power of whose words is further explored by Gillian Clarke, Stephen Gill, Bernard O’Donoghue and Raymond Tallis
  • Brian Patten features in the regular Poet on His Work feature, writing a no-holds-barred account of the inspiration for his poem Stepfather (which is this week’s Featured Poem on The Reader Online)
  • New fiction in the form of an absorbing short story, The Magpie by Mark Godfrey

The joy of Wordsworth’s words is also revelled in by Jane Davis, who ponders over the pleasure of Lines Written in Early Spring whilst being amongst nature; more stories from the Reading Revolution from Penny Markell, who takes us through a day in the life of the Get Into Reading London Project Manager, and Casi Dylan talking about how good mistakes can be made in endeavouring in the adventure of shared reading; and an exclusive preview of the latest Reader Organisation anthology, the utterly enchanting A Little, Aloud For Children, introduced by its editor Angela Macmillan.

Perfect summer reading if you’re lounging around poolside somewhere more reliably sunnier or just on the lounger in the garden.

If you’re already subscribed, you can expect Issue 46 of The Reader to land on your doorstep anytime soon and if not, then what are you waiting for – subscribe to receive your copy today.

Conference Tasters #3: Lemn Sissay

It’s time for another taster of what you can expect from the speakers at our forthcoming National Conference. You’ve already heard from Professor Jonathan Rose and Erwin James, so now it’s the turn of Lemn Sissay, award-winning poet.

One of the official Olympic poets for 2012, Lemn is also associate artist at the Southbank Centre and was awarded an MBE in 2010. He recently became a patron of The Reader Organisation and will be appearing on the panel discussing ‘Literature and Children’s Wellbeing’ on Day One. As someone who spent 17 years growing up in the care system, Lemn is passionate about improving the lives of Looked After Children through initiatives such as our own Get Into Reading project.

He will also be appearing in conversation with TRO’s Jane Davis at Day Two of our conference, a day exclusively designed for those who have completed our Read to Lead training.

Here’s a preview of his thoughts:

What is the last book you read that moved you?

A Love Letter from a Stray Moon by Jay Griffiths

Why are you interested in what The Reader Organisation does?

The Reader Organisation releases the true life changing power of the intimate act of reading. 

To hear more from Lemn Sissay and our work with young people, book your place now for The Reader Organisation’s National Conference, 17th-18th May 2012, British Library, London. Visit our website to register and for more details about the programme.

Conference Tasters #2: Erwin James

It’s time for the second interview in our series of  ‘Conference Tasters’, where we give you the chance to get to know our special guest speakers a little bit better.

This week’s star is Erwin James, writer and journalist, who also happens to be one of our new patrons. Erwin, a former prisoner, believes that reading and education changed his life, and today he is best known for his Guardian columns and his contributions to the debate on the role of prisons in our society.

He is appearing at our National Conference, 17-18th May, in a panel discussion on ‘Why Shared Reading Works in Criminal Justice Settings’, providing a unique personal perspective on the issues involved.

Here’s what he had to say when we caught up with him recently:

What is the last book you read that moved you?

‘Samuel Pepys: The Unequalled Self’ by Claire Tomalin, an exquisite insight into a complex life. By the end of the book I felt I knew this man so well, I felt that Tomalin’s almost forensic narrative had allowed me the privilege of sharing his life’s trials. 

Why are you interested in what The Reader Organisation does?

TRO promotes and encourages reading as a shared rather than a solitary experience. Most of my reading I’ve done in forced isolation, but when I was able to read with others and share and discuss what we had read, I found I got so much more out of a book. It’s for that reason especially that I am interested in the work of TRO.

To hear more from Erwin, as well as all our other exciting speakers, come along to The Reader Organisation’s 3rd Annual National Conference, 17-18th May, British Library, London. For information on which day is for you, and how to book your place, visit our website.

Conference Tasters: Hear from our Speakers

The Reader Organisation’s 3rd Annual National Conference is fast approaching (17th and 18th May, British Library, London) and we’re very excited about the stellar line-up of speakers appearing each day.

To give you a little taster of what you can expect, we’ve asked some of our guest speakers and the TRO staff appearing alongside them to give us their thoughts on their current reading and the upcoming conference itself.

We’ll be posting their answers on the blog over the next few weeks, so keep your eyes peeled.

Our first is from Jonathan Rose, Professor of History at Drew University (New Jersey, USA) and author of The Intellectual Life of the British Working Classes. He’ll be appearing in conversation with TRO’s Director Jane Davis on Day One.

What is the last book you read that moved you?

Sex Before the Sexual Revolution: Intimate Life in England 1918-1963by Simon Szreter and Kate Fisher (Cambridge University Press). Using the methods of oral history, the authors persuaded the last surviving members of that generation to talk about a side of their lives that they had always considered deeply private. The resulting collective memoir is at once touching, surprising, and stunningly honest. It turns out that our grandparents were, in their own way, more loving than we ever imagined.

Why are you interested in what The Reader Organisation does?

I admire and support The Reader Organisation because it protects and nurtures an endangered species – the serious reader.

For more information about the programme and how to book your place, please visit our website.

The Reader 45 has arrived

The first 2012 issue of The Reader magazine has sprung to life and is full of robust, stimulating things to revive you in time for spring.

The actor and director David Morrissey is interviewed about being the dark and ‘locked in’ Bradley Headstone in the television adaptation of Dickens’ Our Mutual Friend, a role he reprised in December for our Penny Readings here in Liverpool. He also talks about playing Macbeth in the Everyman theatre and his how his childhood love of libraries continues to this day.

 There are two unsettling new short stories by Drummond Bone (late of the University of Liverpool) and Olivia McCannon; and a rattlebug of beautiful, bite-size poems by Carolyn Waudby, Sean Elliott and Richie McCaffery. Have you ever read a poem that actually looks like a tiny little bird, hopping among the hedgerows? Mark Leech’s ‘As a Wren’ embodies this precious, tough little thing –its trilling and peeping come alive when you read this poem aloud.

As ever, tales from The Reader Organisation give much to think on: Casi Dylan on the balance and play between prose and poetry in Get Into Reading groups; Beverley Laroc and Eleanor Stanton’s discussion on reading with older people and the place of libraries in the current climate; Lynn Elsdon on harnessing technology via TRO’s first online Evening Read-In (the second, reading Kafka’s Metamorphosis, starts 8th March); and Natalie Evans’ elegant thought-piece on reading Theodore Dreiser’s Sister Carrie and its prescience to her and, more broadly, today’s youth unemployment crisis.

And that’s not all: Monday’s Featured Poem here on the blog will be from this issue’s ‘Poet on His Work’ – the wonderful and insightful Bernard O’Donoghue.  Pop back on Monday for this tantalising taster, or, better yet, get ahead of the game and subscribe now!

The Rolling Tomes

Posted on behalf of Eleanor McCann, Mersey Care Reader in Residence

I knew I’d picked the right seminar at the TRO conference when the first slide in the Libraries We Love presentation was of an old man wielding a guitar, impressively close to doing the splits:


That old man is, in fact, Keith Richards busting out on his trademark Telecaster. Richards was guitarist with The Rolling Stones from the early 1960s up until their demise in… no, incredibly they’re still creaking around… anyway, it has come to our attention that Richards is a big fan of libraries. Well, my two great loves are books and rock ‘n’ roll so I thought I’d have a look and see what involvement Richards has had, and could have, in the future of public libraries.

The first thing I found was a video of a long interview with Richards at the New York Central Library.


If you click along to around 8 minutes 50 seconds in, you will hear him talking about his love of libraries as a child growing up in Kent. I was struck by Richards’ response to the interviewer’s initial question about libraries – he smiles and says ‘Sure’ with quiet relish as though it’s his special topic on Mastermind. For a boy expelled from school, it is interesting to hear Richards speak of his willingness to obey the rules of libraries and that he valued them as places of civilisation.

In a BBC interview with Andrew Marr, Richards agreed that his childhood was Dickensian and that he was ‘one of the reprobates’, something which clearly continued into adulthood when he was jailed in 1967 on drugs charges. There is something about strict routine and regulation which connects prisons with Richards’ perception of libraries. The idea of ‘thou shalt not’, perhaps. Nevertheless, that libraries operate around their own internal laws (no talking, no food and drink etc.) was somehow appealing to Richards; strangely the institutionalism of his library was the thing he enjoyed, perhaps giving a sense of order to what became an otherwise hectic lifestyle. It certainly makes you wonder how we could achieve a balance between relaxing rules to make libraries less intimidating but also preserving rules so as to maintain the comfort of clarity and stability for library users.

Next, I came came across a short article in The Times, ‘It’s only books and shelves but I like it’. The article reports on the career Richards might have chosen had he not become a musician…

Last year Richards released a book himself, Life. I haven’t read it yet but reviews of the autobiography suggest it is a warts n all type of thing. I searched online for a taster and found a digital version of it, available here.

(You might need to press on the + button to make it legible.)

During the conference seminar, we had a long discussion about which titles should be in our libraries and who should choose them. Maybe Life ought to be among the stock on our dream library’s shelves – it is life we need to breathe into the public library system, after all.

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The Reader reaches 42 and gets a makeover

It’s bold, it’s fresh, it’s stylish but above all it contains the same great content.

The Reader, reaching 42, has had a bit of a makeover. You’ll be seeing a rainbow of colours coming your way as each issue arrives through your letterbox – making your collection of readers even more stimulating.

Inside this issue, we promised you that a couple of things would be available online, so here they are:

The full interview with A B Yehoshua.

A third poem, ‘Lemons’,  from John Levett.