Story Explorers at Calderstones Park

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Here at The Reader HQ in Calderstones we’ve been combining the beauty of the park with the benefits of Shared Reading on our Story Explorers adventures for families.

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We’re Going On a Bear Hunt with The Storybarn!

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The Storybarn bring Michael Rosen’s interactive experience Bear Hunt, Chocolate Cake & Bad Things to the heart of Liverpool.

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Reading, Sharing, Planning: Think Day at The Reader

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Putting our collective Reader brains together on another big Think Day get-together at our Reader HQ at Calderstones Park.

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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.

Volunteer with The Reader in Merseyside

Looking for something new to do in the New Year? Want to use your love of reading to help make a big difference? We’re currently recruiting for people to join our Merseyside Volunteer Reader Scheme, funded by the Big Lottery Fund, in a variety of roles.

“Their faces light up when we walk in. They look forward to that hour. And when we leave, after being with a group, we feel great ourselves.”
Our volunteers provide shared reading sessions for older people across Merseyside on a weekly basis, either as Care Home Readers working in pairs to deliver groups in care homes, and Reading Friends who visit older people in their own homes. Full training and support is provided, and you don’t need to be a lifelong or experienced reader to take part – all abilities are welcome.
If you don’t feel that a reading role is for you just yet, then we also offer Admin Assistant and Admin Reader roles at our offices in Calderstones and Birkenhead, with the opportunity to develop your personal reading as well as helping us with our day-to-day running, preparing short stories and poems to be read within groups across Merseyside.
Take a look at the video below to see what being part of the Merseyside Volunteer Reader Scheme means to our beneficiaries and volunteers:
Volunteer training will commence on Friday 22nd January 2016 at Calderstones Mansion, Liverpool. For more information about the Merseyside Volunteer Reader Scheme, please contact Megg Hewlett, Volunteer Manager: megghewlett@thereader.org.uk

The Reader at Calderstones secures £1.99m Heritage Lottery Fund investment

heritage_lottery_fund_web2015 has been another big year of expansion at our base at Calderstones and we’re very pleased to announce that the next stage of redevelopment of Calderstones Mansion is imminent, thanks to a secured confirmed grant of £1.99million from Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

In 2014, The Reader at Calderstones project received initial first-round development funding and support from HLF, focusing on building a series of history-based events, talks and workshops showcasing the heritage of the Mansion and the surrounding park. The new investment will enable us to build on the work that has already taken place creating a flagship International Centre for Reading for the future of the Grade II listed building whilst also commemorating and celebrating its past glories.

Sara Hilton, Head of HLF North West, said:

“The Reader is a real Liverpool success story that helps thousands of people get together to share their love of reading. We were hugely impressed by these proposals that will bring an exciting new use to the 19th century Mansion House and help many more people discover the history of the 4000 year old Calderstones. Special thanks must go to National Lottery players for making our investment possible.”

House-92A crucial part of the regeneration will be the rehousing of The Calderstones, the oldest human monument in Liverpool. These forgotten Neolithic treasures are older than the Pyramids and will now be brought back into the heart of Calderstones Park, where their conditions will be significantly improved for present and future generations to enjoy. Liverpool City Council, National Museums Liverpool and Manchester University have all been consulted as part of the process.

Initial work will begin in 2016 to secure the building which over the years has fallen into a state of disrepair. Currently hidden architecturally significant elements will be carefully revealed and restored, bringing the Mansion back to life.

The finished regeneration of the building will house a heritage room which will show how one of the many rooms in the Mansion may have looked in 1880 in its heyday. Visitors will get the opportunity to interact with objects and learn about the history of the house at that time. As well as these key historical features, there will be four reading rooms allowing us to continue our shared reading groups at Calderstones, bringing people together to read great literature out loud as a practical way of improving wellbeing, building stronger communities and extending reading pleasure. A newly created bistro will also allow visitors to relax after their visit and soak up and reflect on the atmosphere of the house.

ReadingGroup-11Our Founder and Director Dr Jane Davis has expressed her excitement on behalf of The Reader at the wonderful news:

“We’re delighted that the Heritage Lottery Fund has given us this support. It will allow us to grasp this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create something truly special at Calderstones for the city of Liverpool and beyond. Not only will this mean we can offer more of our reading groups and continue to grow our wellbeing initiatives here but we can carefully bring The Calderstones themselves back to their rightful place at the heart of the park to be enjoyed and cherished by visitors.”

With this news we’re looking forward to 2016 bringing in the biggest chapter yet in the story of Calderstones Mansion.

For more news and updates about what’s happening at the Mansion, head over to the Calderstones Mansion blog.

Coming Soon: The Storybarn and The Wonderful World of Oliver Jeffers

Storybarn-Website resize 1Christmas may be fast approaching, but we’re already looking forward to opening up the doors of a very special interactive story space in the New Year…

The Storybarn, located at our Head Office at Calderstones, is Liverpool’s first children’s literature centre, giving families and young people a place to play, learn and discover the magic, pleasure and imagination that comes from stories. Our Storybarn team have been busy over the past few months creating some exciting things inside and The Storybarn will be ready to explore from February 2016, alongside a very special exhibition arriving at Calderstones Mansion.

Once There Was…The Wonderful World of Oliver Jeffers will let visitors to Calderstones into the stories of popular children’s artist and illustrator Oliver Jeffers from Monday 8th February – Monday 18th April 2016. Created, designed and produced by Discover Children’s Story Centre, the immersive exhibition is designed especially for children aged 3-6 and allows children and families to walk through environments inspired by books including How to Catch a Star, Lost and Found, Up and Down and The Way Back Home. Key aspects of these beautiful books have been reimagined into 3D such as the South Pole, the boy’s bedroom, a garden featuring a rocket, a street of magical shops and a Lost and Found Office.

Oliver Jeffers 1Once ticketholders have explored The Wonderful World of Oliver Jeffers at the Mansion, they’ll be able to head across to The Storybarn to be one of the first to experience the interactive story space inside. Storytellers will bring the barn to life with a variety of tales and craft activity throughout their visitor experience.

Tickets for both experiences will go on sale in January 2016, but those wishing to gain priority booking can register their interest now at www.thestorybarn.org.uk

Tickets to both experiences will be £9 per child including a free adult for an hour in each space. Once the Oliver Jeffers exhibition has closed entry to the Storybarn will be £5 per child with group rates available for large parties and schools. Tickets for the exhibitions cannot be purchased separately.

For more information about The Storybarn, visit http://www.thereader.org.uk/calderstones/storybarn or follow @caldiessb on Twitter.

A Year at Calderstones

House-109It’s been over a year since we signed the lease on Calderstones Mansion, making it ours for 125 years, and we were able to celebrate how far we’ve come in the past year at our AGM earlier this month. Throughout the evening, the Mansion fulfilled its purpose of being a home to our group members – some of whom had never visited our home at Calderstones before – who enjoyed good food courtesy of The Reader Cafe and Ice Cream Parlour as well as the atmosphere inside.

At present, nine of our weekly reading groups take place at the Mansion with new groups planned for the future – two of which are starting up in November, giving even more opportunity to visit. It’s not only our regular readers who are finding a home for themselves – our volunteering programme is expanding its reach, taking on a team of volunteers of all ages and walks of life to model how our community at Calderstones will work in future, and special visitors such as young people from the City of Readers summer school have already shown the potential of the Mansion as a place to make magic happen.

ReadingGroup-15And the process has already begun…since the signing of the lease in September 2014, we’ve been able to record some figures on how the Mansion is coming back to life. In just one year, we have:

  • shared reading with 20,553 people – an average of 395 each week
  • welcomed 4,600 people through the doors for a programme of public literary events
  • displayed 44 exhibitions from local artists and organisations at The Reader Gallery
  • employed an additional 35 paid members of staff to our enterprises at Calderstones

For more astounding figures from our base at Calderstones, as well as to get a closer view of what’s happening within the walls of the Mansion, head over to the Calderstones Mansion blog.

Here’s to the future, which we already got a glimpse into by touring the forthcoming Storybarn

“Amazing things happen”: The Reader’s AGM 2015

Annual Report frontWhere would you find over 100 guests eating warming bowls of stew followed by scoops of ice cream, taking an exclusive tour of the North West’s forthcoming interactive children’s story centre and sharing poetry, laughs, bursts of emotion and gasps of recognition?

At the beginning of this week, we were delighted to welcome volunteers, commissioners, trustees, staff and many of our shared reading group members from around the country to our base at Calderstones Mansion for our 2015 AGM. Our third AGM to date at Calderstones, we gathered to celebrate a year of many highlights of shared reading activity – the written details of which can be found in our 2014-15 Annual Report. With the appearance of our special guests, we were able to tell some of those wonderful stories aloud.

Acting Chair of The Reader’s Board of Trustees Kathy Doran started proceedings by arranging the board together, before the celebrations of another successful year of shared reading could begin. Once more, the breadth of our activity has grown in the past year but Jane brought us back to the heart of what we do by reading a poem that sums up the fundamentals of what happens in each and every one of our groups. It is our aim, Jane so aptly summarised with help from John Keats, for everyone within a group to find there their own space ‘silent, upon a peak in Darien’.

Keats AGM poem
On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer – Jane’s choice of shared reading at the 2015 AGM

Our volunteers from across the UK shared their own stories about the projects they have been involved in – some for years, others for months, but all with real impacts to the communities they read with. From Liverpool to London, Somerset to North Wales, and reading with a wide range of people, including older people with dementia, library-goers and young people outside of an educational environment in their own homes, all of our volunteer representatives spoke movingly about the difference shared reading is making – in some cases, being nothing short of life-changing. This year’s AGM marks our signing of the 125-year lease at Calderstones Mansion and we celebrated all that has happened at the Mansion so far, including the efforts of our Calderstones volunteers, who still get the chance to read in all of their various roles.

We were also joined by Vicci Tatton of Prinovis, our corporate social responsibility supporter, who told us more about how their staff are getting involved in bringing reading into the workplace, and one of our commissioners Richard Rodgers, Lead for Substance Misuse Services at Greater Manchester West Mental Health Trust who explained how shared reading helps to “bring the pace of busy life down” for service users across the trust.

All in all, it was an evening full of inspiration – from the words of classic literature to the numbers of people we’re reaching throughout the country, and most significantly, the stories of our group members. To quote Kathy Doran in her closing speech, “amazing things happen” when people come together to read – and we’re looking forward to even more amazing things in the year ahead.

The Reader’s Annual Report 2014-15 is now available to download from our website – discover more about our work in health, with young people and criminal justice settings, as well as many more highlights from ‘a vintage year’.