A Winter’s Tale in Another Place

We’re on quite a roll with Shakespeare this week so we thought there was no better time to revisit this wonderful short film, inspired by A Winter’s Tale.

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The Reader 65

Our first edition of 2017 and a special Anniversary Issue to mark 20 years of The Reader magazine.

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On the big screen: A Monster Calls

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As Patrick Ness’ A Monster Calls hits the big screen on New Year’s Day, our patron Frank Cottrell Boyce explores the interesting story behind the novel.

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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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“What is your idea of perfect happiness?’ : David Bowie’s Reading List

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Inspired by Frank Cottrell-Boyce’s lecture on David Bowie’s Reading List, Lauren reflects on the joy to be found in books, music and Shared Reading. 
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Shared Reading: a secular church?

From Robert Lyon, Communications Intern

Prayer, the Church’s banquet, Angels’ age,
God’s breath in man returning to his birth,
The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage,
The Christian plummet, sounding heaven and earth;

Prayer, George Herbert

Here at The Reader we have developed a Shared Reading model that brings people together, creates community and builds confidence and trust through reading aloud. The creative and essentially human aspects of short stories and poetry are the vehicle we use to explore important issues and draw out the experiences and beliefs of our readers. Even when phrased in this way many may be surprised to learn that The Reader has been mentioned in the same breath as a religious body.

Casper ter Kuile is a trainee minister for non-religious people and in a recent article for The Huffington Post Is the Church of England Fit for Purpose he discusses the potential failings of the modern Church of England. After identifying a growing gap between the public and the Anglican Church Body he suggests the church still has much to offer but he seeks to imagine ‘‘articulating the purpose of the church differently’’. It is here that Kuile draws attention to The Reader as one of the organisations which is helping to build communities of belonging and make meaning in our lives.

While The Reader has no religious agenda there are parallels to be drawn between what happens in Shared Reading and within communities that meet within the Church. In the reading groups our readers can feel a sense of community, where friends are made and support can be found. At The Reader we believe in the power of poetry and literature which can remind us that we are part of something bigger than ourselves.

It is a pleasure to be mentioned in Casper’s article, especially in conjunction with other meaningful projects.

There is a great opportunity to hear more about the relationship between reading and belief as we look towards Easter. In partnership with The Reader, Wednesday 2nd March will see author, screenwriter and our patron Frank Cottrell Boyce appear as part of Liverpool Parish Church‘s Lent Talks. Frank will be talking about his award-winning book The Unforgotten Coat – written especially for The Reader’s Our Read campaign in 2011. The book, described by Frank as ‘home-made’, could not be more timely given the context of the ongoing refugee and migration crisis in Europe.

Tickets for the Lent Talk at Our Lady & St Nicholas Church this coming Wednesday starting at 6.15pm are free but can be registered online now.

The Reader Review of 2015

“If this life of ours
Be a good glad thing, why should we make us merry
Because a year of it is gone?”
– Alfred, Lord Tennyson

P1000516It’s been a year of merriment as well as hard work, development and much Shared Reading around the UK, but before we close the momentous chapter of 2015, we want to take a little look back on just a few of the highlights of the past twelve months at The Reader.

From Liverpool, via Leicestershire, to London – Shared Reading across the country

Our Shared Reading model reaches people of all ages, demographics and settings, and in 2015 we’ve been able to bring Shared Reading to new places, as well as extending it across regions we’re already working in.

In Liverpool, there’s been a strong focus on our projects with children and young people where we’re encouraging a love of reading for pleasure from an early age, along with our partners at City of Readers. We’ve been delighted to help lead the way with reading as an early intervention in nurseries across the city and have ensured that a legacy can continue with little ones, parents and carers by the distribution of 300 Story Time boxes to nurseries and families. Our Off The Page project – our biggest volunteering project to date – started its three-year journey, reaching disadvantaged young people across the city with one-to-one weekly reading sessions that show how fulfilling connecting with books can be. Over in the Wirral, we started a similar project for Looked After Children, funded by Children in Need.

It’s been a big year for new projects in the North West, with Shared Reading coming to Knowsley, Cheshire East and Cheshire West and Chester, with groups for the community, older people living with dementia and carers. In Sheffield we celebrated the last four years of Shared Reading across Sheffield Health and Social Care Trust with a special event, and extended our volunteer-led project with Leicestershire Libraries in Leicester.

In the Southern parts of the country, our London projects went strength to strength with reading for wellbeing across South London, funded by Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity and the Maudsley Charity, a new memory loss group in conjunction with Tesco as part of our Barnet project and volunteering opportunities in West London. We brought Shared Reading to Somerset and our Wiltshire project for people living with dementia and memory loss became an award winner.

‘Great things are done when Men and Mountains meet’ – Shared Reading and Events

2015 was another year for wonderful events, many of which took place at our base at Calderstones Mansion. We welcomed Nicolette Jones and Frank Cottrell Boyce for a celebration of the 100 Modern Children’s Classics, hosted a summer spectacular of theatre which included the return of Shakespeare’s Globe on Tour with the classic Romeo and Juliet, brought together literature, art and music with Ad Hoc Creative EXPO and brought together more than a hundred of our group members, volunteers and trustees at an inspiring AGM.

Misty summit reading close upWe joined forces with City of Readers and Beanstalk to bring a day of reading across five locations in Liverpool with Anytime is Storytime in the summer, and brought something very Big to Calderstones in the form of The Big Dig, the first archaeological dig at the park to involve volunteers from the local community. Taking on big challenges was something of a theme this year as our team in North Wales organised the highest ever Shared Reading group at the peak of Mount Snowdon, overcoming all difficulties and perilous weather conditions.

The year rounded off in fine style with the twelfth annual Penny Readings at St George’s Hall. Another sell-out festive extravaganza saw captivating performances from Frank Cottrell Boyce, Maxine Peake and Shaun Evans.

A Year of The Reader – and other Great News

The Reader offered up more literary goodness and thought-provoking pieces throughout 2015, with issues offering contributions and interviews from names including Tim Parks, Ken Loach, Salley Vickers, David Constantine, Bill Bailey and Blake Morrison.

The value of Shared Reading continued to make an impact as we were shortlisted for the Social Enterprise Network Powerful Together Awards and the 2015 Natwest SE100 Awards, along with 21 other organisations in the UK. Our status as a social enterprise doing good for health and wellbeing rose as we were part of a rising contingent in the North West on the SE100 Index; even better news when we’re rapidly expanding our social enterprise work at Calderstones Mansion.

P1000158Our year ended with two big pieces of news that will ensure that our work can reach many more people who will benefit from Shared Reading can continue into the future. In November, we were delighted to continue our partnership with Social Business Trust as they awarded us funding and business support worth £1.5million which will help us to reach 27,000 people by 2018. Earlier this month we were able to secure the future of the International Centre for Reading at Calderstones with a confirmed grant of nearly £2million from Heritage Lottery Fund, rebuilding the future of Calderstones whilst celebrating its past heritage.

All of this made us very happy indeed – very appropriate considering that Jane made the Independent on Sunday’s Happy List this year!

We’re looking forward to the year to come, with two big things on the horizon early on – the launch of The Storybarn and A Little, Aloud With Love, the newest member of the A Little, Aloud anthology series. There’ll be lots more to come, including more stories from our group members and readers, and so as 2016 approaches we’re embracing Lord Tennyson’s outlook:

but Hope
Smiles from the threshold of the year to come,
Whispering ‘it will be happier’…”

From all at The Reader, we wish you a happy and restful festive season.

Penny Readings 2015: Northern powerhouses, Astounding Broccoli Boys and Dickensian cheer

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Maxine Peake on stage at the Penny Readings 2015 (credit: @CaroRowland on Twitter)

Last night, St George’s Hall in Liverpool was full to the brim with festive spirit as the Penny Readings 2015 took place. For just over two hours, the glittering Concert Room – which Charles Dickens himself deemed as “the finest room in the world for reading” when he read on the very same stage – saw the sell-out show wow the audience with seasonal literature, music and entertainment, all for the price of just one penny a ticket.

Our star readers came in the form of ‘Northern powerhouses’ Maxine Peake and Shaun Evans, delighting and moving us in equal measure with their choice of readings. We were treated to a double helping of D.H. Lawrence with extracts from Sons and Lovers and The Rainbow, perfectly brought to life by Maxine’s dulcet tones, with her take on the Morel’s family Christmas awaiting the arrival of eldest son William back from London rightly called ‘captivating‘ by one of our many audience members – a feeling that was surely shared by the whole room. The Dickensian spirit of the Penny Readings was in full effect with Shaun’s piece from David Copperfield, which saw the title character in particularly high spirits, and his characterful reading of the ‘devilish good fellow’ brought frequent gales of laughter from the crowd. Maxine ended with a poignant Christmas piece – The Oxen by Thomas Hardy – although arguably her most challenging role of the evening came when she was called upon to draw the famous Reader Raffle, which had some incredible prizes on offer including a Kiehl’s gift-set, tickets to The Alice Experience and The Beatles Story, hampers from Asda and LEAF, Independent Liverpool cards and a signed authenticated picture of Liverpool FC midfielder Phillipe Coutinho!

Shaun Evans reading from Dickens (credit: @Sbarber5bp on Twitter)
Shaun Evans reading from Dickens (credit: @Sbarber5bp on Twitter)

Another memorable performance came from the ever-entertaining Frank Cottrell Boyce, who read from his latest hit novel The Astounding Broccoli Boy after regaling us with tales from his schooldays and in particular the case of a nun who may or may not have been concealing a Dalek status…Frank also pleased the crowds by signing copies of the book in the foyer afterwards. Angie MacMillan treated us to an exclusive preview of the latest in the A Little, Aloud series – A Little, Aloud With Love, due to be published in early 2016, and the Christmas cheer was brought back into proceedings with special guests Adele, Madison and Josh from Norman Pannell Primary School telling us the story of How The Grinch Stole Christmas. As ever, Phil Davis invoked the festive spirit with the traditional reading from A Christmas Carol, bringing the scene from the Cratchits’ dinner table to life.

Musical interludes were brought courtesy of The Ukulele Uff & Lonesome Dave Trio with their set of singalong classics including the love song for insects Never Swat A Fly and Irving Berlin’s Blue Skies, the super-talented piano player – and composer! – Evie Gill-Hannan, and the AINE Gospel Choir, finalists from the BBC Songs of Praise Gospel Choir of the Year 2014, who led the whole cast and crowd in a soulful rendition of Lean On Me to bring this year’s proceedings to a rousing close.

It was a real compliment for our supporters Publiship to call this year’s show the ‘Best Penny Readings ever’ and the #PennyReadings hashtag on Twitter was full of similar highlights from those in attendance:

Absolutely loved our first at . Thanks for organising a great evening! 🙂

all sounding/looking beautiful for the magical

Loved listening to made me laugh and nearly cry at end of reading…

Thanks and for a fab night.

Shaun Evans and Maxine Peake backstage with staff from Whitefield Primary School
Shaun Evans and Maxine Peake backstage with staff from Whitefield Primary School

With so much festivity and goodwill in abundance, we like to think that Dickens would be proud.

All that is left to say is a massive thank you to all of our performers, supporters, stall holders including News From Nowhere, Royden Revolve Rotary Club and The Reader Cafe, staff members and everyone in attendance for making the Penny Readings 2015 so memorable. Here’s to next year! In the meantime, to borrow a phrase or two from Bob Cratchit:

“A merry Christmas to us all, my dears. God bless us!”

‘The magic of story’: The Unforgotten Coat in Germany

The Unforgotten Coat has been on quite a journey since its publication in 2011 for The Reader’s Our Read campaign. It’s been shared in schools and universities, at festivals and events and has garnered several award wins and nominations. We’ve been amazed at how the story – inspired by true events – has become a global sensation, but not all that surprised given that it was penned by the brilliant Frank Cottrell Boyce.

Recently, Frank embarked on a trip which highlighted not only the appeal of the book but also its relevance to current events that are happening across the world. He writes for us:

Frank Cottrell Boyce making the children's keynote lecture at the Berlin International Literature Festival
Frank Cottrell Boyce making the children’s keynote lecture at the Berlin International Literature Festival

A few months ago I won a prestigious book award in Germany – the James Kruss prize. This involved me in the difficult work of being wined and dined and feted in one of the world’s most beautiful libraries – the International Children’s Library in Schloss Blutenburg near Munich. I wrote about the experience here. It also involved me giving the children’s keynote lecture at the Berlin International Literature Festival last week.

I find it surprising and thought-provoking that all this prestige comes from the book I wrote for The Reader in response to the badgering of Jane Davis – The Unforgotten Coat. This is a book I wrote quickly, inspired by a Mongolian girl I met in a school in Bootle. It’s illustrated with photographs taken by friends Carl Hunter and Clare Heaney. It could not be more home-made. Yet it seems really to have hit a chord in Germany.

The events were all packed. I was taken to schools and to a refugee project where the kids were doing work inspired by the book. A party of Mongolian children turned up, delighted by the fact that the book’s heroes are from Mongolia. It’s always been well-regarded in Germany (it won the state-sponsored Jugendliteraturpreis last year) but the events of the summer, and the refugee crisis in particular, have made it seem relevant and timely. I was even invited onto the news to discuss the crisis, which turned out to be slightly embarrassing as I only remembered that I don’t really speak German when I was on already on air.

There’s something to be said here about the magic – or the grace – of story. When the book was written there was no refugee crisis. I wrote it purely because its two swaggering, resourceful, vulnerable heroes seemed fun and real. When politicians are referring to refugees as “swarms” and “floods” as though they were the plagues of Egypt, it’s important to be reminded that we are talking about individuals – as needy, as worthy, as eccentric as we are ourselves.   Narrative is a great mental and moral discipline.

Frank Cottrell BoyceIt also says something about the inherent internationalism of children’s stories. When I was growing up I was immersed in stories that came from Finland, Africa, the Middle East – but they all seemed to belong to me, part of my inheritance every bit as much as Scouse or the Beatles. By the way, The International Children’s Library was founded by Jella Lepman – a Jewish refugee who got out of Germany just in time and then, when the war was over, went back to help rebuild it. Imagine that. She got away. She got a nice job at the BBC. Then she went back. The more I think about it, the more I think that’s one of the most moving and salutary things I’ve ever heard. She went back because she thought that children’s stories were important. I put her picture over my desk and say a prayer each morning that I don’t sell her vision short.

I went home via Hamburg where I took my little son to see “Miniatur Wunderland” – a terrific display of model towns and villages. One room contains a series of scenes of one street through time. From the Bronze Age, through the Middle Ages, the Enlightenment, the Nazis (“in the far corner we can see Rosa Luxembourg being murdered …”), the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Wall and then… it doesn’t stop. The next few cases show visions of what the same street might be in the future. Each of those cases has been put together by one of the main political parties. They were each asked to show what their vision of the future would look like at street level. It was revelatory and oddly moving to see that politicians dream too.

This is a picture of the Miniatur Wunderland version of the collapse of the Wall.

Miniatur Wunderland picture (Frank CB blog)


 

The Unforgotten Coat received its international premiere at the Berlin International Literature Festival on 9th September at the Children and Young Adult Literature section of the festival, with a special focus on ‘Escape, displacement and migration’.

“Good stories help us make sense of the world. They invite us to discover what it’s like being someone completely different.” – Author Gillian Cross writes for The Guardian on how fiction can help us to understand the Syrian refugee crisis. The Unforgotten Coat has been offered as one recommendation (and we agree), but there are many more, suggested by readers here.

An exhibition of original digital and Polaroid-style photographs from The Unforgotten Coat by Carl Hunter and Clare Heaney is on display at Bank Street Arts in Sheffield until Saturday 26th September.

Turning Pages Together: A Celebration of Children’s Literature

worldbookdayTurning Pages Together: A Celebration of Children’s Literature
Thursday 11th June, 4-6pm
Calderstones Mansion House, Liverpool L18 3JB

Join Nicolette Jones, Children’s Books Editor for The Sunday Times, award-winning author Frank Cottrell Boyce and The Reader Organisation as we take a fascinating journey through the world of Children’s Literature at this special event at Calderstones Mansion House.

Nicolette Jones has been the Children’s Books Editor at The Sunday Times for over two decades, and in 2012 was shortlisted for the Eleanor Farjeon Award for distinguished service to the world of children’s books. Last year she created The Sunday Times 100 Modern Children’s Classics, a definitive list of contemporary stories for children of all ages, and she’ll be discussing the choices on the list with Frank, showcasing some of the greatest modern literature you may have heard of – and some that might be new, too.

Author and screenwriter Frank Cottrell Boyce is known for his children’s books, including Cosmic, the 2004 Carnegie Medal winner Millions and The Unforgotten Coat, winner of the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize 2012 and German Children’s Literature Award 2013, that was also written especially for The Reader Organisation.

With input and insight from two experts in the field, there’s bound to be lots of inspiration in store.

Attendees will also get the chance to hear an exclusive talk from staff at The Reader Organisation on the Storybarn, Liverpool’s first interactive story centre for children and families, which will be opening later this year. This will be followed by drinks, nibbles and time for discussing and sharing thoughts on Children’s Literature with other attendees and speakers from the event.

Places at the event are free but limited, and prior registration is required. Sign up for your place at: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/turning-pages-together-a-celebration-of-childrens-literature-tickets-16787884013