Much Ado About Nothing: Only two weeks to go!

Much Ado About Nothing by The Globe on Tour at Brighton Festival

The countdown has now begun!

The Globe on Tour is returning to Calderstones Mansion House this June for five remarkable performances of Much Ado About Nothing. Following last year’s showstopping version of King Lear, the Garden Theatre will once more be brought to life with one of Shakespeare’s liveliest and most well-loved comedies – all in less than two weeks time.


Thursday 12th June, 7:30pm

Friday 13th June, 2:30pm

Friday 13th June, 7:30pm

Saturday 14th June, 2:30pm

Saturday 14th June, 7:30pm

Driven along by a romance all the more charming for being in denial, Much Ado About Nothing is a miracle of comic and dramatic suspense and gives us, in the bantering  Beatrice and Benedick, two of Shakespeare’s wittiest, most endearing pair of lovers.


Bookings can be made on The Globe’s website

Full priced tickets: £20

Discounted tickets for group members: £15

Further information

This spectacular performance is taking place in Calderstones Mansion House Garden Theatre, and will go ahead in all but the most extreme weather conditions. Audiences are advised to prepare for any weather conditions – waterproof and warm clothing should be packed as necessary – and please bring a seat or picnic blanket with you to ensure maximum comfort.

A limited number of tickets may be available to purchase on the door for each performance – however, this will depend on demand.

Access to the performance space will be via the back gate at the back of the Mansion House, off the main path opposite the Coach House. We will have TRO volunteers on the day directing you to the entrance.

The Reader Café will be open until the start of the performance, we will also be serving light refreshments and ice creams at the interval.

Please use public transport where possible as there is limited parking in the Calderstones Park car park. The park is served by bus numbers 61, 68, 168, 75, 75E, 76, 76A, 86D which will take you to Menlove Avenue. The Mansion House garden is only a short 5 minutes walk from the main road.

_MG_9867For more information on Much Ado About Nothing please visit our website:

If you want to see what Shakespeare out-of-doors looks like, take a sneak peek at some exclusive photographs from the performances of the show from Brighton Festival last week. They’re up on our Facebook page now – and we promise very few spoilers.

Plus, if you fancy reminding yourself of the play before you come to see the performances come along to…

Much Ado About Nothing: Read the Play in a Day!
10am – 4pm, Saturday 7th June 2014

Calderstones Mansion House, Liverpool

£30 / £15 concessions (including lunch)
*Special 10% discount on your space when a friend who’s new to Short Courses books a space*

  • Does the idea of reading Shakespeare leave you feeling shaky?
  • Read some plays before, but you’re a bit rusty?
  • New to Much Ado about Nothing?
  • Need a refresher before Shakespeare’s Globe’s performances at Calderstones Mansion on 12th-14th June?

Come join us for a rip-roaring, confidence-boosting, all-embracing ‘Play in a Day’ Saturday.

Led by The Reader Organisation’s Founder and Director, Jane Davis, and a team of our Shakespeare-loving staff, we’ll take over Calderstones Mansion together reading Much Ado About Nothing. And you never know, with your new-found confidence, you may even feel inspired to tread the boards yourself before the day is through!

No advance reading required. All-ages, backgrounds, experience with Shakespeare welcome!

For more information or to book your place contact Jenny Kelly at or 0151 207 7207.

The Reader Organisation at Latitude Festival

festivalSpring may be in full swing, but here at The Reader Organisation we’re already looking to the long and hopefully hot days of summer as we’ll be appearing at this year’s Latitude Festival, taking place from 17th-20th July at Henham Park, Southwold, Suffolk.

One of the most diverse festivals in UK, offering a bumper line-up of music, comedy, theatre, poetry and lots of other literature too, Latitude has something to offer everyone with this year’s bill being no exception. We’re looking forward to bringing some Tea and Tales to the festival, where festival-goers can rest their tired feet and enjoy the calm that reading great literature provides as the sun shines down (fingers crossed) – what could be better for a weekend in the summer? As we read a selection of specially chosen stories and poems and share our personal reflections with no pressure to participate, you’ll also be able to find out more about what we do connecting people with literature around the UK.

Latitude will be bringing lots of big names from the world of literature to Henham Park over the weekend, including Roger McGough, Gillian Clarke, Michael Rosen and friend and patron of The Reader Organisation Lemn Sissay on the Poetry Stage. TRO will be part of the Literature line-up, sharing the bill with headliners including Richard Wiseman, Lauren Beukes, Jon Ronson and Robin Ince. With tons of great music including Two Door Cinema Club, Damon Albarn and Editors amongst many more and comedy from the likes of Dara O’Briain, Simon Amstell and Tim Key, Latitude is the perfect festival for any culture lover.

For more information about Latitude Festival and TRO’s appearance at it, visit the Latitude website:

If you can’t make it as far as Suffolk, then you can still enjoy a weekend’s worth of literature in the park at our Park Life Reading Weekend at Calderstones on Saturday 21st and Sunday 22nd June, where we’ll be enjoying a special selection of stories and poems that will help us get back to nature. For more information, see the Courses section of our website.

The Penny Readings Festival 2013: A very Readerly Christmas!

Penny Readings fest 1 online
c. Tim Murray

A Readerly Christmas came to St George’s Hall on Sunday with The Reader Organisation’s very first Penny Readings Festival! To celebrate 10 years of our annual festive extravaganza, we opened up the Great Hall to the public for a whole afternoon’s worth of free festive fun that began the season in style.

Our staff, volunteers from our Big Lottery project and stallholders offering an array of Christmas delights provided tons of seasonal activity and plenty of Christmas cheer to the crowds in anticipation of two sold out shows, the Hapenny and Penny Readings. Amongst the festive fun there was plenty of reading, with Christmas themed poems being read aloud in the grand surroundings, fun festive stories for children as well as puppet making and crafts, and the chance to learn some shared reading skills.

Festival goers pledged to Give Us 5 for Reading with the start of our new initiative to get Liverpool reading in 2014, as we opened up our video booth to let people share their favourite stories and poems with us. There was also a very busy Christmas cafe and Christmas presents galore with beautiful jewellery, art and craft, tons of books from TRO and News from Nowhere on sale, and a seasonal selection of cakes from Just For Kids Cakes – who also provided a specially made Christmassy cake as the star prize in the Festival raffle, drawn by Santa himself.

The Penny Readings Festival provided the backdrop to the much anticipated events of the day, which wowed the crowds. First up was our family-friendly fun-packed show the Ha’penny Readings – here’s Penny Readings Administrator Beth with some of the highlights:

Kids corner online
c. Tim Murray

TRO’s very own Patrick Fisher took the lead as MC for the afternoon and continued to impress when he and his comedy group, Sticky Floor took to the stage for ten minutes of improvised comedy – a clear favourite with both the children and adults! Readings were performed by Dave Cookson and Anna Fleming, two of The Reader Organisation’s Young People’s Project Workers, The High Sheriff of Merseyside reading Mr Toad, and Charlie Coyne reading an array of classics including William Blake’s Tyger. On top of this, 11 very brave children from Caldies Creatives, our Saturday morning group at Calderstones, took to the stage to read one of their favourite poems, Christmas Pudding by Charles Thomson.

Festive music came from Grace Farrington on the trumpet and young, talented musician Lewis who wowed with his violin skills when he played White Christmas and The Christmas Song. The final act Take A Hint Theatre Company received a wonderful response from the audience when they performed extracts from their innovative play, Tales that Time Forgot, which powerfully reminded us all how fantastic and important reading is.

The afternoon was then topped off by a visit from a very special guest…  Father Christmas, who kindly brought with him a brand new book for every child in the audience!

For its 10th year, the Penny Readings proved to be bigger and better than ever, delighting an audience that came from all over to enjoy the show. Events Assistant Abi gives us the lowdown:

The Penny Readings wowed again this year with the return of  last year’s showstoppers the Wirral Ukulele Orchestra. Frank Cottrell Boyce also made a reappearance with a reading he’d written just mere moments before he was due to take the stage, leaving the audience in fits of giggles. Another act to tap into the audience’s funny bone was comedic group Sticky Floor with their impromptu comedy.

Newcomer to The Reader Organisation Valetin Gerlier showed off his guitar and song writing skills whilst dance company RuShee got everybody dancing with their Bollywood Dhamaka. The Penny Readings also saw lovely readings from Angela Macmillan who read an extract from Nicholas Nickleby, Louise Jones and Marion Worth (two of The Reader Organisation’s Big Lottery Volunteers) read two poems and local poet Paul Farley read his own work.

christmas reading online 1
c. Tim Murray

As usual Phil Davis ended the night with an extract from A Christmas Carol and Wirral Ukulele Orchestra joined with the sensational i Choir led us out to a lovely rendition of ‘Lean on Me’.

The crowds came away brimming with festive cheer, if our tweets from the evening were anything to go by:

Had a wonderful evening at the #PennyReadings! A truly inspirational night of joy and Christmas cheer! Dickens would be proud!

Fantastic entertaining evening at the Penny Readings, I’d forgotten what a pleasure it is to be read to!

First time in #Liverpool for #pennyreadingsfestival @thereaderorg. Liverpool, I’m in love. Philip Davis FTW!

You can still tweet us your highlights from the amazing show by using the hashtag #PennyReadings

A huge thank you to all of our guests, performers, volunteers, our sponsors Publiship and Liverpool Learning Partnership and the audiences themselves for enjoying the extravganza with us. Here’s to next year!

The Penny Readings 2013: Hotline OPEN!

Santa is excited for the Penny Readings 2013...
Santa is excited for the Penny Readings 2013…

We’ve given you the date, time, venue and even some of the special guests, and now there’s no need to wait any longer as the ticket hotline for the Penny and Ha’penny Readings 2013 is now OPEN!

There’s just a month to go until the biggest and best festive extravaganza in the city hits St George’s Hall and you can now apply to be in with a chance of bagging your tickets to the hottest Christmas show in town. Tickets are in very high demand so the only way you can apply is by entering our public raffle. Lucky winners will receive tickets to their chosen show – one pair per person for the Penny Readings and up to 4 for the Ha’penny Readings.

There are two ways you can enter the Penny Readings Raffle:

Whichever way you enter, please leave your name, contact details and which event you would like tickets for.

Lines will be open for ONE WEEK ONLY – from now until 5pm, Friday 22nd November – so don’t miss your chance to be in the draw!

All winners will be notified by Thursday 28th November – best of luck!

Don’t be too disappointed if you don’t manage to get tickets – to mark the 10th anniversary, there’ll be a special, free Christmas Penny Readings Festival open to the public on the same day, Sunday 15th December. More information on what’s in store to follow very soon…

The Reader Organisation Wins The Social Enterprise Network Growth Award

We are pleased to announce that The Reader Organisation won the Growth award at the Social Enterprise Network Powerful Together Awards last night, recognising our consistent growth, entrepreneurialism and resilience.

awardSocial Enterprise Network is the home of social enterprise in Greater Merseyside. Its annual Powerful Together Awards celebrate the brightest and best local businesses and community organisations that are committed to social value.

The winners were announced at a glittering presentation ceremony last night at the Liverpool Town Hall. The evening was thoroughly enjoyable, involving complimentary wine, delightful food and many, many bespoke SEN cupcakes that The Reader ladies did not hesitate to take away at the end of the night…

We were also runner-up for the Creativity and Healthy Environments awards, which deservedly went to Big Heritage and Heart of Mersey.

The Reader has a strong track record of making ideas happen and creating social impact.  Since 2008, we have doubled our income, increased staff numbers by 200%, and increased our shared reading activity by nearly 300%. The development of projects and teams across the UK mean that Get Into Reading is now reaching more communities than ever before and we currently have sister projects developing in Belgium, Denmark, Northern Ireland and Australia.

One of our most exciting new projects is the development of Calderstones Mansion House into the International Centre for Reading and Wellbeing. This will not only strengthen our position in the North West as a leading facilitator of social change; it will also enable us to uphold this foundation in places across the UK and beyond.

We thank Social Enterprise Network for allowing us to be part of such a great night, and for their hard work in recognising and celebrating new and existing social enterprises on Merseyside.

Music from the Goblin Market

The poetry of Christina Rossetti is a favourite at The Reader Organisation, with her work being featured in our Minted and Poems to Take Home anthologies and right here on The Reader Online. Over the years, many of her poems have also been read aloud in our Get Into Reading groups, including extracts from Goblin Market – one of her most famous works, published in 1862. The narrative poem tells the story of two sisters, Laura and Lizzie, who are drawn from their home by the call of goblin merchants, selling fruits of many kinds and colours:

Morning and evening
Maids heard the goblins cry:
“Come buy our orchard fruits,
Come buy, come buy:

While one of the sisters refrains, the other gives into the goblins’ temptation and a cautionary tale unfolds…

SONY DSCA new adaptation of Goblin Market has been put together and performed this summer by the award-winning Liverpool University Drama Society, featuring expressive movement, original poetry and a specially composed musical soundtrack – half of the proceeds of which are very kindly being donated to The Reader Organisation to help support our outreach work, allowing more people to enjoy the great words of Rossetti in future.

Goblin Market previewed at the Kazimier Gardens in Liverpool in July, and recently played to thrilled audiences at a week-long stint at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Composer and musician Alex Cottrell, who composed the soundtrack along with Dr Sarah Peverley from University of Liverpool, takes us through how he came to be involved in the production and the music-making process:

“Director Zoe Wiles made it clear from the beginning that she wanted the play to give an immersive experience, to set it amongst the audience as much as the stage itself. So that got me thinking that the soundtrack should possess an atmospheric quality, something that should bring it away from resting on top of the performance as mere mood music. By tapping on instruments, sliding fingers up and down strings, I tried to create an eerie sense of things skittering in the undergrowth of Goblin Market’s forest setting. These ‘soundscapes’ are prevalent throughout the whole play, often as a backdrop to indicate changes in setting or whilst other music plays.

Then we dealt with the story’s Goblin/Girls binary, representing them with distinct instruments and timbres, but still making them feel related or transformative of one another somehow. For the Girls it was the harp – pretty and almost innocent sounding. Many of the harp parts were written by Sarah Peverley (who also performed them all), including the ‘main theme’ which bookends the play. There’s also a harp-led Lullaby that the girls sing after the Goblins seduce Laura with their fruits – they both did an excellent job, particularly Beth (Lizzie) who has no formal training and had to do harmonies throughout.

For the Goblins it was the Balalaika – a Russian folk guitar giving a harsher, more tinny sound. When it’s played in that fast strumming style (some might remember it from Doctor Zhivago) it seems to quiver and can be quite unsettling with the right chords. It’s heard almost every time the Goblins appear and after a while starts to act as an alarm that they’re coming.

Finally there’s the dream sequence, where we reversed the recording of the Lullaby and had it act as part of an ‘echo’ in Laura’s dream; if you listen carefully you might recognise it.

The soundtrack album has 9 tracks on it, all professionally recorded for the Edinburgh performances, including a bonus piece called ‘Transitions’ created by myself and Sarah that was played during the interval. The Liverpool previews at The Kazimier Garden were a great success and I’d like to offer my thanks to the cast and crew for giving me a chance to be involved – let’s hope they seduced the Fringe festival with the fruits of their labour! Also, a final big thanks to Sarah Peverley who co-created the music with me and was just generally brilliant throughout the process – we are continuing to work together on a new music project, so watch this space.”

50% of the proceeds of the original soundtrack to Goblin Market will be donated to supporting The Reader Organisation’s work. The soundtrack costs £2.50 and can be bought here: – you can also take a listen to all of the tracks there before buying.

For more information on Liverpool University Drama Society’s production of Goblin Market, see the Goblin Market 2013 blog and Twitter page.

Featured Poem: Sonnet 94 by William Shakespeare

As we’re all still on a high (and now significantly recovered) from the major excitement that was King Lear at the Garden Theatre at Calderstones last week, we’re adding another Shakespearian boost to this week with our Featured Poem.

‘For sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds’ – a line that could surely apply to Lear and his daughters? This sonnet has tons for you to consider on your Monday morning.

Sonnet 94

They that have power to hurt and will do none,
That do not do the thing they most do show,
Who, moving others, are themselves as stone,
Unmoved, cold, and to temptation slow,
They rightly do inherit heaven’s graces
And husband nature’s riches from expense;
They are the lords and owners of their faces,
Others but stewards of their excellence.
The summer’s flower is to the summer sweet,
Though to itself it only live and die,
But if that flower with base infection meet,
The basest weed outbraves his dignity:
For sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds;
Lillies that fester smell far worse than weeds.

William Shakespeare

Shakespeare’s Globe’s production of King Lear at Calderstones Mansion House has been receiving five star reviews! Read one from the Daily Post here.

Lear at the Mansion House: Tonight’s the Night!

The decks have arrived at the Garden Theatre
The decks have arrived at the Garden Theatre

The day has arrived – tonight we’ll be bringing Shakespeare’s Globe’s production of King Lear to Calderstones. With only hours to go, the Mansion House and the Garden Theatre – which will be unveiled for the first time in 30 years for the show – is already a hive of activity, with the stage making its way in and being assembled as we speak.

The whole of Liverpool is excited by the prospect of Shakespearian drama happening in the heart of the city, so it’s no surprise that the performances of Lear are completely SOLD OUT. There won’t be any extra tickets available on the door of the Mansion House tonight or tomorrow, so if you didn’t get one please don’t come along as we wouldn’t want to leave anyone disappointed.

Performances begin at 7.30pm and are due to finish at around 10.30pm. There is very limited parking at the Mansion House so all attendees are advised to use public transport wherever possible for the journey to and from the show. If you do need to drive, please use public parking facilities (there are two small public car parks off Calderstones Road and Yewtree Road).

Don’t forget to bring folding chairs, blankets and cushions to sit on and refreshments can be brought along (but alcohol is not permitted). We weren’t too pleased that the rain clouds gathered this morning, but fingers crossed for them to lift…just in case, don’t get caught out – dress appropriately for the outdoors, in warm and waterproof clothing.

king learIn the remaining hours, there’s just enough time to whet your appetite further. If you haven’t got a copy of Lear to hand don’t fret as we’ve got some interviews with the cast on our Facebook page to keep you excited – you can see Bethan Cullinane (Cordelia/Lear’s Fool) chatting about her favourite scene, Ruth Everett (Goneril/Curan) telling us what it’s like to perform out of doors and King Lear himself, Joseph Marcell, attempting to sum up the play in just one sentence – it’s a tricky job… Joseph also spoke to the Liverpool Echo last week about the prospect of performing at the Garden Theatre and in Liverpool after being away for over 30 years.

If you didn’t manage to get your tickets for Lear, don’t be disappointed as you can still enjoy lots of great activities at Calderstones over the summer. Listen to Reader Places Manager Sophie Povey and Creative Coordinator Roisin Hyland talking to Sean Styles on BBC Radio Merseyside (around 1 hour and 30 mins in) about everything that’s coming up at the Mansion House, including our Summer Fair on Saturday 31st August.

Stay tuned to Twitter for all the info coming from #Lear at the Mansion House – follow us on @thereaderorg and @CaldiesMansion.

There’s nothing left to say except enjoy the show – and we’ll see you there!

Lear is nearly here at Calderstones Mansion House

Shakespeare's Globe cast of King Lear (c. Ellie Kurttz)
Shakespeare’s Globe cast of King Lear (c. Ellie Kurttz)

There’s less than a week until the Garden Theatre at Calderstones Mansion House is opened for the first time in over 30 years and the stage will be set for Shakespeare’s Globe’s touring production of King Lear. Anticipation is certainly running high and tickets are in demand – find out more about how you can get your hands on some here.

Since April, Lear has played to eager audiences around the country with its eight strong cast, visiting Margate, Bristol, Brighton, Dumfries, Essex, Cambridge and Penrith, and has been further afield to Turkey, Germany, St Lucia and Denmark – a truly worldwide phenomenon! The production has gone from stately homes and castles, to university campuses and festivals over the last few months, and the Garden Theatre at Calderstones will provide a truly beautiful backdrop to the timeless drama of Shakespeare. One of the cast members, Shanaya Rafaat (playing Regan) says that she relishes the ‘challenge’ of performing outdoors:

‘[…] you’re forced to find a new performance vocabulary and a more encompassing technique. Also being outdoors feeds so much into the landscape of the play and that, along with creating all the music and sound effects ourselves, brings you so much closer to how it was originally performed and experienced. One of my favourite bits is standing behind the thundersheet, gently rattling away under the action at the end of part one, and I look up and all I can see is sky.’

We’re hoping that the summer sun will stay shining for Lear at Calderstones, but even if it arrives the rain won’t dampen our spirits. In case of bad weather, audience members are advised to bring raincoats/waterproof clothing and please bring along blankets and cushions so that your seat is comfortable. As there is very limited parking space at the Mansion House, please use public transport where possible – this will prove easier to your journey. Driving to the Mansion House is only advised where absolutely necessary, and please use public car parking if you are doing so. Audience members are welcome to bring their own refreshments for the performance but please note that alcohol will not be permitted.

If you’ve already got your tickets, we know how excited you are but to get you in the mood, here’s an intriguing word from the actor who will be playing the title role of King Lear, Joseph Marcell. Do you know what ‘pother’ means?

‘Let the great gods,
That keep this dreadful pother o’er our heads,
Find out their enemies now.’ – [Lear], King Lear III.ii

Shanaya Rafaat (Regan), Joseph Marcell (Lear) and Bethan Cullinane (Cordelia/Lear's Fool)
Shanaya Rafaat (Regan), Joseph Marcell (Lear) and Bethan Cullinane (Cordelia/Lear’s Fool)

Find out on Shakespeare’s Globe’s King Lear on Tour blog, where you can hear Joseph wording it wonderfully and get a definition. There’s tons more goodies in store over there to let you get the lowdown on Lear, including insights about the performances and what it’s like to play these incredible roles from Joseph and Bethan Cullinane, who plays Cordelia and Lear’s Fool, in the Globe’s ‘Discovery Space’ on their website.

Tickets for King Lear on Tour at Calderstones Mansion House on Tuesday 13th and Wednesday 14th August cost £20/£15 concessions, and can be booked via the Shakespeare’s Globe website or by calling 020 7401 9919. A transaction fee of £2.50 will apply to online purchases. Find out more about the performances  and our other summer events at Calderstones on The Reader Organisation’s website.

King Lear – “Shakespeare’s Greatest Tragedy”

As you know, Calderstones Mansion will soon be opening its Garden Theatre for the first time in 30 years, to none other than Shakespeare’s Globe‘s touring production of King Lear! Everyone at TRO is getting jittery with excitement, and already a huge portion of tickets have been sold. So get yours quick!

We thought we’d whet your appetite just that bit further by showing you this trailer…


For those of you who aren’t familiar, the play is the story of old King Lear, who proposes to give up his crown and divide his kingdom between his three daughters. However, his rash generosity is cruelly repaid when he is caught in a web of lies and deceit by those closest to him, and he discovers all too late the falsity of values by which he has lived. Eventually plunged into despair and madness, King Lear is described by The Globe to be ‘a profound exploration of the human condition in all its extremes and complexity’.

I am a man more sinned against than sinning.

– Lear

Joseph Marcell, who plays King Lear, calls it “just magical”. Executive Producer Tom Bird calls it “one of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies”. So, what exactly is it that makes King Lear so popular?

According to scholarly research, Shakespeare authored King Lear around 1605, between Othello and Macbeth, and three years after its highly-ranked competitor, Hamlet. Despite being set in a time far removed from its creation, its plot line reflects anxieties that would have been close to home for Shakespeare’s audiences around this time.

Thou shouldst not have been old before thou hadst been wise.

– The Fool

Performance History expert Rebecca Brown believes that Shakespeare drew his inspiration for King Lear from a mixture of myth, legend and history (read more). Strangely enough (though perhaps not so strangely…) Shakespeare’s version is the only one to end unhappily.

Two real-life cases that are believed to have had some influence on Shakespeare’s writing of the play include a lawsuit, in which the eldest of three sisters tried to have her elderly father declared insane so she could take control of his property. There is also the case of Mayor of London William Allen, who was treated very poorly by his three daughters after dividing his wealth among them.

Men must endure their going hence even as their coming hither.

– Edgar, as Poor Tom

Another keen theory is that Shakespeare was trying to expose the fragility of Elizabethan society in England, which demanded that absolute deference and respect be paid to not just the wealthy and powerful, but to parents and the elderly. The suffering of Lear and Gloucester at the hands of their own children demonstrates how vulnerable parents can actually be. So be good to your folks, kids!

Tickets for King Lear at Calderstones can be bought via The Globe Box Office website or by calling 020 7401 9919. Find out more here.