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 Loversand 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 Oxenby 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!
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, Aloudseries – 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:
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 Penny Readings 2015 is just under two weeks away and we’re excited to announce our headline act for this year’s show.
Actress Maxine Peake will take to the stage at St George’s Hall, Liverpool on Sunday 13th December to join our annual festive extravaganza. Familiar from television and film roles in Dinnerladies, Shameless, Silk, The Village and The Theory of Everything, Maxine recently played the title character in a radical re-imagining of Hamlet at the Royal Exchange in Manchester, making her the first female Hamlet on a major stage for 35 years.
In The Reader 55, she was interviewed by Philip Davis about her propensity to take on challenging roles, as well as making the connection between acting and screenwriting:
“It is not about being confident. I don’t go ‘I am a good actor’. I want to take bigger risks and enjoy it more […] Now the way I try to think about everything is: Why not?“
Maxine will appear at the Penny Readings alongside Liverpool-born actor Shaun Evans, star of Inspector Morse prequel Endeavour, Whitechapel and BBC Two’s recent The Scandalous Lady W.
We’re also delighted to have Publiship supporting the Penny Readings 2015.
This year’s Penny Readings sold out in a record 90 minutes, with anticipation high for another seasonal celebration of reading, music and entertainment. Dickens will make his regular appearance in the form of the festive classic A Christmas Carol, and we can promise many more treats in store to start Christmas in true Reader style.
The show will start at 6.30pm on Sunday 13th December in the Concert Room. Doors will open to the foyer at 5.30pm, where stalls and refreshments will be available.
Shared reading group members and The Reader volunteers have been notified of their ticket allocation and will receive their priority reserved tickets from their group leader and volunteer coordinator within the next week. Public tickets for the Penny Readings 2015 are sold out.
Last week we announced the date for this year’s Penny Readings, and now we can reveal more information on how you can get tickets to this year’s festive extravaganza of reading, music and entertainment.
First, a little reminder of the fundamentals:
Where? St George’s Hall (Concert Room), Liverpool When? Sunday 13th December, 6.30-8.30pm (entrance to the foyer from 5.30pm onwards, with stalls and refreshments) How much? Tickets are free – just bring your penny on the night!
Shared reading group members and The Reader volunteers will be assigned priority ticket reservation from now until 5pm on Friday 13th November. A maximum of 2 tickets per group member/volunteer can be reserved, although due to possible high demand and a limited number of tickets available there is no guarantee that all requests will be fulfilled.
Group members and volunteers will be able to request tickets from their group leader or volunteer contact and must include the following details: first name and surname, name of group and group leader (applicable to group members) and contact details (telephone number and/or email address).
Ticket allocation for group members and volunteers will be confirmed during the week commencing Monday 23rd November.
Tickets will be available to the general public from 10am on Tuesday 17th November, and will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis via the online booking link at http://pennyreadings2015.eventbrite.co.uk/ and by calling 0151 729 2220. There will be a maximum of 2 tickets per order.
Please be aware, there are no afternoon Ha’penny Readings taking place this year. Children and young people can attend the Penny Readings with an ordered ticket.
We’ll be keeping you updated with more Penny Readings news in the run-up to the big night – in the meantime, follow the #PennyReadings hashtag on Twitter for all the latest…
It’s the biggest event of the year, and we can announce that the Penny Readingsis returning to start the Christmas season in true Readerly fashion. The all-important date for your diaries can be found below…
On Sunday 13th December, we’ll be filling the beautiful Concert Room in St George’s Hallwith audience members ready for an evening of festive readings, music and entertainment galore. Now in its twelfth year, we’re looking forward to another seasonal extravaganza harking back to the days of Dickens – all for the price of one penny.
Stay tuned in the coming weeks for more details on our Penny Readings line-up, and the important information on how you can get your tickets.