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Featured Poem: From The Lover’s Journey by George Crabbe

November 24, 2014

This week’s Featured Poem is an extract from a poem by George Crabbe, a poet, surgeon and clergyman well known for his realistic narrative and descriptions of working life and people.

One of our project workers recently read this extract at a shared reading session in a drug detox centre, with some incredible responses emerging:

“People in the group seemed to feel quite empowered by the poem. I think this sense of empowerment had something to do with the capacity for change allowed in the poem – even in the darkest lines when ‘absorbed by their peculiar cares,/ The vacant eye on viewless matter glares’, there was a sense for the group both of recognition ‘I know what that feels like’ but also the knowledge that you might be able to change what you see around you by shifting your perspective on the inside. Something about being self-aware of how your inside affects the external rather than experiencing world as feeling the external is impacting on you. ‘It’s like if there’s a sunset outside. You might be so caught up with what’s going on in here [the detox centre] – like if someone’s taken the butter out the fridge and not put it back – that you don’t see the sunset because you’re too busy saying ‘where’s the butter?’ – but the sunset’s still there – it’s just that you don’t see it.’ “

from The Lover’s Journey

It is the soul that sees; the outward eyes
Present the object, but the mind descries;
And thence delight, disgust, or cool indiff’rence rise:
When minds are joyful, then we look around,
And what is seen is all on fairy ground;
Again they sicken, and on every view
Cast their own dull and melancholy hue;
Or, if absorb’d by their peculiar cares,
The vacant eye on viewless matter glares,
Our feelings still upon our views attend,
And their own natures to the objects lend;
Sorrow and joy are in their influence sure,
Long as the passion reigns th’ effects endure;
But love in minds his various changes makes,
And clothes each object with the change he takes;
His light and shade on every view he throws,
And on each object, what he feels, bestows.

George Crabbe

Open Book with Marilynne Robinson – and The Reader Organisation

November 18, 2014
Marilynne Robinson speaking at our 'Reading for Wellbeing' conference in 2011

Marilynne Robinson speaking at our ‘Reading for Wellbeing’ conference in 2011

This week’s edition of Open Book on BBC Radio 4 was a treat for literature lovers, featuring an interview with Pulitzer Prize winning author Marilynne Robinson about her new novel Lila, the long anticipated third book in her bestselling series set in the fictional town of Gilead (following on from Gilead and Home). Certainly many of us at The Reader Organisation are big fans of Marilynne Robinson and her work, and became even more so when she joined us as a guest speaker at our second ever Conference in New Brighton in 2011, with some lucky enough to spend an evening in the company of the author at Blackburne House beforehand.

We were proud to stand alongside Marilynne again as the programme also included a special feature on the ‘reading oasis’ that can be found at Calderstones Mansion House. Earlier in the year Open Book visited Calderstones, guided by our Founder and Director Jane Davis, to witness some shared reading in action and see just how we are already starting to build an International Centre for Reading with our group members from the local community and beyond. You can listen to Calderstones on Open Book here (approx 11 minutes 52 seconds in):

The feature included input from Professor Rhiannon Corcoran from University of Liverpool who talks about her special interest in the practice of shared reading and one of our trustees Dr Shyamal Mukherjee, Medical Director of NHS Wirral, identifying the benefits shared reading can provide to people’s health and wellbeing, as well as contributing to increased social interaction on a unique and deeply emotional scale.

Some of our reading group members could also be heard on the programme, discussing the in and outs of Dombey and Son as well as enjoying our very popular babies, toddlers and parents/carers reading group Tiny Reads. There can’t be too many other Grade II listed buildings in the country where you would find Dickens being read doors along from The Gruffalo on a Friday morning!

Reading with tots right up to the young at heart is exactly what we want to do at Calderstones – encouraging everyone to come through the doors to enjoy the pure pleasure of reading, as well as to connect with those around them in what will be a true community hub with great literature at its heart. Including gallery and events spaces, a crammed calendar for the whole family to enjoy and a cafe full of tasty treats, we’re always developing at Calderstones:

Catch up with Open Book on the BBC Radio 4 website, or you can listen again by tuning into BBC Radio 4 this Thursday 20th November at 3.30pm. Listen to the Calderstones feature on its own by heading here:

More research into the value of shared reading

November 18, 2014

MFS_9458Following on from two recently published reports by the Centre for Research into Reading, Literature and Society (CRILS) at the University of Liverpool, there’s due to be more upcoming research looking into the benefits of shared reading.

Together with Goldsmiths University, London, CRILS will be running a 3 year research project examining and establishing the value and effects of shared reading sessions on individuals. The research is funded by Guy’s and St Thomas Hospital Trust and is part of our South London project, which focuses on a whole population approach to shared reading. A shared reading group which will be the focus of the research is to be set up in Croydon Central Library for an initial period of 24 weeks.

The project will continue ongoing research into the social and cultural value of shared reading, and is the first to take place in London, where our shared reading projects have been operating since 2009.

Last month, two new reports were published by CRILS examining the benefits of shared reading, looking in particular at the intrinsic cultural value of The Reader Organisation’s shared reading model as a particpatory and voluntary experience and further investigation into how shared reading impacts on improving quality of life for people living with dementia. Conclusions from both reports were positive, finding a series of factors which emphasise the humanising presence of literature and support previous research which has discovered benefits such as improved self-confidence, reduced stress, increased social interaction and community integration . You can download ‘Cultural Value: Assessing the intrinsic value of The Reader Organisation’s Shared Reading Scheme’ and ‘Read to Care: An Investigation into Quality of Life Benefits of Shared Reading Groups for People Living with Dementia’ on our website:

We’re currently looking for anyone who would like to take part in the new shared reading group in Croydon Central Library as part of this new and valuable research. Shared reading groups are informal and voluntary, with no pressure to take part in the reading – you can simply listen to the texts as they are being read aloud.

If you’re interested or would like more information, please call 0781 332 4852.

Featured Poem: Brown Penny by W.B. Yeats

November 17, 2014

Our selection of Featured Poem this week has been inspired by the Penny Readings, which is just over a month away. Tickets are available today to the public, and they’re expected to sell fast so make sure you get in early and don’t miss your chance to be at this year’s festive extravaganza of reading and entertainment. All the details can be found on our website:

A penny doesn’t just get you entry into our famous Penny Readings; in this poem by W.B. Yeats it seems it can predict the future and the promise of love, although it may be ‘crooked’…

Brown Penny

I whispered, ‘I am too young,’
And then, ‘I am old enough';
Wherefore I threw a penny
To find out if I might love.
‘Go and love, go and love, young man,
If the lady be young and fair.’
Ah, penny, brown penny, brown penny,
I am looped in the loops of her hair.

O love is the crooked thing,
There is nobody wise enough
To find out all that is in it,
For he would be thinking of love
Till the stars had run away
And the shadows eaten the moon.
Ah, penny, brown penny, brown penny,
One cannot begin it too soon.

W.B. Yeats

Award Season is Here!

November 13, 2014

se100 awardsFrom Natalie Longworth, Communications Intern

Last month we made the shortlist for Culture Champion at the recent Powerful Together Awards for Social Enterprises in Merseyside. This month we’re eagerly awaiting the results of our nominations at RBS SE100 and the UK Social Enterprise Awards, both national ceremonies that recognise the efforts of nominees from all over the UK.

Our very own Founder and Director, Dr Jane Davis has been shortlisted for the Women’s Champion Award at the 16th annual Social Enterprise Awards, nominated for the accolade alongside 10 other inspirational women. Not only does the award acknowledge the achievements of women working within their field, but those that empower and inspire other women to achieve.

We’re also delighted to announce that we’re in the running for the RBS SE100 Resilience Award alongside three other fantastic Social Enterprises: BELU Water, FRC Group and John Taylor Hospice. With 27 organisations in total being shortlisted in 5 categories, the awards highlight the strength of the Social Enterprise sector and its ability to create both social change and economic growth nationwide.

As both awards have been newly introduced this year, it’s an honour to be considered at such prestigious awards, but also very humbling. By gaining recognition in this way, it highlights and celebrates the work we do at The Reader Organisation. We’re immensely proud to be nominated for awards of this calibre, and hope it allows more people to find out about the work we do and inspires them to join the reading revolution!

The winner of the SEUK Women’s Champion will be announced at the Social Enterprise Awards ceremony on 26th November in London, with the winner of the RBS SE100 Resilience Award being notified on 24th November.

Fingers crossed!

On Active Service: 1914-1918

November 11, 2014

On Active Service coverTo commemorate the centenary of the start of World War One, The Reader Organisation has published an anthology of poems collected from the ‘Great War’, showcasing the extraordinary experiences of ordinary people during the course of war as it happened.

‘On Active Service: 1914-1918′ features a selection of poems that emerged from WW1, chosen and edited by Brian Nellist, co-editor of The Reader magazine and a guiding force of literary spirit for The Reader Organisation. As well as including ‘famous’ names typically associated with the Great War such as Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon and Rupert Brooke, the anthology features poems written by less well-known poets – in fact, some selections so rare that they required a considerable effort to be tracked down. By including the work of these poets, the anthology helps in ensuring that the experiences of generations now passed will live on for years to come, in their own words.

Instead of being categorised by year, the poems have been compiled by themes widely felt by those fighting in WW1, both on and off the battlefield. The backdrop of war inspired the moving, poignant and, at times, grimly humorous words of the verses included, presenting a full portrait of the lives that were irrevocably changed.

On Active Service 1On Active Service was launched this morning – Armistice Day – at a special event for our shared reading group members at Calderstones Mansion House. Following a commemorative two-minute silence, a selection of poems from the book were read by members of TRO staff, along with a moving historical account of Liverpool and its Pals Battalion who enlisted in their thousands at the advent of WW1, many believing they would be home for Christmas and who would not see a Christmas again afterwards.

There were also tours of the Mansion House which operated during WW1, and a Trench Cake baked to the original recipe from housewives who sent the fare out to their husbands and family members in the post to the Front. It went down so well that it was just as well we had recipes on hand to distribute!

On Active Service will be read in our shared reading groups across the breadth of the UK this week as commemorations for remembrance continue, with the poems read aloud and thoughts shared. You can reflect upon the verses for years to come by purchasing your copy from The Reader Organisation’s website, for the price of £6:


At the weekend, we let you know about the arrival of Issue 55 of The Reader, featuring contributions from Maxine Peake, Howard Jacobson and David Constantine. We’re pleased to say that technical issues have now been resolved, and you can order your copy of all the latest Readerly goodness online now:

Featured Poem: Fireworks by Amy Lowell

November 10, 2014

This week’s Featured Poem has been inspired by the recent explosive events – following on from Guy Fawkes Night last week – we’re partly surprised the smoke still isn’t swirling in the atmosphere…

Often when we talk about ‘fireworks’ between people it’s usually a good sign – think of that slightly strange phrase ‘they got on like a house on fire’. Yet in this case the metaphorical explosions are far more disruptive. Perhaps hate – or a strong dislike – of someone or something fuels us as much as love, and there certainly are some evocative descriptions in this poem by Amy Lowell. Perhaps it will spark off some interest for you at the beginning of this week.


You hate me and I hate you
And we are so polite, we two!

But whenever I see you, I burst apart
And scatter the sky with my bursting heart.
It spits and sparkles in the stars and balls,
Buds into roses – and flares and falls.

Scarlet buttons, and pale green disks,
Silver spirals and asterisks,
Shoot and tremble in a mist
Peppered with mauve and amethyst.

I shine in the windows and light up the trees
And all because I hate you, if you please.

And when you meet me, you rend asunder
And go up in a flaming wonder
Of saffron cubes and crimson moons,
And wheels all amaranths and maroons.

Gold lozenges and spades
Arrows of malachites and jades,
Patens of copper, azure sheaves
As you mount, you flash in glossy leaves.

Such fireworks as we make, we two!
Because you hate me and I hate you.

Amy Lowell


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