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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On the big screen: A Monster Calls


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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Recommended Reads: Five Frightful Stories this Halloween


On this Hallowed Eve we thought we’d get into the spooky spirits with a few frightful recommended reads…

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45 Years In Another Country

In Another Country high res45 Years, recently released in cinemas, is on the surface a film about the span of time. Kate and Geoff Mercer are approaching their 45th wedding anniversary, living steadily and seeing out their retirement in a Norfolk village, taking each day up with their well-known routines. On one ordinary day, not long before their anniversary, Geoff receives a letter with the news that the body of his former girlfriend – missing after an accident on the Swiss mountains fifty years previous – has been found. The revelation proves to be devastating to the couple, and beneath the settled surface memories and the shadows of time gone by – and not experienced at all – rise up once more.

The film, starring acclaimed actors Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay as its leads, has received glowing reviews by critics and is being talked up as a potential candidate to be in line for a BAFTA next year, after already receiving plaudits for both actors at the Berlin Film Festival 2015. Seeing it on the big screen, it may be surprising to hear that it started life as a short story written by patron of The Reader David Constantine and was first featured in Issue 9 of The Reader magazine all the way back in 2001.

In Another Country – the original title of the story – subsequently became part of Under The Dam, Constantine’s 2005 collection of short stories, and reprinted as the title story in a new collection from Comma Press, released next week. The film adaptation alters a number of elements from the story, so even if you have already seen the film it’s well worth reading In Another Country to look at the tale from another perspective. Since its first publication in The Reader, the story has proved a popular, absorbing and thought-provoking choice in many of our shared reading groups – even as recently as this week, where one of our groups in London read it, and found the struggles of characters moving.

David Constantine has continued to be a regular contributor to The Reader in the past 14 years in both poetic and story form, most recently featuring in Issue 55. You can find our very own Brian Nellist a.k.a Nellibobs reading his ‘Mid-afternoon in another narrow bed’ on YouTube here.

His story Witness will be featured in The Reader’s upcoming anthology A Little, Aloud with Love, to be published in January 2016.

45 Years is currently showing at selected cinemas across the country.

‘O the mind, mind has mountains’: Ad Hoc Creative EXPO

No worst, there is none. Pitched past pitch of grief,
More pangs will, schooled at forepangs, wilder wring.
Comforter, where, where is your comforting?
Mary, mother of us, where is your relief?

ad hoc crwativeWe’ve read the above many, many times over the years in our shared reading groups across the country, with a vast range of reactions being evoked. Now a new and exciting multimedia project will reenvision Gerard Manley Hopkins’ words to be showcased on a grand scale.

Ad Hoc Creative, a collaboration between Bido Lito! Magazine and Ad Hoc Property Management, presents Ad Hoc Creative EXPO, celebrating the buoyant artistic community within Ad Hoc properties across the UK and Europe. The very first Ad Hoc Creative Expo is bringing together musician and composer Bill Ryder-Jones and visual artist Marco Lawrence to produce a brand new immersive audiovisual installation which will be presented for one evening only within Calderstones Mansion House, where we’re building our International Centre for Reading.

The poem No Worst, There Is Noneas featured in The Reader Organisation’s anthology Poems to Take Home,  has been selected by Ad Hoc Creative EXPO as the inspiration for the new installation, to be presented at the end of May. The meeting of Hopkins’ words, Ryder-Jones’ music and Lawrence’s vision all within Calderstones Mansion House makes an ideal and engaging combination, marrying the power of great literature and shared reading to the ability of creative energy to create beautiful new ideas in a reimagined space. A section of the Mansion House is part of the Ad Hoc scheme, which allows people to live and work within properties at a minimal cost and play a part in bringing treasured buildings back to life.

bill ryder jones
Bill Ryder-Jones

Bill Ryder-Jones, previously of The Coral and now a solo artist and much-sought after producer said of the project:

“I’ve been jumping between producing, playing shows and working on the next album for over a year now, so I’ve been hoping something like this would turn up. The chance to revisit a different way of writing – and also to indulge a side of myself – was too good to pass up.”

while artist and Head Printer at the prestigious Print Club London Marco Lawrence said:

“I’m always interested in incorporating rhythm and narrative in some way into my work, so I’ll be seeking to expand on these themes. And I’m interested in what this new platform allows me to achieve. Equally, I’m excited to be making work with Bill Ryder-Jones. His work is beautiful, thought-provoking and even eerie sometimes. It’ll be tough to match and marry visuals to his audio, but I’m looking forward to it.”

Marco Lawrence
Marco Lawrence

It’s extremely exciting for us to be a part of this project and to have Calderstones Mansion, our new home for readers, playing such a role in fostering a strong artistic community in Liverpool along with the work of Ad Hoc Creative.

The first Ad Hoc Creative EXPO – the only chance to experience this exclusive installation – will take place at Calderstones Mansion on Thursday 28th May at 6pm. Entry is free, but due to limited capacity registration in advance is essential. Register for free tickets at adhoccreative.eventbrite.co.uk

Find out more about Ad Hoc Creative and keep up with developments on Ad Hoc Creative EXPO on their website and Twitter: http://www.adhoccreative.co.uk/ @_ADHOCcreative

The Railway Man – and The Reader

the railway manIf you’re heading for an evening at the cinema soon, one of the choices on offer is The Railway Man, the latest film starring award-winners Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman, and featuring a screenplay written by friend and patron of The Reader Organisation Frank Cottrell Boyce (Frank even recorded a reading of the opening of his book Cosmic for TRO while on the set of The Railway Man’s filming – very glamorous). The film has been in the Top 10 of the UK Box Office list since its release, and the book of the same name on which it is based has rocketed to the upper ends of many bestseller charts.

The Railway Man is the autobiography of Eric Lomax, a British Army officer hailing from Edinburgh who was captured and held as a prisoner of war in Japan after the Battle of Singapore as part of World War II in 1942. During a period of torture in a series of prisons, he was taken to Kanchanaburi in Thailand and forced to work on building the Burma Railway – ironically, given that as a boy he was passionately and incurably interested in trains. The Railway Man tells of the consequences that came from his secret construction of a radio and a map during WWII, the emotional and psychological damage that lasted forty years since his release and an eventual meeting and reconcilation with the focus of his pent-up anger, the man who acted as interpreter during his torture. A truly extraordinary story of the capacity of humanity to overcome the worst, it is little wonder that it was chosen to be adapted for the big screen.

Eric Lomax died in October 2012 aged 93, having lived an incredible life. In his later years he lived quietly with his wife Patti in Berwick upon Tweed, no longer giving interviews about his autobiography. In 2009, he did however agree to an interview with Angela Macmillan, co-editor of The Reader magazine, about his reading life and the importance of books in his life, during times of both war and peace. From growing up in a house full of largely factual historical books to reciting poetry with fellow prisoners in one of the worst prisons he occupied in Singapore, Eric talked about the significance of reading to retaining his sense of normality and dignity throughout his ordeal, as well as losing the ability to read during the time when it had been one of the many things denied to him:

Reading made all the difference to our prospects of survival. There were a lot of individuals, as in any walk of life, who never read a book from one year to another. They had difficulty in surviving but anyone who had access to reasonable quality books could keep occupied for hours.

The instinct for survival was the strongest aspect at work in Eric’s mind throughout his time of imprisonment, but he did have informal discussions and trade notes on books with fellow prisoners, and reading as well as writing about his own life served to enrich and stretch a mind that could have very well been diminished by such traumatic experiences otherwise.

The full interview piece with Eric Lomax, ‘The Railway Man: Starting at the Essentials’ can be found in Issue 36 of The Readeravailable to buy through our website, along with a variety of issues from the archive: http://www.thereader.org.uk/magazine

The Big Night Benefit

If you’re in London this weekend, you can enjoy a night of fun, film, dancing and fifties fabulous-ness at one of the city’s best kept secrets big night benefitWhirled Cinema. Not only this, but your night out will be benefiting The Reader Organisation!

Maggie Roy, a kind and generous friend of The Reader Organisation, has arranged this Big Night Benefit to raise money for our work in London and around the UK.

Come along and kick-start your night with a classy cocktail, enjoy a screening of ‘Big Night’, an Italian Feast of a film about love, family and food, then turn the music up to dance the night away. Fifties-style glad rags are very welcome – we look forward to seeing you there!

Big Night Benefit: Saturday January 25th 2014
7pm Cocktails, 8pm Film and dancing

Venue: Whirled Cinema, 259-260 Hardess St, London SE24 0HN

Advance Tickets: £10.Visit our website to find out how to reserve your place.

All proceeds to benefit The Reader Organisation

RISE – Reading in Secure Environments

Since launching in October 2012, the Reading in Secure Environments (RISE) project has collaborated with seven literature festivals across the UK to bring a number of contemporary writers of excellence to both public audiences and to readers in secure criminal justice and mental health settings.

Funded by the Arts Council, RISE has taken live literary experiences to people who could not otherwise experience them, connecting different audiences to great literature and one another – and has had great impacts on audiences, staff and authors involved, as recently explored at our National Conference 2013, Shared Reading for Healthy Communities.

The first year of RISE has been charted in a film by filmmaker Julian Langham, who visited the RISE Liverpool events in May in conjunction with Writing on the Wall. The film details what RISE is about, the effect it has had on its audiences and features contributions from RISE authors including John Burnside, Jean Sprackland, Joe Dunthorne and Inua Ellams.

You can view the film below, and also on the RISE page on our website. To read more about RISE, including insights from the RISE events and comments from the authors, visit our RISE blog.

[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/68290408 w=500&h=281]

RISE – Reading In Secure Environments from Julian Langham on Vimeo.

Apprentices in Antwerp: In Antwerpen

Last week, our Apprentices in Antwerp series started with Wirral Apprentice Eamee sharing her experience of helping to run a Read to Lead course in Antwerp as part of a commission by Boek.be and the Flemish Ministry of Education. The Belgian adventures continue with Development Apprentice Niall Gibney:

Niall Antwerp 1Anybody ever seen the film In Bruges? It stars Colin Farrell (the girls love him) and Brendan Gleeson (he looks like my uncle who’s ironically also called Brendan). Ifyou haven’t, here’s what happens in a snapshot: two contract killers visit Belgium on the behest of another contract killer and are commenting on how nothing ever really happens in Belgium. One character, Ray (Colin Farrell),  is a typical lad who doesn’t take the greatest interest in the cultural delights and history of Belgium – in particular, Bruges. The other is Ken, a wiser head who is more interested in culture and all the things Belgium has to offer. I tried to find a quote from the film which encapsulates how the characters felt upon arriving at Belgium but unfortunately, they are all pretty offensive to at least someone. A typical remark made by Ray if he could stop swearing for a minute would go something like this: “Why Belgium? What the bloody hell is in Belgium? Why would anybody want to visit Belgium?”

Needless to say this film was probably my only ever Belgian experience before we went on to deliver Read to Lead in Antwerp, so for the few weeks before we went rather than allow myself to get excited at a free break away (I say break, but rest assured I did have work to do, honest!) I just thought about Belgium in a similar way to Ray, combining my liking of the film with my dislike of the First World War – a lot of people died. Though I did say to myself, they’re also famous for beer and chocolate too so it can’t be too bad. That was my glimmer of hope.

Having just re-read these first two paragraphs I have to say sorry to any Belgians who might be happening to read this, I mean no offence and your peaceful country grew on me a lot, (though it was quite the culture shock compared to Liverpool), in that I don’t think I’ve ever felt safer anywhere else in my existence. The cups of tea were mad, I think I got given a three course cup of tea once – impressive, but sorry love I’ll have a Tetley in a greasy spoon thanks…

I loved the people who we met on the course, they were the best! Including one really naughty woman who had a cheeky smile – I like that – an older woman who we all wanted to put in our pockets and take home and a complete workaholic who devoted her whole life to helping children in care, bless her!

Niall Antwerp 2From the minute we started the course they all already got it – the message of shared reading. They all were already enthusiastic so we felt as if we could have just handed them some poems and got off but of course, we stayed and their enthusiasm was greater on the day of leaving than it was on the first day, a number of them walking among the lowlands to start their respective groups. I won’t go through every single thing that we did – we shared reading, you should already know this…

So what else happened in Antwerpen? We went to the cathedral and got a tour from a man, though we did have to pay a fiver to get in! (The Catholics don’t do that in Liverpool) We saw a bit of Reuben (they love that guy) (he did art); we went up to the 10th floor of a museum to enjoy the view (good, but no Liverpool skyline I might add);  had many walks around the city (I got lost), ate a lot  – I was on a full protein diet that week. Drunk a few Belgian beers but stayed away from Duvell – which means devil, thought it might have poisoned me – ate some chocolate (I promised the kids in our Leasowe Bookworms group I’d bring them chocolate back, I did but then I ate it….oops! They understood after I doubled their English sweet intake for a session)…

I brought a crocodile statue home to put on my table along with the panther, the eagle and the lion –I’m recreating the Amazon above a chicken shop on Smithdown! I was followed around shops and accused of robbing on more than one occasion (I don’t rob but I’m used to the preferential treatment, makes me feel like a star), yep so other than that they love art, and we drunk in a pub called the 11th commandment! It was a pub FULL of religious artefacts, I was bricking it, the man behind the bar looked like Hannibal Lecter, and I’m pretty sure Jesus wouldn’t have wanted anybody in there at all so the more beer went down my grid the more I felt uncomfortable – then we left.

So, that’s Belgium for you. I enjoyed it, I don’t really know what In Bruges problem was, I mean whoever said nothing ever happens in Belgium should have come with me – they would have had a laugh then.