The Reader at the first National Arts in Health Conference

“Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.”

The Reader at AESOP
Our readers at the first Arts in Health National Conference (credit: AESOP)

A week ago, we took part in the first National Arts in Health conference, hosted by AESOP (Arts and Enterprises with a Social Purpose). Exploring the ways in which the arts can be harnessed to improve the provision of healthcare in the UK, the conference brought together leading thinkers and doers in the arts and health, and The Reader was lucky enough to be selected as only one of three organisations out of twenty eight to showcase in the opening plenary.

It was a truly inspiring day, attended by those including Arts Impact Fund amongst many others, and an honour to be featured alongside other organisations doing fantastic work to improve well-being amongst communities facing physical, mental and emotional difficulties. Our Communications Manager Emily Crawford was there on the day:

Last Friday I had the privilege of witnessing something pretty special.  Three of our reading group members – all of whom had their own very personal journey with The Reader and mental health – stood in front of 500 people at the Southbank Centre and told their stories about how Shared Reading has impacted upon their lives. They actually did a lot more than that – they spoke eloquently and did a spectacular job doing something that would terrify most people. The power of the work we do is seen most through stories like those that our three readers – three of hundreds across the UK – shared, and as I stood backstage was reminded just how important it is. People who at times who have felt utterly alone, disconnected and afraid  were able to take the leap to standing on stage in front of all those people and sharing all of that experience, as well as the huge distance they’ve travelled since then – and what’s more, had the room in complete silence hanging on every word. “I’m sitting here now – as a well person” is one of the lines that still rings in my head.

Our Founder and Director Jane Davis, alongside our readers in that bustling space on Friday, finished our section by sharing William Ernest Henley’s poem Invictus. It’s a poem that’s been read in many of our weekly Shared Reading groups and so has a lot of resonance with many of our group members, including the three who shared their own stories. It’s a poem and a performance that led Peter Bazalgette, the chair for Public Health England, to take to the stage afterwards and proclaim that we had just ‘opened his eyes’. It’s a poem that, after practising for this performance, led one of our readers to turn to me and say “I’ve been repeating those lines ever since you gave me this you know, when things get frazzled: ‘I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul’. It reminds me that I’m in charge of me.”

It was also great to have such a brilliant reaction from attendees of the Conference on Twitter:

Amazing stories of personal transformation by shared reading “There’s a lot of talking in shared reading”

Important also to recognise that group arts projects such as can also help to tackle issues of social isolation

Moving testimonies, simple programme and so effective

A huge congratulations and thanks to our readers for taking part and being such spectacular spokespeople for Shared Reading!


Find out more about the Conference over on the AESOP website:

Linking the arts and Shared Reading with good mental health

The link between the arts and improved mental well-being is one which more professionals and volunteers are experiencing firsthand in the UK, and will be celebrated at the first national Arts in Health Conference and Showcase.

Continue reading “Linking the arts and Shared Reading with good mental health”

The Reader 60

Reader 60 coverThe first issue of The Reader in 2016 is here and it’s a very special one indeed as it heralds our sixtieth edition. There are plenty of diamonds to be found inside Issue 60, ranging from the brand new to the nostalgic, and the inclusion of our One -Pagers’ – the raw, powerful and punchy moments from works of literature that make us feel alive and which we often turn to at times in need of affirmation.

‘We seek the ‘lines of life’. When readers tear from books the words that suddenly matter to them, that is their own pre-poem, the beginning of their work as receivers and transmitters of suddenly felt meaning. Reader writers: apply within.’ – The Reader Writers, Philip Davis

You’ll still find plenty of broader content within Issue 60, including new poetry from Carol Rumens, Julie-ann Rowell, Claire Allen and Vidyan Ravinthiran. The big themes of change and the future – still on many a mind as the year is fresh – feature in Gill Blow‘s story ‘Ladies of the Soil’, and Raymond Tallis seeks perspective on life from the imagined vantage of his future death in an extract from his new book The Black Mirror.

Sitting alongside future thoughts are frequent glances back towards the past, as we republish poems by Les Murray and U.A. Fanthorpe from our earliest issues, and revisit our childhoods while keeping feet firmly in the present day as we talk to Jason Hazeley and Joel Morris, co-writers of the hugely popular Ladybird Books for grown-ups. Our second interview visits photographer Tim Booth, who talks about his stunning collection A Show of Hands – a collection of portraits of hands.

Marjorie Lotfi Gill features in The Poet on Her Work, turning distance that feels like helplessness into clarity as she writes on the subject of gun violence. Charlie Darby-Villis writes about reading poetry in a high security prison, and the poet David Constantine responds with his own recollection of visiting HMP Low Newton. More on the particular power reading can offer come from pieces by Drummond Bone, Ben Davis, David Abrahamson and Claire Sive.

All this alongside our Regulars and Recommendations – there’s much to celebrate in our latest milestone.

If you’re keen to make a literary resolution for the year ahead, yearly subscriptions to The Reader begin from £24, offering four issues of the magazine. You can also purchase your copy of Issue 60 for the price of £6.95. There’s the chance of winning a full set of the Ladybird Books for grown-ups within the issue, so don’t delay in ordering!

For more on The Reader, see our website.


‘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

Find out more about Ad Hoc Creative and keep up with developments on Ad Hoc Creative EXPO on their website and Twitter: @_ADHOCcreative

The Reader 57

Issue 57 of The Reader arrives at The Reader HQ - ready for post out next week!
Issue 57 of The Reader arrives at The Reader HQ – ready for post out next week!

We might still be waiting for the temperatures to rise, but something guaranteed to put some warmth into Spring is the latest issue of The Reader.

Amongst the green leaves are two new short stories by Connie Bensley and Tim Parks, the latter of which is an account of the last days of the mysterious ‘Mrs P’:

“From being someone with time on her hands, happy to get company when she could, Mrs. P has become someone it is rather difficult to get hold of, a person you need to make an appointment with.” – Mrs P, Tim Parks

There’s poetry by the plenty with new work from Greg Moglia, Howard Wright, Chris Allen, Martin Malone and Marjorie Lofti Gill, Imtiaz Dharker writes on ‘Over The Moon’ from her collection Undone in the Poet on Her Work and we go back to the 17th century for Brian Nellist’s latest selection of The Old Poem.

Acclaimed film and television director Ken Loach speaks to Fiona McGee about his long standing relationship with writers and writing, tracing the connection into film and his own work, highlighting the importance of substance over visual style:

“The only thing that I’ve ever looked for is somebody who could write real people. If you read a page and the characters live and the dialogue sounds true then you’re looking at the work of a writer.” – Ken Loach

Two illuminating essays, considerable different in topic, come from author Salley Vickers and pioneering biologist Rupert Sheldrake, who write on instinct and sacrifice and psychic pets respectively.

There’s lots more to look forward to, including Ian McMillan on Ted Hughes and Five Wild Encounters recommended by Sarah Coley.

Issue 57 will be landing on doorsteps throughout the country and on The Reader Organisation’s website very soon, but in the meantime if you haven’t already got your subscription to The Reader now is the perfect time to do so. A year’s subscription gives you four issues worth, costing £24 in the UK and £36 international.

For full details on subscribing, visit the website:


Issue 55 of The Reader is now available to purchase

It’s the perfect time to curl up with this brand new issue of The Reader as those cold, dark evenings draw in. In issue 55 which is packed with literary goodness, our editor Phil Davis talks to actress Maxine Peake about risk taking and writing and you will find a fascinating essay from the wonderful Howard Jacobson on Jane Austen. We hope you will also enjoy the excellent selection of new and old literature in this issue including new fiction from llana Baram and a particularly fine collection of poetry from Anna Woodford, Tony Cosier, David Constantine and Paul Connolly.

Please note we are currently having some technical issues with our website, so to order your copy, or subscribe to The Reader please email

We will inform you on here when the website is fixed.

Have a lovely weekend all.

Reading Round-Up: 9th August-22nd August

Book Close UpHere we are with another Reading Round-Up, giving you all the literary latest from the last fortnight with our Arts Admin Intern Rebecca Pollard:

The Hachette vs. Amazon war is still waging on. If you aren’t aware of what is going on with this, Hachette and Amazon have exchanged open letters to each other which has resulted in Amazon halting the sales of Hachette novels on their website, and hundreds of authors publishing an open letter against Amazon.

In an effort to remain impartial (this battle has split readers across the world), you can read a summary of what has happened so far on the Guardian website.

A recent Ofcom report has shown that the bookshelves of Britain are still stocked full with literature. The report shows that 16-24-year olds have the smallest book collections, and 55-64-year olds have the largest. It also highlights that whilst physical book collections have dwindled, ebook sales are on the rise – showing that literature is still consumed and appreciated by modern readers.

You can read more on this story on the Guardian website.

There has been controversy around the Warburg Institute, which is cared for by the University of London. Academics have spoken out against the University of London who are currently rumoured to be investigating the legality of the contract they signed with the Warburg family in 1944.

The Warburg Institute’s main concern is ‘cultural history, art history and history of ideas, especially in the Renaissance’; it remains significant, however, due to its removal (and the smuggling of its physical book collection) from Nazi Germany to London.

You can find more about this story here, and discover more about the Warburg Institute on their website.

Three schools in East Devon have come together to write a combined novel. In this Telegraph article, Jane Bidder writes about how children were collectively inspired and involved with the process of writing a story. The children were given an opening chapter, and then asked to choose what the characters should look like, and how the plot should continue.

The idea was thought up by NAFDAS (National Association of Decorative and Fine Art Societies) as a way of encouraging creativity amongst schoolchildren.

You can read the full story on The Telegraph website.

Julian Gough has created a Kickstarter campaign to fund his newest novel, and has equally found an ingenious new way of funding new literature. He argues that ‘the market in the written ephemera of writers is huge’ but that no modern authors leave a paper trail. He is repaying his backers with postcards, PDFs of his stories, and more besides. He believes that this idea – which he has dubbed ‘Litcoin’ – could be a new way of funding authors who are often very underpaid.

The Guardian reports the story here.

On the lighter side of literature, the Nottingham Post has recently reported on a woman who has 10,000 children’s books in her shed. Arguably in possession of a bibliophile’s dream (or the biggest shed known to man), Gillian James buys and sells her books from her back garden.

The Independent has recently reported that the attic that was used as the inspiration for Charlotte Brontë’s novel Jane Eyre has recently been opened to the public. Norton Conyers have opened their doors for people wishing to see to where Bertha was confined in Mr Rochester’s home.

Don’t forget, you can keep in touch with what’s happening at TRO by following us on Twitter: @thereaderorg

Summer School Sizzlers and the Calderstones Summer Fair

piratechildSchool may nearly be out for summer, but there’s no need to be bored with our Summer School Sizzlers at Calderstones Mansion House where’s tons of super and sensational summer reading to keep kids entertained for hours afterwards.

Each Thursday morning from 31st July to 21st August, children aged 4-7 can join us for stories, crafts, games and lots of fun in four very special themed sessions designed to make the summer fly by. The full details of our Summer School Sizzlers sessions can be found below:

Gruffalo Tales – Thursday 31st July, 10-11.30am, Cost: £5 (book online)
Little monsters are invited to this especially monstrous reading session, where we will be enjoying all things Gruffalo, as well as sharing some fun rhymes and other stories.

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt – Thursday 7th August, 10-11.30am, Cost: £7.50 (book online)
Join us in the Mansion House where we’ll be enjoying lots of shared reading with the All-Better Bears, Big Bear and Little Bear Stories and plenty of songs and rhymes.

Planets, Pants and Poop – Thursday 14th August, 10-11am, Cost: £5 (book online)
We’re heading skyward with this cosmic shared reading session, exploring stars, planets, aliens and underpants, even making our own rocket ships to take home!

Pirate Training Camp – Thursday 21st August, 10-11.30am, Cost: £5 (book online)
Join us for some special readings from our favourite pirate stories. Our pirates will be getting crafty, making hats, eye-patches…and there may be a treasure hunt or two.

We’re currently running an online competition for two free tickets to the Planets, Pants and Poop session on 14th August – all you need to do is head to our Twitter and Facebook pages and retweet or share the posts that are signposted to be entered into the prize draw. The draw will close for entries at 12pm on Friday 25th July and the winners will be announced at a later date.

DSC_0871Much more summer fun is in store with the second Calderstones Summer Fair on Sunday 3rd August, 10am-4pm. Join us for what will be a wonderful day spent in the garden of the Mansion House with something for the whole family and community to enjoy. We’re sure you’ll enjoy the amazing attractions that are in store, including:

  • BFG Giant Games
  • Crafts and plant stalls
  • Face painting
  • Our famous poetry photo booth with custom recitals
  • Live music
  • A fancy dress competition for children – come as your favourite character from a book!
  • Wishing Tree and Memory Wall to share your thoughts about the Mansion House
  • Tours of the Mansion House and updates on our future plans
  • £1 book stall
  • Tasty treats from The Reader Cafe to keep you going throughout the day

Kick start the summer in style with a visit to the Summer Fair at Calderstones, entry is completely FREE.

For more information on what’s coming up at The Reader Organisation, visit our Events page:

Half Term Hijinks and Open Day at Calderstones

kids craftingMay Half Term is fast approaching, which can only mean another round of Half Term Hijinks at Calderstones Mansion House! We’ve got lots of fun in store for little ones and the young at heart to join in with too – as well as tons of stories, there’ll be rhymes, creative crafts, yummy feasts and adventure galore.

The programme is from Tuesday 27th-Friday 30th May, with each day containing different events to keep you entertained all week long. Here’s a taste of what’s in store:

Tuesday 27th May

Fantastic Mr Fox Feast, 11am-1pm
Age: 5-8 years
Cost: £7.50 for 1st child, £4 for each additional child thereafter

Join us for a fantastical lunchtime feast inspired by Roald Dahl’s classic.

Wednesday 28th May

Sharing A Shell, 10-11.30am
Age: 2-5 years
Cost: £5

We’ll be singing, rhyming and creating our own sea creatures at this special reading session.

Thursday 29th May

Catch A Star, 10-11.30am
Age: 4-8
Cost: £5

This space themed reading session will be full of adventure, stars, aliens in underpants and rocket ships!

IMG_0378What The Ladybird Heard, 1-2pm *SOLD OUT*
Age: 0-2 years
Cost: £5

Tiny explorers can have some farmyard fun in this special interactive reading session.

Friday 30th May

Matilda and Charlie, 12-2pm
Age: 5-10 years
Cost: £7.50 for first child, £4 for each additional child thereafter

We’re exploring two of our favourite Roald Dahl books with bookworm book bags and Willy Wonka inspired feast.

Booking is required for all events and children must be accompanied by an adult. Visit our website to book your place online to each event via Eventbrite:
For more information, contact Roisin: or call 0151 724 5000.

On Bank Holiday Monday, 26th May, we’ll be opening the doors to the Mansion House for our second annual Open Day at Calderstones. Before Half Term Hijinks takes place, why not take the chance to look around and take a tour of Calderstones Mansion House? You’ll be able to meet staff from The Reader Organisation and learn about our development plans as we continue to transform the building into a centre of reading and wellbeing. There’ll also be lots to do on the day – take your choice from enjoying some shared reading, getting creative with our drop-in family craft workshops and munch on a tasty treat from The Reader Cafe!

The doors to the Mansion House will be open from 10am-4pm on 26th May and entry is completely FREE.

We look forward to welcoming you to Calderstones over the week!

For more about what’s coming up at the Mansion House, check out our What’s On guide, available to download from our website:

Culture in Liverpool: LightNight and Giant Spectacular

PrintLiverpool’s annual nighttime celebration of culture around the city is returning this Friday 16th MayLightNight 2014 will be happening from 4pm until late, unlocking the doors of  Liverpool’s world-class museums, galleries and heritage sites  as the city is illuminated with an unforgettable trail of over 100 free events for all ages, providing the perfect chance to meet friends and family for the relaxed after-hours atmosphere and rediscovering the city centre – it’s a Friday night out with a difference.

This year, City of Readers and The Reader Organisation will be part of LightNight’s activities in Liverpool Central Library. From 4pm to 8.30pm come and find out more about the City of Readers project which is aiming to transform Liverpool into the UK’s foremost reading city. Come along to the Atrium on the ground floor of the library, learn about the project and how you can get involved with the Give Us 5 campaign.

Between 6pm and 7.30pm we’ll also be holding special shared reading and storytelling sessions around the theme of ‘light’. Enjoy the reading aloud with the option of joining in or simply sitting back and enjoying the stories and poems on offer. The sessions will be taking place on the ground floor of Central Library and are free to participate in, all ages and abilities welcome.

little_girl_giantFriday 16th May is also the deadline for applications to volunteer at this year’s Giant Spectacular which is heading to Liverpool in July. After the success of the Sea Odyssey Giant Spectacular in 2012, the Giants are returning to Liverpool with Royal De Luxe to commemorate the centenary of the First World War in another piece of poignant and spectacular piece of street theatre embarking on an emotional journey around the city from 23rd-27th July.  Part of the show will see the recreation of the Liverpool Pals Battalion from 1914 when thousands of men from the city signed up to defend their country, and Giant Spectacular are seeking a total of 120 volunteers to be part of the show.

To be involved, volunteers must be male and aged 18 or over, be physically fit to be able to march repeatedly around the city and be available from 27th June. The deadline is midnight on Friday 16th May – more information can be found on the Giant Spectacular website: