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

Maxine 1 - Caro Rowland
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!”

Maxine Peake headlines Penny Readings 2015

The Penny Readings 2015 is just under two weeks away and we’re excited to announce our headline act for this year’s show.

Maxine Peake
Maxine Peake, starring at the Penny Readings 2015

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?

Shaun Evans
Shaun Evans

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.

Penny Readings 2015: How to get your tickets

Penny Readings fest 1 onlineLast 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…

The Penny Readings 2015: Date Announced

It’s the biggest event of the year, and we can announce that the Penny Readings is returning to start the Christmas season in true Readerly fashion. The all-important date for your diaries can be found below…

The Concert Room

On Sunday 13th December, we’ll be filling the beautiful Concert Room in St George’s Hall with 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.

The Penny Readings 2014

The Reader Organisation’s most popular annual event is returning for its eleventh year and is already highly anticipated – and today we can announce the dates for when you’ll be able to get your hands on tickets to the Penny Readings 2014, which returns to St George’s Hall in Liverpool on Sunday 21st December.

Tickets will be released to the general public in the week commencing Monday 17th November. This year, tickets will be allocated on a first come, first served basis, available both online, at Calderstones Mansion House and further distribution points to be announced at a later date.

Members of our shared reading groups will be able to apply for priority tickets two weeks before general release, on Monday 3rd November, and can apply through their group facilitators.

As ever, you’ll be able to apply for tickets to the family-friendly Ha’penny Readings in the afternoon as well as the evening event.

The Penny Readings have become a staple of the festive season in Liverpool, so make sure you pop the dates in your diary! Stay tuned for more information on what promises to be another spectacular show of reading, music and entertainment coming soon…

Penny Readings fest 1 online

 

 

The Penny Readings Festival 2013: A very Readerly Christmas!

Penny Readings fest 1 online
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:

Kids corner online
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.

christmas reading online 1
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!

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!

The Penny Readings Festival: Local Talent tops the Bill

Frank and Jane 72 dpiExcitement has been in the air for weeks, and now there are just days until St George’s Hall will be taken over by a festive extravaganza as The Penny Readings Festival takes place!

The Reader Organisation will be celebrating the 10th anniversary of our seasonal event by holding a free public Christmas festival from 1.30pm-5.30pm this Sunday, 15th December. There’ll be tons of things for the whole family to do all afternoon, including shared reading activity for children and adults, festive entertainment, craft stalls, a Christmas cafe and lots more. Come along and spend an afternoon getting into the Christmas spirit completely for free in the Great Hall.

All this festive fun is ahead of the main events, the Penny and Ha’penny Readings, sponsored by Publiship and Liverpool Learning Partnership. The 10th Penny Readings at 6.30pm in the Concert Room is completely sold out after another hugely successful public raffle took place at the end of last month. If you were lucky enough to be drawn out of Santa’s hat, you can look forward to an evening full of festive reading and entertainment, including:

There’s all this alongside the famous Reader raffle, with the opportunity to win some wonderful Christmas goodies from the likes of Waterstones Bold Street, Serious Readers, John Lewis Liverpool and Royal Court Theatre. The Christmas season will start in true Reader style in a jam-packed event that Charles Dickens himself would surely be proud of.

Keep your eyes on The Reader Online over the next few days for more on the events and the special free Penny Readings Festival. Got your ticket? Share your excitement with us on Twitter, using the hashtag #PennyReadings