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

August 22, 2014

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

PurpleCoat Productions present Twelfth Night on Tour at Calderstones Mansion

August 21, 2014

Purple CoatWe 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…:

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:

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.

For more information about PurpleCoat Productions, see their website or follow them on Twitter:

Dr Jane Davis shortlisted for Social Enterprise UK’s Women’s Champion Award

August 19, 2014

Klasse_Jane_Davis-0053-bewerkt 72 dpiWe’re delighted to announce that our very own Founder and Director Dr Jane Davis has been shortlisted for this year’s UK Social Enterprise Women’s Champion Award.

The UK Social Enterprise Awards hosted by Social Enterprise UK recognise organisations for their business excellence and contribution to society, as well as the achievements of people working at the heart of the social enterprise sector.

Jane has been shortlisted in the category of the Women’s Champion award – a newly created category this year celebrating someone who has created significant positive change for society by demonstrating socially entrepreneurial behaviours beyond the day-to-day expectations of any job that they may have, to tackle any social and/or environmental issue. The women in the shortlist have helped strengthen the voice, raise the debate, or shine a spotlight on what the social enterprise movement is achieving either nationally, within a particular sector or industry or within a particular sphere of influence.

Eleven women working in senior leadership in social enterprise, including Jane, are being recognised for representing excellence in their field of work as well as inspiring and empowering other women working in the area to achieve.

We’re extremely proud to have Jane shortlisted for such a fantastic award and the opportunity to highlight the ongoing work of The Reader Organisation at large, and wish her and the other finalists the very best of luck.

You can see the full shortlist for all of the award categories on the SEUK website:
The awards will be judged by leaders across the sector including Melanie Mills (Chief Executive, Social Enterprise West Midlands), Andrew Croft (Chief Executive of CAN) and Edwin Browin-Mensa (Founder of the social enterprise GiveMeTap).

The winners of the UK Social Enterprise Awards 2014, sponsored by The Independent on Sunday, will be announced at an awards ceremony on Wednesday 26th November hosted by comedian and broadcaster Sue Perkins at the London Symphony Orchestra St Luke’s.

‘A life changing business': Stephen Fry on reading aloud

August 19, 2014

dementia 2The art of reading aloud was explored by Stephen Fry in a fascinating programme on BBC Radio 4 yesterday – and Founder and Director of The Reader Organisation Jane Davis along with some of our Readers in Liverpool were featured speaking about the power and special quality of reading aloud.

In Greek and Roman times, reading silently was frowned upon – the skill of reading aloud was much prized amongst the finest in society and the Romans could even be described as the predecessors of shared reading, gathering to read aloud in groups. Fry’s English Delight took listeners on a journey through the history of reading aloud, which amongst other gems told us that for over a third of the 21 centuries that have passed reading aloud was the most common form of reading and that authors such as Tennyson, Charles Dickens and Jane Austen were particular fans of reading aloud: Austen would ‘road test’ the drafts of her novels, including Pride and Prejudice, by reading and having her family reading them aloud.

The Reader Organisation connects people with great literature and through reading aloud in our regular shared reading groups in the UK, and the programme visited us at one of our groups in Liverpool while they read Silas Marner by George Eliot. Readers including Damian, who went for years with undiagnosed bipolar disorder, and Louise, who has Asperger’s syndrome, spoke about how reading aloud has affected them, using terms such as ‘addictive’ and referring to the stories and poems that are read as ‘a bright light shining in the darkness’. When the words of great writers are read aloud we are not only attuned to their beauty but are exposed to the value of great minds and thinking, which can act to make us emotionally stronger.

Woman laughing hystericallyThe question of whether people might be put off by the apparent performative nature of reading aloud is something dismissed in our shared reading groups, as the informal and relaxed atmosphere allows people to choose to read only if they want to, letting people be themselves. As Jane says, reading aloud is one of the most democratic forms of communication, with everybody able to get something out of it.

The programme also featured speakers including Professor John Mullan of University College, London, who provided insights into the greats of literature and their skills of reading aloud – giving even experts in the field something to learn. 10 year old Ben, who started and rounded off the programme, spoke about how he thinks it’s every parent’s duty to read aloud to their children – a reader to watch for the future! Stephen Fry himself was in praise of the art, saying:

“Reading aloud and being read to can be a deeply affecting, life changing business.”

With readers like Damian and Louise as well as many more benefitting from the power of reading aloud, we can attest to this.

If you missed the broadcast of Fry’s English Delight you can listen again on the website:

Featured Poem: Beauty by Wilfred Owen

August 18, 2014

Continuing to think about the literature that emerged from the First World War, this week’s Featured Poem comes from Wilfred Owen, who is often the first name to come to mind when we think of war poetry.

Owen has strong ties to Birkenhead, where he lived with his family after the death of his grandfather. Not too far away in Cheshire was where his poetic vocation was realised, with strong influence coming from the Romantic movement. This may come as a surprise considering he is most famed for his verse which holds no bars against conveying the bleak and violent nature of war. His poetry was influenced by fellow soldier and poet Siegfried Sassoon, whom he met at Craiglockhart War Hospital in Edinburgh receiving treatment for shellshock.

Though his poetry shows disillusionment and heavy criticism of the nature of ‘The Great War’, Owen returned to the Front in August 1918, and was awarded the Military Cross for his courage and leadership. He was killed in action exactly one week almost to the hour of the signing of the Armistice which would signal the end of the war in November 1918, also being promoted to the rank of Lieutenant the day after his death.

This thought provoking and poignant poem about how we might consider the different interpretations of ‘beauty’ is particularly resonant as we commemorate those lost in battle.


The beautiful, the fair, the elegant,
Is that which pleases us, says Kant,
Without a thought of interest or advantage.

I used to watch men when they spoke of beauty
And measure their enthusiasm. One
An old man, seeing a setting sun,
Praised it a certain sense of duty
To the calm evening and his time of life.
I know another man that never says a Beauty
But of a horse;

Men seldom speak of beauty, beauty as such,
Not even lovers think about it much.
Women of course consider it for hours
In mirrors;

A shrapnel ball -
Just where the wet skin glistened when he swam -
Like a fully-opened sea-anemone.
We both said ‘What a beauty! What a beauty, lad’
I knew that in that flower he saw a hope
Of living on, and seeing again the roses of his home.
Beauty is that which pleases and delights,
Not bringing personal advantage – Kant.
But later on I heard
A canker worked into that crimson flower
And that he sank with it
And laid it with the anemones off Dover

Wilfred Owen

The Author’s Den at The Secret Garden of Stories: Meet Cathy Cassidy and Andy Mulligan

August 14, 2014

9780141325224_Cherry_Crush_PB_bookWe’re counting down the days at The Reader Organisation until our very first Children’s Literature Festival, The Secret Garden of Stories, gets underway. From Thursday 28th to Saturday 30th August there will be tons of fun in store in the Secret Garden at Calderstones Mansion House, including storytellers from the Roald Dahl Museum, a ‘Pets Challenge’ as Team Cat and Team Dog compete through a series of obstacles and a very special performance of the classic book The Secret Garden by The Bookworm Players. You can find out more about what’s in store at The Secret Garden of Stories on our website:

Over the three days, our Author’s Den will be open with the chance to get up close and personal to some of Britain’s best children’s authors. We’ve already previewed Jon Mayhew and Lydia Monks, who will be appearing on Thursday and Friday respectively, but on Saturday we’ve got a bumper treat with not one but two amazing authors who will be visiting…

Cathy Cassidy started writing when she was a child herself, creating her very first book for her little brother and making editions of her own comic, full of picture stories, special features and competitions, which her friends loved to read (although she could only make one copy at a time – something that isn’t a problem anymore with her books). Originally from Coventry, she came to Liverpool to attend art college. She has been a teacher as well as fiction editor and an agony aunt for Shout magazine, but is now a full-time writer and spends her days thinking up stories, which include The Chocolate Box Girls series - following the adventures of Cherry Crush, Marshmallow Skye and Coco Caramel amongst others – Hopes and Dreams, Dizzy , Driftwood and many, many more.

In 2010 Cathy was crowned ‘Queen of Teen’ by legions of fans who love reading her books and reigned for two years running, and she tours across the UK extensively meeting lots of keen young readers. After many years living in the Highland hills in Scotland, she returned to Merseyside where she lives with her husband, two dogs, two cats and a rabbit. Her favourite childhood books include the Narnia series by CS Lewis and the Swallows and Amazons books by Arthur Ransome, and her favourite things to do include reading (of course), daydreaming, swimming and eating cake with friends.

Come and meet Cathy Cassidy at the Author’s Den on Saturday 30th August, 12-1.30pm (Tickets cost £5) – book online

andy_mulliganAndy Mulligan hails from South London, where he grew up. His career has been varied – he worked for ten years as a theatre director before his journeys through Asia, India, Brazil, Vietnam and the Phillipines as a volunteer and teacher influenced him to start writing young-adult fiction.

His first novel, Ribblestrop, was published in 2009 and entered the world of a ramshackle stately home turned into a school where the colourful bunch of students run riot. Termed ‘comedy-horror-action-suspense-school-fiction at its most bizarre’, the book was shortlisted for the Roald Dahl Funny Prize and gained praise for being a funny and fresh read. Its success meant that it turned into a trilogy, with the second book in the series Return to Riddlestrop gaining the title of Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize in 2011.

Trash, published in 2010, tells quite a different story, taking place on a dumpsite in Brazil. The novel follows Raphael, a street child, who spends his days wading through and sorting mountains of rubbish. One day he comes across a small leather bag, and it is this which will change the life of him and his two friends forever, pitting them against the world. Trash was shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal in 2012, and plans for a film version of the book were soon put into action. Starring Martin Sheen and Rooney Mara and directed by Stephen Daldry (the man behind Billy Elliot), the film is due to be released this Autumn.

His latest book, The Boy with 2 Heads, was published in June 2013.

Come and meet Andy Mulligan at the Author’s Den on Saturday 30th August, 2-3pm (Tickets cost £5) – book online

For more information on The Secret Garden of Stories, visit our website or follow the hashtag #SecretGardenStories


Fry’s English Delight

August 13, 2014

stephen fry“I’ve always known that reading aloud is one of the paths to greater happiness in life…reading aloud isn’t medicine to be swallowed to make one feel better. It’s pleasure. Pure pleasure.”

Actor, broadcaster and beloved figure of British culture Stephen Fry is a keen supporter of the art of reading aloud (given the quote above straight from the man himself) and you’ll hear him take a closer insight at the practice on his latest radio programme – featuring input from some of our Readers.

Fry’s English Delight is currently in its seventh series on BBC Radio 4 (Mondays), exploring the ‘highways and byways’ of the English language. In the next episode, Reading Aloud comes under the spotlight as Stephen investigates the art from Roman times right up to the present day.

We’re delighted to be featured in the episode, to be broadcast on Monday 18th August at 9am (repeated at 9.30pm the same day), with some of our reading group members who were recorded as part of one of our groups at Calderstones Mansion House talking about the importance of reading aloud and what it means to them.

If you’re a lover of the English language as well as literature, it’s an unmissable series – previous episodes have already covered the mysterious language of magic and the punishing business of proper nouns and capital letters.

You can listen in and find out more about Fry’s English Delight on the Radio 4 website:

And don’t forget to make a date in your diary for Monday 18th August!

Head to the ‘Reading With Us’ page of our website for a full list of all of our current open shared reading groups running around the country:


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