The Reader 66

My oh my have we got a cracking magazine for you this quarter! The summer edition is out now, jam-packed with fantastic new writing, powerful personal essays and all the latest Reader thinking.

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Lifesavers by Jane Davis

We’re embracing ‘Throwback Thursday’ with a blog first published by our founder and director Dr Jane Davis in September 2013. 

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Feeling it: Reading the emotions of others

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Discussions on literature and empathy continue to buzz around The Reader HQ following Obama’s sentiments on reading for empathy, our founder and director Jane Davis reflects on how literature can help us connect with others.

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The Reader 64

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Winter’s chill may not have the same bite as we might have expected but there’s plenty to chew on in the latest issue of The Reader.

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Announcing an exciting new partnership with Oxford University Press

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We’re delighted to introduce our brand new partners, OUP!

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Literary Pups: Bring Your Dog to Work Day

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On this, Bring Your Dog to Work Day, we celebrate the four legged companions of our greatest writers! What an excellent excuse to look at cute pictures of dogs!

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Open Book with Marilynne Robinson – and The Reader Organisation

Marilynne Robinson speaking at our 'Reading for Wellbeing' conference in 2011
Marilynne Robinson speaking at our ‘Reading for Wellbeing’ conference in 2011

This week’s edition of Open Book on BBC Radio 4 was a treat for literature lovers, featuring an interview with Pulitzer Prize winning author Marilynne Robinson about her new novel Lila, the long anticipated third book in her bestselling series set in the fictional town of Gilead (following on from Gilead and Home). Certainly many of us at The Reader Organisation are big fans of Marilynne Robinson and her work, and became even more so when she joined us as a guest speaker at our second ever Conference in New Brighton in 2011, with some lucky enough to spend an evening in the company of the author at Blackburne House beforehand.

We were proud to stand alongside Marilynne again as the programme also included a special feature on the ‘reading oasis’ that can be found at Calderstones Mansion House. Earlier in the year Open Book visited Calderstones, guided by our Founder and Director Jane Davis, to witness some shared reading in action and see just how we are already starting to build an International Centre for Reading with our group members from the local community and beyond. You can listen to Calderstones on Open Book here (approx 11 minutes 52 seconds in): http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04p5m1y

The feature included input from Professor Rhiannon Corcoran from University of Liverpool who talks about her special interest in the practice of shared reading and one of our trustees Dr Shyamal Mukherjee, Medical Director of NHS Wirral, identifying the benefits shared reading can provide to people’s health and wellbeing, as well as contributing to increased social interaction on a unique and deeply emotional scale.

Some of our reading group members could also be heard on the programme, discussing the in and outs of Dombey and Son as well as enjoying our very popular babies, toddlers and parents/carers reading group Tiny Reads. There can’t be too many other Grade II listed buildings in the country where you would find Dickens being read doors along from The Gruffalo on a Friday morning!

Reading with tots right up to the young at heart is exactly what we want to do at Calderstones – encouraging everyone to come through the doors to enjoy the pure pleasure of reading, as well as to connect with those around them in what will be a true community hub with great literature at its heart. Including gallery and events spaces, a crammed calendar for the whole family to enjoy and a cafe full of tasty treats, we’re always developing at Calderstones: http://www.thereader.org.uk/calderstones

Catch up with Open Book on the BBC Radio 4 website, or you can listen again by tuning into BBC Radio 4 this Thursday 20th November at 3.30pm. Listen to the Calderstones feature on its own by heading here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02c7r89

The Penny Readings Festival 2013: A very Readerly Christmas!

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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:

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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.

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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!