Volunteers’ Week – Helen’s Reader Story

We kick start Volunteers’ Week with a powerful Reader Story from one of our volunteer Reader Leaders.

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An Update from Shared Reading Knowsley

 

With changes afoot for Shared Reading Knowsley, Helen has all the latest from the project:

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Making Myself Heard: The story of my Reader internship

Today we say goodbye to our wonderful Reading Resources Intern, Nikki. It’s been a joy having her with us and she’s been kind enough to write about her experience here at Reader HQ in Calderstones:

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The Reader at the first National Arts in Health Conference

“Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.”

The Reader at AESOP
Our readers at the first Arts in Health National Conference (credit: AESOP)

A week ago, we took part in the first National Arts in Health conference, hosted by AESOP (Arts and Enterprises with a Social Purpose). Exploring the ways in which the arts can be harnessed to improve the provision of healthcare in the UK, the conference brought together leading thinkers and doers in the arts and health, and The Reader was lucky enough to be selected as only one of three organisations out of twenty eight to showcase in the opening plenary.

It was a truly inspiring day, attended by those including Arts Impact Fund amongst many others, and an honour to be featured alongside other organisations doing fantastic work to improve well-being amongst communities facing physical, mental and emotional difficulties. Our Communications Manager Emily Crawford was there on the day:

Last Friday I had the privilege of witnessing something pretty special.  Three of our reading group members – all of whom had their own very personal journey with The Reader and mental health – stood in front of 500 people at the Southbank Centre and told their stories about how Shared Reading has impacted upon their lives. They actually did a lot more than that – they spoke eloquently and did a spectacular job doing something that would terrify most people. The power of the work we do is seen most through stories like those that our three readers – three of hundreds across the UK – shared, and as I stood backstage was reminded just how important it is. People who at times who have felt utterly alone, disconnected and afraid  were able to take the leap to standing on stage in front of all those people and sharing all of that experience, as well as the huge distance they’ve travelled since then – and what’s more, had the room in complete silence hanging on every word. “I’m sitting here now – as a well person” is one of the lines that still rings in my head.

Our Founder and Director Jane Davis, alongside our readers in that bustling space on Friday, finished our section by sharing William Ernest Henley’s poem Invictus. It’s a poem that’s been read in many of our weekly Shared Reading groups and so has a lot of resonance with many of our group members, including the three who shared their own stories. It’s a poem and a performance that led Peter Bazalgette, the chair for Public Health England, to take to the stage afterwards and proclaim that we had just ‘opened his eyes’. It’s a poem that, after practising for this performance, led one of our readers to turn to me and say “I’ve been repeating those lines ever since you gave me this you know, when things get frazzled: ‘I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul’. It reminds me that I’m in charge of me.”

It was also great to have such a brilliant reaction from attendees of the Conference on Twitter:

Amazing stories of personal transformation by shared reading “There’s a lot of talking in shared reading”

Important also to recognise that group arts projects such as can also help to tackle issues of social isolation

Moving testimonies, simple programme and so effective

A huge congratulations and thanks to our readers for taking part and being such spectacular spokespeople for Shared Reading!

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sDPzhXLKEqs]

Find out more about the Conference over on the AESOP website: http://www.ae-sop.org/

Linking the arts and Shared Reading with good mental health

The link between the arts and improved mental well-being is one which more professionals and volunteers are experiencing firsthand in the UK, and will be celebrated at the first national Arts in Health Conference and Showcase.

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‘O tell me the truth about love…’: A Little, Aloud with Love hits the shelves

A Little Aloud With Love tpbGood news for lovers everywhere – the latest addition to our A Little, Aloud series is published today, with a distinctly romantic flavour just ahead of Valentine’s Day…

A Little Aloud with Love brings together some of the most popular works in the English language, celebrating love in all its forms: that heady first flush, the agony of heartbreak, joyful reunions, the love of a parent for a child… and what better way to share these beautiful pieces than to read them aloud, to that special someone? The anthology features both classic and contemporary selections to warm the heart, from Robert Browning to the Brontes, Shelley to Shakespeare, W.B. Yeats to W.H. Auden, bringing us right up to date with modern takes on love from authors such as Haruki Murakami, Margaret Atwood and David Constantine.

Delving into the passionately pink cover, you’ll find that the collection is divided up into sections so that there’s a poem or story to suit any occasion and reading partner. Read:

  • ‘Our places by the fire place’ to a parent
  • ‘My love is come to me’ to a partner
  • ‘Most near, most dear’ to a child
  • ‘A need to reach out sometimes’ to a friend.

What’s more, each section is paired with observations, questions and connections made by our Shared Reading group members from across the country, allowing readers to become part of a bigger discussion. Sometimes the insights are humorous, others speak of deeper emotions. All are entirely personal responses to reading literature about love, prompted only by the poems and stories themselves:

‘Her name was Ruth and I was mad about her for two years and never plucked up the courage to even speak to her,’ said a man in a nursing-home reading group. 

Someone else wondered if the poet would still be passionate after twenty years of marriage. ‘Never mind the poems, she’ll be lucky then if she gets a bunch of garage flowers on their anniversary.’

Research has shown that being read to can help to make us healthier and happier, enriching our hearts as well as our minds, and A Little, Aloud with Love is bursting with literature to lift the spirits. Even better is the news that the publisher Chatto & Windus is donating all royalties from A Little, Aloud with Love to The Reader, so by buying a copy you’ll be supporting our work running Shared Reading groups across the UK – enough to give anyone a warm fuzzy feeling inside.