Coming Soon: The Storybarn and The Wonderful World of Oliver Jeffers

Storybarn-Website resize 1Christmas may be fast approaching, but we’re already looking forward to opening up the doors of a very special interactive story space in the New Year…

The Storybarn, located at our Head Office at Calderstones, is Liverpool’s first children’s literature centre, giving families and young people a place to play, learn and discover the magic, pleasure and imagination that comes from stories. Our Storybarn team have been busy over the past few months creating some exciting things inside and The Storybarn will be ready to explore from February 2016, alongside a very special exhibition arriving at Calderstones Mansion.

Once There Was…The Wonderful World of Oliver Jeffers will let visitors to Calderstones into the stories of popular children’s artist and illustrator Oliver Jeffers from Monday 8th February – Monday 18th April 2016. Created, designed and produced by Discover Children’s Story Centre, the immersive exhibition is designed especially for children aged 3-6 and allows children and families to walk through environments inspired by books including How to Catch a Star, Lost and Found, Up and Down and The Way Back Home. Key aspects of these beautiful books have been reimagined into 3D such as the South Pole, the boy’s bedroom, a garden featuring a rocket, a street of magical shops and a Lost and Found Office.

Oliver Jeffers 1Once ticketholders have explored The Wonderful World of Oliver Jeffers at the Mansion, they’ll be able to head across to The Storybarn to be one of the first to experience the interactive story space inside. Storytellers will bring the barn to life with a variety of tales and craft activity throughout their visitor experience.

Tickets for both experiences will go on sale in January 2016, but those wishing to gain priority booking can register their interest now at

Tickets to both experiences will be £9 per child including a free adult for an hour in each space. Once the Oliver Jeffers exhibition has closed entry to the Storybarn will be £5 per child with group rates available for large parties and schools. Tickets for the exhibitions cannot be purchased separately.

For more information about The Storybarn, visit or follow @caldiessb on Twitter.

A Year at Calderstones

House-109It’s been over a year since we signed the lease on Calderstones Mansion, making it ours for 125 years, and we were able to celebrate how far we’ve come in the past year at our AGM earlier this month. Throughout the evening, the Mansion fulfilled its purpose of being a home to our group members – some of whom had never visited our home at Calderstones before – who enjoyed good food courtesy of The Reader Cafe and Ice Cream Parlour as well as the atmosphere inside.

At present, nine of our weekly reading groups take place at the Mansion with new groups planned for the future – two of which are starting up in November, giving even more opportunity to visit. It’s not only our regular readers who are finding a home for themselves – our volunteering programme is expanding its reach, taking on a team of volunteers of all ages and walks of life to model how our community at Calderstones will work in future, and special visitors such as young people from the City of Readers summer school have already shown the potential of the Mansion as a place to make magic happen.

ReadingGroup-15And the process has already begun…since the signing of the lease in September 2014, we’ve been able to record some figures on how the Mansion is coming back to life. In just one year, we have:

  • shared reading with 20,553 people – an average of 395 each week
  • welcomed 4,600 people through the doors for a programme of public literary events
  • displayed 44 exhibitions from local artists and organisations at The Reader Gallery
  • employed an additional 35 paid members of staff to our enterprises at Calderstones

For more astounding figures from our base at Calderstones, as well as to get a closer view of what’s happening within the walls of the Mansion, head over to the Calderstones Mansion blog.

Here’s to the future, which we already got a glimpse into by touring the forthcoming Storybarn

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

Half Term Hijinks and Open Day at Calderstones

kids craftingMay Half Term is fast approaching, which can only mean another round of Half Term Hijinks at Calderstones Mansion House! We’ve got lots of fun in store for little ones and the young at heart to join in with too – as well as tons of stories, there’ll be rhymes, creative crafts, yummy feasts and adventure galore.

The programme is from Tuesday 27th-Friday 30th May, with each day containing different events to keep you entertained all week long. Here’s a taste of what’s in store:

Tuesday 27th May

Fantastic Mr Fox Feast, 11am-1pm
Age: 5-8 years
Cost: £7.50 for 1st child, £4 for each additional child thereafter

Join us for a fantastical lunchtime feast inspired by Roald Dahl’s classic.

Wednesday 28th May

Sharing A Shell, 10-11.30am
Age: 2-5 years
Cost: £5

We’ll be singing, rhyming and creating our own sea creatures at this special reading session.

Thursday 29th May

Catch A Star, 10-11.30am
Age: 4-8
Cost: £5

This space themed reading session will be full of adventure, stars, aliens in underpants and rocket ships!

IMG_0378What The Ladybird Heard, 1-2pm *SOLD OUT*
Age: 0-2 years
Cost: £5

Tiny explorers can have some farmyard fun in this special interactive reading session.

Friday 30th May

Matilda and Charlie, 12-2pm
Age: 5-10 years
Cost: £7.50 for first child, £4 for each additional child thereafter

We’re exploring two of our favourite Roald Dahl books with bookworm book bags and Willy Wonka inspired feast.

Booking is required for all events and children must be accompanied by an adult. Visit our website to book your place online to each event via Eventbrite:
For more information, contact Roisin: or call 0151 724 5000.

On Bank Holiday Monday, 26th May, we’ll be opening the doors to the Mansion House for our second annual Open Day at Calderstones. Before Half Term Hijinks takes place, why not take the chance to look around and take a tour of Calderstones Mansion House? You’ll be able to meet staff from The Reader Organisation and learn about our development plans as we continue to transform the building into a centre of reading and wellbeing. There’ll also be lots to do on the day – take your choice from enjoying some shared reading, getting creative with our drop-in family craft workshops and munch on a tasty treat from The Reader Cafe!

The doors to the Mansion House will be open from 10am-4pm on 26th May and entry is completely FREE.

We look forward to welcoming you to Calderstones over the week!

For more about what’s coming up at the Mansion House, check out our What’s On guide, available to download from our website:

‘Sigh no more’… Globe on Tour is returning to Calderstones Mansion House!

‘Wow! Now THAT is life!’… These were the words of an audience member who attended last year’s sell-out performance of King Lear by The Globe on Tour, when the garden theatre at Calderstones Mansion House was unveiled for the first time in thirty years.

After such a wonderful success, we are overjoyed at The Reader Organisation to announce that The Globe are returning to Calderstones this June, with one of Shakespeare’s finest comedies, Much Ado About Nothing, packed with memorable lines, and – I think – two of Shakespeare’s wittiest characters.

Much Ado tells the tale of two love stories, one – between Hero and Claudio – of romance, open declarations of love, and drama; the other – between Beatrice and Benedick – a battle of sharp-wit, denial and passion from the play’s two favourite comedic characters.

Played previously by stars such as Judi Dench, Emma Thompson, Kenneth Branagh and David Tennant, Beatrice and Benedict are renowned for their sharp tongue, and adorable denial of love. With these characters, Shakespeare has undoubtedly inspired many famous literary couples such as Austen’s well-known couple, Mr Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett. Like many of Shakespeare’s plays, Much Ado About Nothing comes with a host of lines and phrases, which remain present in our everyday lives… for example, the popular track Sigh no more, by Mumford and Sons, features a number of lines from Much Ado About Nothing.

Maintaining their prestigious reputation, The Globe on Tour wowed audiences last year with King Lear,

‘@The_Globe #Lear is exactly as touring Shakespeare should be. Snappy, high energy and inventive’.

With this in mind, we’re looking forward to a knock-out performance of Much Ado About Nothing and can’t wait to see what this year’s Benedick and Beatrice, played by Simon Bubb and Emma Pallant, have in store for us. And to top it all off, Calderstones Mansion House garden theatre is a truly perfect venue, as highlighted by an audience member last year, ‘The theatre garden really made it seem very personal.’

Much Ado  A3  SuperBlank

Performance Dates and Times:

Thursday 12th June, 7:30pm
Friday 13th June, 2:30pm & 7:30pm
Saturday 14th June, 2:30pm & 7:30pm

Ticket information:
Tickets are now on sale!

Price of tickets: £20

To purchase your tickets online, please visit: Shakespeare’s Globe website. There is a transaction fee of £2.50 for online bookings.

Please contact The Globe’s Box Office on 020 7401 9919 if you want to book for a Group; if you require access bookings; if you have children U18 or would like to use Theatre Tokens.
N.B. Concessions do not apply to Senior citizens for theatre performances. Discounts cannot be applied retrospectively.

Tickets will sell out, so book yours now to make sure you don’t miss out!

Shared reading group members and volunteers

The Reader Organisation has a limited number of £15 discounted tickets for shared reading group members and volunteers which can be obtained through your group leaders.

If you have any questions, please contact Abi:

Join the conversation for this upcoming tour on Twitter by using the hashtag #MuchAdo

Coming up in Literary Learning

As the days get shorter, we’re definitely not short of opportunities to develop your literary thinking and enjoy some enriching shared reading in great company at The Reader Organisation. In the next month there’s a new Short Course for Serious Readers with a canine theme at Calderstones Mansion House, as well as a Masterclass in Liverpool especially for Read to Lead graduates.

Read on for more of what’s on the Literary Learning calendar later this Autumn…

purebred english Bulldog in glasses and bookShort Courses for Serious Readers: A Dog’s Life
Wednesday 20th November, 10am-1pm
Calderstones Mansion House, Calderstones Park, Liverpool

£15; £10 concessions (Get Into Reading members/income support/students/pensioners)

Loyalty and unconditional love are amongst the important reasons why humans love dogs. From Homer to Hardy, we will read a wide variety of poetry and prose exploring the uncomplicated nature of the human-dog relationship. In this special half-day Short Course for Serious Readers, we will think about our need for joy, companionship and affection and the literary dogs that have seriously valuable lessons to teach about life, love and loss.

Our Short Courses for Serious Readers are perfect for anyone who loves literature to rediscover reading classics in a relaxed setting, allowing you to immerse yourself in texts with guidance from experts and the company of like-minded people. Take a morning for yourself and take a break from life to enjoy some great literature.

Find out more about our Short Courses for Serious Readers on the Courses section of our website. There are a final few places available for ‘The Test of the Sea’ Short Course this coming Saturday 26th October, 10am-4pm at Calderstones Mansion House, where we’ll be reading Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad. See our website for all the information on how to book or contact

November’s Masterclass

MRL_5280‘And Yet the Books’: Reading in Library and Community Settings
Monday 18th November, 5-8pm
Liverpool Central Library

As part of Ongoing Learning, Read to Lead graduates can join us for this special evening Masterclass in Liverpool, focusing on shared reading in library and community settings. Join Helen Wilson to discuss all aspects of shared reading these settings, ranging from publicity and techniques for recruitment to group dynamics and ‘going deeper’ in sessions.

Masterclasses are special sessions exclusively for those who have completed the Read to Lead course and wish to improve their practice as a facilitator and deepen their understanding as a reader, a vital part of Ongoing Learning in the practice of shared reading.

Places on this Masterclass are free within your first year of Ongoing Learning; otherwise they cost £25.
Contact Literary Learning Coordinator Sophie Johnson to reserve your place, and if you wish, request a particular topic for discussion:
Keep up-to-date on our latest Courses at any time by visiting the Courses section on our website:
You can also find out more about what’s going on in the world of Literary Learning by following us on Twitter (@thereaderorg) or liking us on Facebook:

Roll up, roll up for the Calderstones Summer Fair!

The final days of summer are just around the corner, but at The Reader Organisation we might just have saved the best till last with what’s happening at the Mansion House at Calderstones

King Lear 1Last week the Garden Theatre reopened in the grandest style imaginable with two nights of King Lear at Calderstones. Shakespeare’s Globe brought their first small-scale touring production of the play to the Mansion House, with both performances a complete sell-out. Underneath the stars and in the beautiful outdoor surroundings, timeless Shakespearean drama played out to a captivated audience. The cast, including stage and screen actors Joseph Marcell as King Lear and Rawiri Paratene as Gloucester, gave five-star performances from – and at times, down from – a custom-built stage, making for two very special shows that brought the Garden Theatre back to life after 30 years.

The responses from the audiences on Twitter confirmed what many people expressed as a wish at our Mansion House Public Open Days back in April – to see theatre put back at the heart of the park and community:

#Lear is exactly as touring shakespeare should be. Snappy, high energy and inventive

Wow! Now THAT is life! Brought a friend who had never seen/read any Shakespeare and she loved it. Thank you 🙂

Loved #Lear by @The_Globe last night @CaldiesMansion. Hope @The_Globe come back soon

The play also received a 5* review from Sean Bradbury in the Liverpool Post:

This production of King Lear has set the bar high for the new era of theatre in Calderstones Park but one thing is for sure – it is going to be a real treat sitting under the stars to see if anything can match it.

However, Lear has only got us into gear for a load more activity and excitement at the Mansion House…

Calderstones Summer FairThere’s a very special treat in store next week as The Reader Organisation prepares to hold its first Summer Fair at Calderstones on Saturday 31st August, 11am-5pm. It’ll be a day for the family and whole community to enjoy with lots of wonderful attractions, including:

  •  games
  • crafts and plant stalls
  • face painting
  • possibly the world’s first poetry photo booth with custom recitals
  • live music
  • a Harry Potter fancy dress competition for children
  • Wishing Tree and Memory Wall to share your thoughts about the Mansion House

…and there will be tons more in store on the day; you’ll have to join us to find out exactly what…

Even if the sun isn’t shining outside, it still promises to be a summer spectacular at the Mansion House. Roll up, roll up – and join the Reading Revolution! Head to the Calderstones section of our website to find out more about the Summer Fair, as well as the summer programme of activities at the Mansion House, or call for more information on 0151 724 5000

Reading is a Picnic at Calderstones

G31A7051The Mansion House at Calderstones has become a hive of activity once more, with summer seeing it the place to be. Not only did we reopen the Garden Theatre after 30 years in spectacular style with two showstopping performances of King Lear by Shakespeare’s Globe earlier this week, but there’s also an exciting programme of events still to come including a grand Summer Fair at the end of this month with tons of fun to be had for the whole community.

The TRO presence would not be complete without a good dose of shared reading; we’re currently running several groups at the Mansion House each week, including weekly groups for children and young people. Every Saturday morning our Caldies Creatives take over, offering fun, games and crafts for 7-13 year olds and on Thursday afternoons it’s time to gather teddies and books for the Teddy Bears Picnic. With a few weeks of the summer holidays left – and hopefully lots more sunshine to come – both groups are perfect to keep the kids entertained, with plenty of space  in the park to run around and play after lots of reading.

Our Everton Family Project Worker Laura Lewis tells us more about what you’ll find if you go down to the woods – or rather, the Mansion House – and also about some of the other reading activities we have for children in Liverpool over the summer:

Attending a Teddy Bears’ Picnic at Calderstones Park in the glorious sunshine is one of the many difficult tasks I have been asked to endure since starting at The Reader Organisation. OK, I admit it. I have an amazing job! Other activities I have attended or organised include a family fun day at Zap Play Centre in Everton, a pirate themed story time and craft session at Central Library, a picnic in Everton Nature Gardens with stories and songs and a Bookstart story time at St George’s Hall. I am also planning a Splash and Rhyme session at Everton Children’s Centre and looking forward to running story time sessions at the upcoming Out of the Blue Festival. I have even met such celebrities as Peppa Pig and the Bookstart bear herself, it’s all very glamorous.

The teddies at Calderstones love to read
The teddies at Calderstones love to read

Being a Family Project Worker in Everton, I love any excuse for a story time, especially one that involves songs and teddies! So of course I was thrilled when Ro invited me to attend her first Teddy Bears’ Picnic group at Calderstones. At The Reader Organisation we are always trying to think of fun and exciting ways to bring families together through a love of reading and imagination and we were thrilled when so many families joined us on our very first session and enjoyed themselves so much.

The Teddy Bears’ Picnic at Calderstones is run by the fantastic Ro, who is incredibly creative and shares my love of children’s books and songs. When the sun is shining the picnic takes place on the grass at the front of the Mansion House and if it is raining the group will be indoors, inside the Mansion House. Under fives are invited to bring along teddies, parents and carers for a fun-filled hour of stories and songs. Ro brings a selection of stories and the little ones can chose which to read, as well as which songs to sing (if we don’t have it on CD we’ll do our very best to sing it, no promises as to how in tune we will be though!).

As part of my role, I facilitate several under fives groups in Everton in association with Thrive at Five and every single one is so different; the little ones are so engaged in the stories and offer amazing insights and observations. One seven month old loves story time so much that every time he enters the storytelling area, he begins to bounce up and down, ready for a song! Story time is a wonderful opportunity to spend quality time with your baby or toddler, whilst gaining an excuse to listen to a kids’ story and sing a few songs: who doesn’t love The Tiger Who Came to Tea and the Hokey Cokey? Lots of parents have said to me that their children love story time so much that they insist on re-creating it at home!

We would love for you to come along and join in. Contact Ro to find out more about the latest activities in Calderstones on or if you would like to know any more about my story times sessions in Everton or be informed of any one-off events in Liverpool, please don’t hesitate to email me on . Also remember to keep an eye on TRO’s and Caldies Mansion Twitter accounts for all of our latest adventures!

Teddy Bear’s Picnic runs Thursdays, 1.30-2.30pm for children under 5, their parents and carers, and Caldies Creatives is on Saturdays, 10-11.30am for young people aged 7-13, both at Calderstones Mansion House.

Our Everton Magical Storytime sessions for children under 5, their parents and carers run in association with LCVS and Thrive at Five, with a new ‘Tales With Teddy’ group running each Wednesday afternoon, 1-2pm, at Mere Lane Health Centre. For all the information of our groups for children and young people, see the Reading With Us page on our website.

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!