The Penny Readings Festival: Festive fun for the family

penny reading festivalThe Penny Readings Festival 2013
Sunday 15th December, 1.30-5.30pm
Great Hall, St George’s Hall, Liverpool

To celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Penny Readings, The Reader Organisation is putting on its biggest event to date and hosting The Penny Readings Festival in St George’s Hall – and it’s this weekend! Join us for an afternoon full of festive reading and fun from 1.30-5.30pm, all completely FREE.

Our very first Penny Readings Festival will be a jam-packed afternoon, and we’ll be taking over the grand Great Hall with tons of Christmas activities, entertainment and much much more to get the whole family well and truly into the Christmas spirit. Take a little look at some of the things we have in store…

Christmas reading

  • Story Time – come along and listen to some stories for the young and young-at-heart in our Kids Corner
  • Experience shared reading with seasonal stories and poems read aloud by TRO staff
  • Try out shared reading aloud with our training taster sessions, run by our Big Lottery Volunteer team
  • Get some great tips on making reading fun with young people
  • Take on a starring role by reading us something aloud on video

There’ll be loads of chances to get creative and show us your artistic talents by designing a cover for your favourite book, make festive finger puppets and help decorate our Readers Christmas tree, as well as games and reading quizzes to keep you entertained and thinking.

The Christmas marketplace will give you the chance to finish off your Christmas shopping, with lots of brilliant books from News from Nowhere and The Reader Organisation, as well as beautiful and unique jewellery and crafts. You can find out more about what we do and our various projects, tuck into some yummy food at the Christmas cafe and satisfy your sweet tooth with Just for Kids Cakes. Plus there’ll be entertainment in store including the chance to get creative with the Wild Writers and enjoy some beautiful music from our Penny Readings guests the i Choir. And of course, no TRO event would be complete without a Reader Raffle with an array of wonderful prizes on offer, including gifts from Independent Liverpool.

Give us 5!

Along with Publiship, the Penny Readings Festival will be sponsored by Liverpool Learning Partnership who we’re joining forces with alongside Liverpool City Council to make 2014 Liverpool’s Year of Reading. Being a reader who reads for pleasure in and out of school is the most important factor affecting a child’s future chances, and so to make every child who leaves primary school a reader, we’re looking to build a City of Readers.

Our Give us 5 for Reading! campaign starts in February, but you can pledge to Give us 5 at The Penny Readings Festival, whether it be 5 minutes spent reading in our YouTube booth, 5 hours to be a City of Readers volunteer or 5 books to donate to our work with young people. Find out more about Give us 5 on the day.

Everyone is welcome to join us for The Penny Readings Festival, this Sunday from 1.30pm – start off your Christmas the Readerly way!

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.