Volunteers Week: Volunteering at Calderstones Mansion

Calderstones Mansion House c Dave JonesSince we set up home in Calderstones Mansion House, there’s been lots for us to do – not only in running shared reading groups and a range of activities for the local community, but also get a thriving cafe up and running, hold a series of seasonal events from summer fairs to Christmas grottos and make sure that the Mansion is a warm and welcoming place to be, with its doors wide open (Monday-Friday as well as the occasional weekend).

It’s been no easy feat, and our volunteers at Calderstones have helped every step of the way, taking on a variety of roles that go beyond what we usually do – although rest assured, reading will always get in one way or another…

Our Calderstones Volunteer Manager Gillian Moore introduces us to three of our ever-growing team:


Janet joined us at Calderstones earlier this year and covers one shift every Thursday between 9:00/12:30 on Reception at the Mansion House. Janet had been going to the Penny Readings every year for some time and had promised herself that she’d find out more about The Reader Organisation and shared reading. Although she didn’t ever get round to that, she followed up an advert for volunteering opportunities with the Merseyside Volunteer Reader Scheme. Janet recognised that she wasn’t in a position to commit the time the project was going to require of her and, luckily for us at Calderstones, accepted the suggestion that there was likely to be an alternative role (and therefore time commitment) at the Mansion House.

Janet’s pleased to have found Calderstones and feels it was a better decision for her because her volunteering activity here fits much better around her existing commitments. She loves the building and the park environment and is a real people person so values the opportunity to interact with everybody visiting the Mansion House. Her responsibilities as a Volunteer Reception Assistant are to meet and greet, answer the phone, direct callers, email messages to staff, show people to rooms and (she’s being very hard on herself here) turn on the computer, forget the password and have to phone for help!

The best things about the role have been:

  • Meeting new people
  • Finding and reconnecting with people
  • Getting to know what’s happening
  • Being kept on her toes!

Janet’s advice to anybody thinking of volunteering with TRO would be:

  • There’s so much to gain
  • It beats sitting at home and watching daytime TV
  • Meet new people
  • It’ll broaden your outlook
  • There’s a big world out there if you’re prepared to make the effort
  • It’s worthwhile and rewarding

Since joining volunteering  Janet has reread Heidi by Johanna Spyri – she remembers it as book she loved as a child!


Amanda’s also a Volunteer Reception Assistant since October/November 2014 , having seen the role description on The Reader Organisation’s website when she was looking for childrens’ activities here. She liked the sound of the role as well as the location being close enough to school to pick up her son at the end of his day. Amanda covers Reception on Monday and Wednesday between 12:30/2:30pm. She looks after and tidies Reception so that it creates a welcome for everybody, she greets visitors, answers the phone and passes on messages to members of staff. She’s also really good at liaising with other Volunteer Reception Assistants when there have been gaps in the rota!

Amanda enjoys the role and especially appreciates meeting new people. She’d say to anyone thinking of volunteering with The Reader at Calderstones, ‘Do it! You’d really like it. It’s a lovely place to work’, and the best book she’s read since beginning to volunteer is The Big Monster’s Night Out (to Harry aged 3!)


A came to volunteering here at Calderstones through the Volunteer Centre and was looking to build on skills gained previously through college courses in catering. At that point, about 12 months ago, A had never heard of The Reader but came in to find out more about volunteering in The Reader Café, liked what he was hearing about the opportunities there’d be for skills and confidence development and decided initially to offer one day of his time to the café team. Since then, A has increased his offer of time to three days a week! A likes supporting front of house, making coffee and other hot drinks, taking orders and payments, as well as taking turn about at the sink and clearing tables.

A likes that as a volunteer he doesn’t need to take on as much responsibility as a paid member of the team – it provides him with greater freedom. He’s definitely learned some new skills and in becoming more aware of the ways in which other people within the café team pay attention to their health and wellbeing he’s felt inspired to take more control of his own and has become much fitter as a result.

The best things about volunteering for A are:

  • It keeps him busy
  • He meets new people
  • It’s been a new and positive experience
  • He’s accountable but without the same pressure as paid staff

The best thing A’s read since he’s been volunteering is a short story called Powder by Tobias Woolf which he read in one of our shared reading groups.

If you’d like to know more about volunteering at Calderstones, see our website or contact gillianmoore@thereader.org.uk

Bungee Fest comes to Calderstones

“Jump and let’s build our wings on the way down” – Ray Bradbury

Bungee FestCould you swap Poe or Potter for a plunge, or substitute Lewis or Lessing for a leap? Want to take the title of Wuthering Heights quite literally? This summer we’re going to heights as before unreached as we bring Bungee Fest to Calderstones Park.

Over two days, Bungee Fest will combine live music, stalls, great food and refreshments with a once-in-a-lifetime chance to experience a 150 foot bungee jump. The first event of its kind in the city, we’re hoping that the sun will be shining and that lots of thrill-seekers and onlookers alike will join us for what will be a weekend to remember.

By taking on the staggering feat, our bungee-ing daredevils will be part of a much bigger picture. All the proceeds from Bungee Fest will go towards our fundraising target for Calderstones Mansion House, where we’re creating an International Centre for Reading and a community base for people to come together, build healthier communities, make friends and find employment. Through Calderstones Mansion, it’s our aim to give current and future generations the opportunity to discover shared reading, improve wellbeing and extend the pleasure and power of reading for all.

A great summer day out in the Park, an unparalleled opportunity and the chance to support a vital cause – who could ask for more?

Tickets for Bungee Fest cost £80, including admission fee and a donation to the Calderstones Mansion project. The brave amongst you will also receive a goody bag for taking part (as well as the exhilaration that comes from having jumped 150 feet). Snap up your tickets straight away by heading to bungeefest.eventbrite.co.uk

Find out more information about Bungee Fest by contacting emilycrawford@thereader.org.uk or visiting our website: http://www.thereader.org.uk/calderstones/bungee-fest

We’ll be bringing you more about Bungee Fest in the coming months, so stay tuned…

The Big Dig is coming to Calderstones

Under my window a clean rasping sound
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
My father, digging. I look down

Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds
Bends low, comes up twenty years away
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills
Where he was digging.

Digging, Seamus Heaney

Trees in Calderstones park c Dave Jones2015 has got off to an exciting start at Calderstones Mansion House with yet more shared reading groups and special events welcoming in the New Year, and its biggest project involving the community and unearthing the history of the area is yet to come…

As part of the ongoing ‘Connect at Calderstones’ project supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, The Reader Organisation alongside National Museums Liverpool will be offering a number of heritage activities and events within Calderstones Park in the coming months. All of these special events are leading up to The Big Dig, a wide-scale community dig which will bring people closer to the park than they have ever been before.

The Big Dig will begin this April and visitors are welcome to join in the two-week digging period, exploring the park in the hope of unearthing some hidden treasures that could join the Neolithic Calder Stones already housed in the park – the earliest human monument in Merseyside. The project is especially exciting as it will be the first time Calderstones is open to public access for historical excavations.

Richard MacDonald, Heritage Stories Maker at The Reader Organisation is looking forward to The Big Dig getting underway:

“The Calderstones are of national importance and this dig is an exciting opportunity for people in the local area to get involved in a community dig and support The Reader’s plans for the future. As the park has never been built on there could be anything under our feet. We may even find evidence of the first humans to live in this area – relics of the earliest scousers!”

The Big Dig will take place between Monday 27th April and Friday 8th May and anyone from the community is welcome to pick up a spade and take part. You can follow the project more closely through the Big Dig blog, with regular progress updates posted in the running to the main event: www.caldiesbigdig.org.uk

Before the digging begins, visitors to the Mansion House will have the opportunity to take part in a number of free preparatory events allowing them to learn more about excavation:

  • On Thursday 29th January, the Museum of Liverpool will be holding free tours through the prehistoric collection, including the chance to get your hands on some replica Calder Stones (times: 11am, 12pm, 2pm, 3pm)
  • Get an insight into a day in the life of an archaeologist at Ready to get Digging on Thursday 19th February at Calderstones Mansion House from 2-4pm
  • Join Ron Cowell, Curator of Prehistory at Museum of Liverpool, for a talk about the Calder Stones themselves and Merseyside during the Stone Age on Thursday 5th March, 7pm at Calderstones Mansion House

All of these events are free to attend, and to avoid disappointment booking is advised. You can register your places on each by heading to http://www.thereader.org.uk/events or http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/mol/events

If you’ve always fancied yourself as an Indiana Jones or Time Team explorer or perhaps are looking for a new hobby to embark on this New Year, this is the perfect chance to do some exploring right on your doorstep! Be sure to keep logged on to the Big Dig blog for more news in the coming months.

Giving Tuesday

MFS_9477“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.”- Charles Dickens

Today sees the start of a campaign that will hopefully make history and mark the beginning of an annual global celebration of giving.

For the first time, #GivingTuesday has launched in the UK. The campaign started in the US in 2012 as an antidote to the Christmas shopping frenzy – after the chaos of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, #GivingTuesday is all about giving back and making a difference in the true spirit of festive goodwill and charity. The inaugural #GivingTuesday in the UK has already attracted the support of big names including Helen Mirren and Michael Palin, and nearly 800 charities and organisations have signed up to become a partner of #GivingTuesday.

The Reader Organisation is very proud to be one of these partners and we’re delighted to be celebrating a day that is dedicated to giving and spreading awareness of good causes. We know how important it is to unite together to create a sense of belonging, wellbeing and community, as the heart of what we do week in, week out – running our read-aloud, shared reading groups across the country – is all about fostering these emotions and experiences. Our story has been featured on the #GivingTuesday website: http://givingtuesday.org.uk/stories/combat-a-disconnected-world.html

Calderstones Mansion House c Dave JonesYou can join in with our very first #GivingTuesday by helping us celebrate in a number of ways. For #GivingTuesday we have launched our online fundraising appeal for creating an International Centre for Reading at Calderstones Mansion House. In the past 18 months we have welcomed thousands of visitors of all ages to enjoy shared reading and a range of other special activities at the Mansion House, and we need help to raise the remainder of our £4m target to fully restore the Mansion, creating social enterprises, reading rooms and community venues at our beautiful site, which will generate sustainable income and create jobs. Our appeal page is now live, and you can donate £5, £10, £25, £50 or £100 to help us build a home for the heart at Calderstones Mansion: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fund/calderstonesmansion

A merry band of Reader Runners are getting into the festive spirit and taking part in the 5K Liverpool Santa Dash this coming Sunday 7th December, also fundraising towards Calderstones Mansion. If you haven’t yet braved the shops and are feeling stuck on what to buy your Secret Santa, why not donate the cost to Team TRO’s efforts instead? You can sponsor them here: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/team/readerorg

If you’re feeling the pinch with Christmas approaching then you can still give your time, spare second-hand books or even your voice to TRO. We have a range of volunteering projects happening around the UK, from Merseyside to North London to the South West, all of which are dedicated to reaching more people with shared reading, and you can find out more about getting involved on our website. We’re always in need of second-hand books to engage more people with literature in our bookshop at Calderstones Mansion: you can drop them off at any time at the Mansion House between Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm.

You can also give the gift of shared reading to someone by passing a poem along this #GivingTuesday. We have a selection that’s fit to bursting right here on The Reader Online with our Featured Poem archive, or you can read one of your favourites aloud. We particularly like this one by Ralph Waldo Emerson:

Give all to love;
Obey thy heart;
Friends, kindred, days,
Estate, good-frame,
Plans, credit and the Muse,—
Nothing refuse.

’T is a brave master;
Let it have scope:
Follow it utterly,
Hope beyond hope:
High and more high
It dives into noon,
With wing unspent,
Untold intent:
But it is a god,
Knows its own path
And the outlets of the sky.

(Read the full poem here)

You can find out more about #GivingTuesday on the website: http://givingtuesday.org.uk/welcome.html

Give City of Readers 5 – and some exciting news at Calderstones

Reading is becoming big news in Liverpool as there are some exciting plans afoot to ensure that generations can engage with literature for years to come.

Our friends at City of Readers have been hard at work over the past few months gathering support from individuals and organisations across the city for their Give Us 5 campaign. Frank Cottrell Boyce, Liverpool Echo and Baltic Creative have been amongst those who have lent their support to turn Liverpool into the UK’s foremost reading city over the past year, and thanks to a very special campaign video even more people are on board. The brilliant Jack-All Productions have been busy putting together the video, featuring the Royal Liverpool Hospital, National Museums Liverpool, Whitefield Primary School, BBC Radio Merseyside and local poet Levi Tafari, who are all encouraging everyone around Liverpool to give 5 for reading. The video was launched at Blackburne House in Liverpool last week, along with a special CPD event with The Reader Organisation’s founder Jane Davis and Frank Cottrell Boyce giving a rundown of their favourite books to read for pleasure with children.

Take a look at the video below, and find out more about how you can get involved with giving 5 for reading on the City of Readers website: http://cityofreaders.org/

There was also some wonderful news for our continued redevelopment at Calderstones Mansion as we received funding from the Social Investment Business for The Story Barn at Calderstones. The Grade 2 listed Barn and Stable area of the Mansion will be transformed to become an interactive Story Barn, bringing literature to life and encouraging reading for pleasure amongst young people and the wider community within the heart of Calderstones. Exhibitions from children’s authors and illustrators will feature alongside a permanent interactive space which will allow children and families to explore, play and interact with literary adventures as well as the nature of the park surrounding. With our weekly shared reading groups for children already successful, the Story Barn will be an important cornerstone in continuing to create a love of reading in future generations and the creation of making Calderstones Mansion House an International Centre of Reading.

We’re proud to be part of regeneration in Liverpool alongside an initiative from Squash Nutrition which also received funding to develop Toxteth Food Central. You can read more about the fantastic news here: http://www.liverpoolexpress.co.uk/funding-secured-two-major-social-projects/

Opportunity: Volunteer Reception Assistant

As we move our Head Office to Calderstones Mansion House, The Reader Organisation is seeking a Volunteer Reception Assistant to join us as part our Calderstones team.

Calderstones Mansion House is a home from home for all of its visitors, and so this role is crucial in creating a instantly welcoming, friendly atmosphere that is representative of The Reader Organisation. As Volunteer Reception Assistant, you will be the first port of call for any visitors to Calderstones Mansion House. We will rely on you to create a good impression so above anything else you’ll need to have a good rapport with many different types of people helping them to feel looked after and at ease.

Key Responsibilities include:

  • Answering the telephone, taking and relaying messages
  • Greeting visitors in a welcoming and friendly manner, offering them refreshments, and directing them to the right location
  • Monitoring those entering and exiting the building
  • Keeping the reception area tidy
  • Providing information about TRO, Calderstones, and activities going on in and around the building
  • Providing assistance at TRO events
  • Providing general clerical and administrative support as required

What you will get out of it:

  • Internal and external training
  • Opportunities to meet and work with new people
  • The opportunity to use existing skills and gain new ones
  • Attendance at regular Get Into Reading groups and volunteer events

A full role description can be downloaded on our website.

We’re looking for someone who is happy to make a commitment for half a day each week (for a minimum of 3 hours per week). This role will be ongoing, with a minimum of 3 months commitment.

Induction and training sessions will be provided for this role, and must be completed before starting the placement.

This role is unpaid, but travel expenses will be provided as per TRO’s Expenses Policy.

For more information about or to express interest in this role, please email nicolacopeland@thereader.org.uk, or phone our Head Office at 0151 207 7207.

You can also find out more about the role on our website: http://www.thereader.org.uk/working-with-us/volunteering/volunteer-reception-assistant

The Secret Garden of Stories: The Reader Organisation’s Children’s Literature Festival

festivalThis August something very exciting can be found at Calderstones Mansion House…

The Reader Organisation is proud to present our very first Children’s Literature Festival, transforming the garden of the Mansion House into The Secret Garden of Stories. From Thursday 28th to Saturday 30th August, you can join us for a host of great literature for children and fun activities for the whole family including Roald Dahl storytelling sessions, craft workshops, games, competitions and appearances from very special guest authors Cathy Cassidy, Lydia Monks, Jon Mayhew and the award winning Andy Mulligan.

The Secret Garden of Stories is set to be the biggest children’s literature festival in Liverpool, held in the magical surroundings of Calderstones which opens up a world of imagination on its own. It’s just £1 to enter the garden daily from 10am-4pm, with lots of fun in store.

The Author’s Den

Come along to the Author’s Den during The Secret Garden of Stories and have the chance to hear first hand from some of the best children’s authors, including Cathy Cassidy whose books include hits from The Chocolate Box Series, Marshmallow Sky and Cherry Crush, Lydia Monks reading extracts from her brilliant stories I Wish I Were a Dog and What The Ladybird Heard, and Andy Mulligan whose books include Return to Ribblestrop which won the 2011 Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize and Trash which has been adapted for a film to be released this Autumn.

Entry into The Author’s Den costs £5 per author talk, with full listings below:

  • Meet Jon Mayhew – Thursday 28th August, 2-3pm (book online)
  • Meet Lydia Monks – Friday 29th August, 2-3.30pm (book online)
  • Meet Cathy Cassidy – Saturday 30th August, 12-1.30pm (book online)
  • Meet Andy Mulligan – Saturday 30th August, 2-3pm (book online)

happychildren2There will also be a very special and very fitting performance of one of the most classic children’s novels The Secret Garden by The Bookworm Players as part of the The Secret Garden of Stories, taking place on Thursday 28th August, 6.30-7.30pm. Tickets cost £8 for adults and £5 for children for an outdoor performance. Book tickets online here.

We’re also looking for sponsors for The Secret Garden of Stories, with a range of sponsorship packages available to companies and organisations which will enable you to be a special part of the festival – whether you want to pledge £50 or £5,000, there’s something to offer. Download the sponsorship pack on our website.

We’re also open to discussing other ways to be involved, so if you have any ideas of how you can best be a part of the festival don’t hesitate to get in touch by calling 0151 724 5000 or e-mailing roisinhyland@thereader.org.uk

More news on The Secret Garden of Stories to come in the coming weeks.

We’re also open to discussing other ways to be involved, so if you have any ideas of how you can best be a part of the festival don’t hesitate to get in touch by calling 0151 724 5000 or e-mailing roisinhyland@thereader.org.uk

“There was a star danced…” – Much Ado wows the Garden Theatre at Calderstones

The stage for Much Ado at the Garden Theatre (credit: @willowsh on Twitter)
The stage for Much Ado at the Garden Theatre (credit: @willowsh on Twitter)

“For man is a giddy thing, and this is my conclusion.”

We certainly had a most giddy time at the end of last week as we welcomed The Globe on Tour back to Calderstones Mansion House for their touring production of Much Ado About Nothing. Bard buffs, literary lovers and those who fancied a detour from football fever entered the Garden Theatre to enjoy one of Shakespeare’s liveliest and most well-loved comedies.

It was lucky enough that the sun shone down – with just a few showers here and there – providing us with the perfect backdrop to proceedings out of doors on a wonderfully authentic Shakespearean stage, and the glorious sounds of many a musical instrument rang out around the Garden Theatre as the merry band of players brought us the story of Much Ado over five performances on three days.

The eight strong cast entertained the crowds with aplomb, with Simon Bubb and Emma Pallant putting in stellar performances as the warring would-be lovers Benedick and Beatrice, and local connections coming from Sam Phillips, who played Claudio. Fittingly for a play that is full of fooling and people taking the place of others, the cast switched between characters throughout – perhaps the most inspired change of roles came from Chris Starkie, who played both the dastardly villain Don John and the perennially confused Dogberry.

Enjoying the show and a fair few ice-creams in the sunshine, our audience were keen enough to let us know what they thought on Twitter:

Had a brilliant night watching ‘s ‘s beautiful outdoor theatre at . Magical!

Fab afternoon watching Much Ado!!! 🙂 what an amazingly talented cast!!! 🙂 Bravo!!! 🙂

Basking in the afterglow of a tremendous Much Ado from and (s)

Much Ado in full swing at the Garden Theatre at Calderstones (credit: @shell_here on Twitter)
Much Ado in full swing at the Garden Theatre at Calderstones (credit: @shell_here on Twitter)

There were also fabulous 4* reviews from Catherine Jones of the Liverpool Echo, who called the production ‘quirky and charming’, as well as David Sedgwick from The Public Reviews:

“It’s certainly no mean feat to have the audience in stitches after a mere four centuries have passed. Having said that to extract that comedy requires a level of performance and direction of the utmost deftness. The laughs are all hard-earned. […] This Much Ado then is nothing if not accessible. Yet the play still ripples with profundity, still revels in linguistic musicality and still dazzles with intellectual dexterity.”

It’s been another amazing Shakespearean experience in the Garden Theatre, and we hope that everyone at Osbourne House in the Isle of Wight will have as much fun when the show rolls up there later this week as we did at Calderstones.

There’s no stopping at the Mansion House as our summer programme of events is now online for you to take a look at. From concerts to heritage walks around Calderstones Park, a host of Summer School Sizzlers and our very first Children’s Literature Festival in The Secret Garden of Stories this August, there’s something for everyone to enjoy – and we hope that the weather holds up, but regardless there’s lots of fun in store.

For more information of all of our events at Calderstones this summer, head to our Events calendar: http://www.thereader.org.uk/events