An exciting modern twist on Jane Austen’s letters, theatre company LipService bring the author into the digital world with a touring show coming to a North West library near you!
“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
It’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.
We 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.
Our 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:
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.
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.
Lovers everywhere pay heed – The Globe on Tour’s production of Romeo and Juliet is around the corner, with just over a month to go until Shakespeare’s most famous and most tragic lovers arrive to take the stage in Liverpool at Calderstones Mansion House.
So far the cast have brought the show far and wide since they opened at Theatre Clywd in Wales, from Austria to Norway to the Spoleto Festival in Charleston, South Carolina. They find themselves back on home soil in Stoke-on-Trent this week, and we’re hoping the sun will keep shining to recreate the beautiful scenes seen from their performances at the Brighton Festival in May.
If you’re yearning to know more, The Globe on Tour has lots of goodies on their website, including video trailers and interviews with Sam Valentine (Romeo) and Cassie Layton (Juliet). Sam was also quizzed on Twitter in a special #AskRomeo Q&A recently – no need to fear about missing out, as all of the questions and answers, featuring exclusive pictures of the cast on their travels, have been compiled in this handy Storify: sfy.co/q0Yxx
Romeo and Juliet will be at the Garden Theatre at Calderstones Mansion House on Friday 24th and Saturday 25th July (matinee and evening performances on Saturday 25th). Tickets cost £20 and can be booked from The Globe’s website or by calling The Globe Box Office on 020 7401 9919.
To keep up to date with Romeo and Juliet on their travels, follow @GlobeOnTour
Last week was Volunteers Week, and we had a great week celebrating the efforts and achievements of our many volunteers around the country here on The Reader Online. But we’re happy to report that there were some special goings-on in the offline world too.
Over in London, our Barnet Volunteer team enjoyed a trip to the theatre to watch the acclaimed play The Father at the Tricycle Theatre as Volunteers Week started. They were even lucky enough to catch up once the curtain fell with one of the leads of the cast…
Volunteer Claire Sive shares the experience of the night:
Wow! Eleven volunteers from The Reader stepped down from the theatrical roller-coaster which was ‘The Father’ into The Tricycle Theatre bar to gather their equilibrium before being joined by Claire Skinner, Kenneth Cranham’s co-star in this production of Florian Zeller’s 2014 Moliere award-winning play.
The Father, “loosing all my leaves” – as the stage lost all its furniture – and his daughter grapple with extreme pain exposed by unstable fractured narratives, repetitions betraying anxiety underscored by interchanging actors, each scene framed by LED lights that dazzled, accompanied by a piano maddeningly in search of its tune. Skinner alluded to the pauses in the script causing as much concern as the words. Indeed as the stories told by the characters to describe their situations broke down, the emotion drained through the gaps.
The Reader volunteers leading shared reading in dementia settings know how productive those gaps can be to discover new thoughts, meanings and recollections stirred by the texts we bring. It was a privilege and cautionary to viscerally experience the spaces between relatives negotiating family myths, tensions and desires and to renew our respect for our clients, their carers and their families.
Our HQ at Calderstones Mansion House played host to a special lunch last Wednesday celebrating our Admin Assistant volunteers working on the Big Lottery funded Merseyside Volunteer Reader Scheme. A wonderful afternoon was had by all, and Christopher Lynn, one of our Volunteer Assistants on the project, fills us in:
A knees up was the least we could do to thank our office-based Admin Assistant volunteers for all the brilliant work they do week in week out; maintaining and managing resources for our Care Home Readers who share reading with older people across Merseyside. The whole thing was a Reader collaboration, with the café providing a delicious lunch, photographs and gift presentations, as well as being treated to a fascinating tour of the park in the shining sun.
‘At every thought and deed to clear the haze
Out of our eyes, considering only this,
What man, what life, what love, what beauty is,
This is to live and win the final praise’
– extract from ‘Outlook’ by Archibald Lampman
We opened with a shared reading of ‘Outlook’ by Archibald Lampman that inspired many thoughtful contributions and brilliant group discussion. But the poem planted one seed that blossomed into a particularly satisfying comment from one of our longstanding volunteers, L. During our tour through the park she said:
‘It feels goods to be appreciated! It’s like in the poem ‘to win the final praise’; it’s like what The Reader have done today, and also it’s important to praise yourself for all the work you do – that’s the ‘final praise’; to praise yourself. We enjoy volunteering, and The Reader gets something from it too – it works both ways’.
A big thanks goes out once more to our volunteers, and we’re thrilled they’ve been able to share in such memorable experiences.
If you want to find out more about volunteering with us and to see current opportunities, visit our website: http://www.thereader.org.uk/working-with-us/volunteering
“Love is a smoke raised with the fume of sighs;
Being purged, a fire sparkling in lovers’ eyes;
Being vexed, a sea nourished with loving tears.
What is it else? A madness most discreet,
A choking gall, and a preserving sweet.”
Valentine’s Day might have passed for another year but we’ve got one of literature’s greatest love stories very much on our minds with some exciting news…
After two previous spellbinding visits, we’re delighted to announce that Shakespeare’s Globe is returning to Calderstones Mansion House this summer with the Bard’s classic and arguably most popular tale of two star-crossed lovers, Romeo and Juliet.
Following the versions of King Lear and Much Ado About Nothing that proved to be surefire crowd-pleasers with audiences in Liverpool, The Globe on Tour will visit the Garden Theatre again in July to present the tragic but compelling story. Following performances on the Globe’s stage, a small troupe of travelling players are taking to the road to perform a stripped-down version unlike anything seen before, breathing new life into one of the greatest of all love stories.
We’re sure you’re aware of how the tale goes, but in case you need a reminder…
Please contact The Globe’s Box Office on 020 7401 9919 if you want to book for a Group; if you require access bookings; if you have children U18 or would like to use Theatre Tokens.
N.B. Concessions do not apply to Senior citizens for theatre performances. Discounts cannot be applied retrospectively.
Shared reading group members and volunteers
The Reader Organisation has a limited number of £15 discounted tickets for shared reading group members and volunteers which can be obtained through your group leaders. Please note: these tickets are not available through The Globe’s website, only physically through group leaders.
The performances will take place outdoors so please bring a picnic rug or low-backed seat and suitable clothing for all weather conditions. The plays will go ahead in all but the most extreme weather conditions.
Tickets are likely to go fast, so make sure you snap yours up quickly!
We’ll keep you posted with all the news in the months to come, but in the meantime you can join in the conversation on Twitter using the hashtags #RomeoandJuliet and #GlobeOnTour
2014 is fast drawing to a close, and what a year it’s been for us here at The Reader Organisation. Looking back it’s almost hard to believe how much we’ve crammed into the space of twelve months. It’s been a time defined by growth and development, with new shared reading and volunteering projects around the UK, events for all ages and interests with a packed programme at Calderstones Mansion House all year around, a new anthology to add to our bookshelf and our number of staff has surpassed 100.
Before the bells of the New Year ring, we’ve got time to look back on the year that has been…and there’s been so much happening that we’ve had to split it into two parts.
At the start of 2014 we announced Better with a Book, our fifth annual National Conference, which explored the connections between reading great literature, improved mental health and the reduction of social isolation. The British Library Conference Centre was vibrant with interested delegates, all of whom came together for a day focused on the impacts of shared reading. Guest speakers included Lord Melvyn Bragg, who spoke about the effects of reading on his own life and that of his mother, who was diagnosed with dementia; Baroness Estelle Morris, and Dr Alice Sullivan of the Instiute of Education. Most memorable were the personal stories of our Readers, who shared their experiences of how reading has changed their life.
Calderstones Mansion House – the future International Centre for Reading – came to life with a series of special events throughout the year. From Half-Term Hijinks and an Easter Extravaganza for children and the family to historical tours of the Mansion and an authentic 1940s-style Tea Dance, there has been tons for the community to enjoy. We were delighted to welcome back Shakespeare’s Globe for highly praised performances of Much Ado About Nothing, and the Secret Garden opened up to amazed audiences as we held our first Children’s Literature Festival, complete with storytelling, competitions and giant games of Quidditch.
The London Penny Readings returned to the Southbank Centre as part of London Literature Festival, and back in Liverpool the ever popular festive reading and entertainment extravaganza the Penny Readings sold out in record time.
2014 has brought four new issues of The Reader, with contributions from names including Erwin James, Alan Howarth, Margaret Drabble, David Constantine, Maxine Peake, Miriam Gamble and Michael Schmidt.
To mark the centenary of the start of the First World War, co-editor of The Reader and Godfather of The Reader Organisation Brian Nellist compiled a new poetry anthology, On Active Service: 1914-1918, remembering the extraordinary experiences of ordinary people commemorated in their own words.
Media and special appearances
Shared reading has been making headlines again, with the positive effects of reading aloud and the pioneering research of Centre of Research for Reading, Society and Literature (CRILS) being mentioned in The Telegraph and The Independent.
The happenings at Calderstones and the City of Readers project received lots of local press, and reading aloud came to the airwaves as our groups were featured in two programmes on BBC Radio 4. In his series exploring the English language, Stephen Fry looked at the art of reading aloud – “a life-changing business” – featuring input from our some of our group members, who attested to this statement. Calderstones Mansion House also featured in Open Book, being showcased as a ‘reading oasis’ for the community.
Our social media channels are continuing to get people talking about great literature – we have over 8,400 followers on Twitter – with our regional Twitter accounts sparking lots of interest too – and more than 1,700 likes on Facebook.
And over the summer, The Reader South West got a visit from a very special guest at one of our regular groups. Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cornwall enjoyed some shared reading with our group members at Exeter Library while on tour in the area, as well as finding out about our work across the region.
Part 2 of TRO’s Review of 2014 is coming tomorrow.
We simply can’t get enough of Shakespeare here at The Reader Organisation, and after the marvellous Much Ado About Nothing by Shakespeare’s Globe a couple of months ago we’re thrilled to have another fabulous company join us at Calderstones Mansion House Garden to give us their version of one of the Bard’s other classic comedies.
PurpleCoat Productions is a film and theatre group based in the North West of England, creating innovative, exciting and exhilarating work to local and national audiences. With support coming from Stephen Fry, Sir Ian McKellen and working alongside the Royal Shakespeare Company, PurpleCoat are definitely certified to tackle the Bard’s plays, with previous performances including Titus Andronicus and Romeo and Juliet, and we’re very pleased that they’ll be bringing Twelfth Night (or What You Will) in their first touring production to Calderstones on Friday 5th September. If you weren’t lucky enough to get tickets to the recent Everyman version then it’s the perfect opportunity to see the play performed by a talented local cast in beautfiul surrounding perfect for Shakespeare.
Twelfth Night on Tour will be whistle-stop, performing in 6 different cities over 6 nights, so it’s bound to be an energetic and thrilling ride. The show is already underway as casting decisions have been made and rehearsals are going ahead. You can stay up to date with all of the behind-the-scenes action as it happens from PurpleCoat on the Twelfth Night on Tour blog, with lots of fascinating insights already up…: http://twelfthnightontour.wordpress.com/
And to whet your appetite even more, check out the fabulous trailer below:
Twelfth Night on Tour plays at Calderstones Mansion House Garden on Friday 5th September. Tickets cost £10 (£8 concessions) and are available to buy at Calderstones Mansion House or via The Reader Organisation website: http://www.thereader.org.uk/events/purplecoat-productions-presents-twelfth-night
Please note: there is a £1.20 booking fee for online bookings.
The performance will be held outdoors, so please bring along suitable waterproof clothing and a chair or blanket to enjoy the performance to its full potential.
The Reader Organisation is proud to present our very first Children’s Literature Festival, transforming the garden of the Mansion House into The Secret Garden of Stories. From Thursday 28th to Saturday 30th August, you can join us for a host of great literature for children and fun activities for the whole family including Roald Dahl storytelling sessions, craft workshops, games, competitions and appearances from very special guest authors Cathy Cassidy, Lydia Monks, Jon Mayhew and the award winning Andy Mulligan.
The Secret Garden of Stories is set to be the biggest children’s literature festival in Liverpool, held in the magical surroundings of Calderstones which opens up a world of imagination on its own. It’s just £1 to enter the garden daily from 10am-4pm, with lots of fun in store.
The Author’s Den
Come along to the Author’s Den during The Secret Garden of Stories and have the chance to hear first hand from some of the best children’s authors, including Cathy Cassidy whose books include hits from The Chocolate Box Series, Marshmallow Sky and Cherry Crush, Lydia Monks reading extracts from her brilliant stories I Wish I Were a Dog and What The Ladybird Heard, and Andy Mulligan whose books include Return to Ribblestrop which won the 2011 Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize and Trash which has been adapted for a film to be released this Autumn.
Entry into The Author’s Den costs £5 per author talk, with full listings below:
- Meet Jon Mayhew – Thursday 28th August, 2-3pm (book online)
- Meet Lydia Monks – Friday 29th August, 2-3.30pm (book online)
- Meet Cathy Cassidy – Saturday 30th August, 12-1.30pm (book online)
- Meet Andy Mulligan – Saturday 30th August, 2-3pm (book online)
There will also be a very special and very fitting performance of one of the most classic children’s novels The Secret Garden by The Bookworm Players as part of the The Secret Garden of Stories, taking place on Thursday 28th August, 6.30-7.30pm. Tickets cost £8 for adults and £5 for children for an outdoor performance. Book tickets online here.
We’re also looking for sponsors for The Secret Garden of Stories, with a range of sponsorship packages available to companies and organisations which will enable you to be a special part of the festival – whether you want to pledge £50 or £5,000, there’s something to offer. Download the sponsorship pack on our website.
We’re also open to discussing other ways to be involved, so if you have any ideas of how you can best be a part of the festival don’t hesitate to get in touch by calling 0151 724 5000 or e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org
More news on The Secret Garden of Stories to come in the coming weeks.
“For man is a giddy thing, and this is my conclusion.”
We certainly had a most giddy time at the end of last week as we welcomed The Globe on Tour back to Calderstones Mansion House for their touring production of Much Ado About Nothing. Bard buffs, literary lovers and those who fancied a detour from football fever entered the Garden Theatre to enjoy one of Shakespeare’s liveliest and most well-loved comedies.
It was lucky enough that the sun shone down – with just a few showers here and there – providing us with the perfect backdrop to proceedings out of doors on a wonderfully authentic Shakespearean stage, and the glorious sounds of many a musical instrument rang out around the Garden Theatre as the merry band of players brought us the story of Much Ado over five performances on three days.
The eight strong cast entertained the crowds with aplomb, with Simon Bubb and Emma Pallant putting in stellar performances as the warring would-be lovers Benedick and Beatrice, and local connections coming from Sam Phillips, who played Claudio. Fittingly for a play that is full of fooling and people taking the place of others, the cast switched between characters throughout – perhaps the most inspired change of roles came from Chris Starkie, who played both the dastardly villain Don John and the perennially confused Dogberry.
Enjoying the show and a fair few ice-creams in the sunshine, our audience were keen enough to let us know what they thought on Twitter:
@CaldiesMansion watching Much Ado!!! 🙂 what an amazingly talented cast!!! 🙂 Bravo!!! 🙂
“It’s certainly no mean feat to have the audience in stitches after a mere four centuries have passed. Having said that to extract that comedy requires a level of performance and direction of the utmost deftness. The laughs are all hard-earned. […] This Much Ado then is nothing if not accessible. Yet the play still ripples with profundity, still revels in linguistic musicality and still dazzles with intellectual dexterity.”
It’s been another amazing Shakespearean experience in the Garden Theatre, and we hope that everyone at Osbourne House in the Isle of Wight will have as much fun when the show rolls up there later this week as we did at Calderstones.
There’s no stopping at the Mansion House as our summer programme of events is now online for you to take a look at. From concerts to heritage walks around Calderstones Park, a host of Summer School Sizzlers and our very first Children’s Literature Festival in The Secret Garden of Stories this August, there’s something for everyone to enjoy – and we hope that the weather holds up, but regardless there’s lots of fun in store.
For more information of all of our events at Calderstones this summer, head to our Events calendar: http://www.thereader.org.uk/events