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Time to Talk Day

January 29, 2015

time to talk dayNext Thursday – 5th February – is Time to Talk Day, and everyone around the UK and beyond is being encouraged to spend 5 minutes having a conversation about mental health on the day to help break down the stigma surrounding the topic. Whether with friends and family, at work, in school or university or within the wider community, anywhere is a good place to talk.

A bolt is shot back somewhere in our breast,
And a lost pulse of feeling stirs again.
The eyes sinks inward, and the heart lies plain,
And what we mean, we say, and what we would, we know.
A man becomes aware of his life’s flow,
And hears its winding murmur; and he sees
The meadows where it glides, the sun, the breeze.
– Matthew Arnold, The Buried Life

Shared reading goes hand-in-hand with stimulating good mental health and wellbeing, with the literature that is read reflecting life often in its toughest times. Through exploring the words of our greatest writers – many of whom experienced tests and tribulations – our weekly groups open up a space where thoughts and feelings can be explored and worked through together, while also providing new perspectives to emerge from the texts and the characters within them.

“It’s good because our lives are like stories.” – shared reading group member on an acute mental health ward

group 1We work in a variety of mental health and community settings on a weekly basis from Liverpool and the North West to the South West and London, with our groups giving members the chance to read, talk and feel better:

“When reading, I could use my voice to express ideas from someone else, outside myself, not to be judged, not to be evaluated by what I meant, not to be diagnosed by my turn of phrase, but just to speak and be heard. When reading, over time I was able to measure my road to recovery, in the clarity of my vision, thought and voice as I got better.” – former inpatient and library shared reading group member

72% of our group members felt that shared reading had helped them to think about things in a different way, and 70% feel their group has helped them to understand people better.

Ahead of Time to Talk Day, our project workers have given us some recommendations of poems that have been enjoyed in our shared reading groups in mental health settings – all great sources to get you talking about mental health and much more.

  • The Door - Miroslav Holub
  • The Journey – Mary Oliver
  • What if this Road – Sheenagh Pugh
  • Phenomenal Woman - Maya Angelou
  • A Return - Elizabeth Jennings
  • The Ideal - James Fenton
  • Kindness - Naomi Shihab Nye
  • I am Completely Different - Sabura Kurado
  • A Time to Talk – Robert Frost
  • When in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes (Sonnet 29) – William Shakespeare

Find out more about Time to Talk Day and how you can get involved: http://www.time-to-change.org.uk/timetotalkday

Featured Poem: Stepping Westward by William Wordsworth

January 26, 2015

We’re at the start of another week, so time for another Featured Poem to see us on our way.

This week’s selection comes from William Wordsworth, whose almost conversational flow of words rings true for many of us, still on the precipice of a New Year surrounded by dark and cold and dew. This poem encapsulates the experience of the tour that Wordsworth embarked upon with his sister, Dorothy, and fellow poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge of of Scotland in 1803, recalling the kind and gentle gesture of two passing women as they found themselves almost stranded in an unfamiliar place. It reminds us how much simple words or actions can mean in testing circumstances, and encourages us to practice for others and hope to feel ourselves ‘human sweetness’ whether we find ourselves facing a dilemma of any size. A thought to hold onto if you’re still pondering which path to step on for the start of the year.

Stepping Westward

“What, you are stepping westward?” — “Yea.”
– ‘Twould be a wildish destiny,
If we, who thus together roam
In a strange Land, and far from home,
Were in this place the guests of Chance:
Yet who would stop, or fear to advance,
Though home or shelter he had none,
With such a sky to lead him on?

The dewy ground was dark and cold;
Behind, all gloomy to behold;
And stepping westward seemed to be
A kind of heavenly destiny:
I liked the greeting; ’twas a sound
Of something without place or bound;
And seemed to give me spiritual right
To travel through that region bright.

The voice was soft, and she who spake
Was walking by her native lake:
The salutation had to me
The very sound of courtesy:
Its power was felt; and while my eye
Was fixed upon the glowing Sky,
The echo of the voice enwrought
A human sweetness with the thought
Of travelling through the world that lay
Before me in my endless way.

William Wordsworth

The Big Dig is coming to Calderstones

January 23, 2015

Under my window a clean rasping sound
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
My father, digging. I look down

Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds
Bends low, comes up twenty years away
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills
Where he was digging.

Digging, Seamus Heaney

Trees in Calderstones park c Dave Jones2015 has got off to an exciting start at Calderstones Mansion House with yet more shared reading groups and special events welcoming in the New Year, and its biggest project involving the community and unearthing the history of the area is yet to come…

As part of the ongoing ‘Connect at Calderstones’ project supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, The Reader Organisation alongside National Museums Liverpool will be offering a number of heritage activities and events within Calderstones Park in the coming months. All of these special events are leading up to The Big Dig, a wide-scale community dig which will bring people closer to the park than they have ever been before.

The Big Dig will begin this April and visitors are welcome to join in the two-week digging period, exploring the park in the hope of unearthing some hidden treasures that could join the Neolithic Calder Stones already housed in the park – the earliest human monument in Merseyside. The project is especially exciting as it will be the first time Calderstones is open to public access for historical excavations.

Richard MacDonald, Heritage Stories Maker at The Reader Organisation is looking forward to The Big Dig getting underway:

“The Calderstones are of national importance and this dig is an exciting opportunity for people in the local area to get involved in a community dig and support The Reader’s plans for the future. As the park has never been built on there could be anything under our feet. We may even find evidence of the first humans to live in this area – relics of the earliest scousers!”

The Big Dig will take place between Monday 27th April and Friday 8th May and anyone from the community is welcome to pick up a spade and take part. You can follow the project more closely through the Big Dig blog, with regular progress updates posted in the running to the main event: www.caldiesbigdig.org.uk

Before the digging begins, visitors to the Mansion House will have the opportunity to take part in a number of free preparatory events allowing them to learn more about excavation:

  • On Thursday 29th January, the Museum of Liverpool will be holding free tours through the prehistoric collection, including the chance to get your hands on some replica Calder Stones (times: 11am, 12pm, 2pm, 3pm)
  • Get an insight into a day in the life of an archaeologist at Ready to get Digging on Thursday 19th February at Calderstones Mansion House from 2-4pm
  • Join Ron Cowell, Curator of Prehistory at Museum of Liverpool, for a talk about the Calder Stones themselves and Merseyside during the Stone Age on Thursday 5th March, 7pm at Calderstones Mansion House

All of these events are free to attend, and to avoid disappointment booking is advised. You can register your places on each by heading to http://www.thereader.org.uk/events or http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/mol/events

If you’ve always fancied yourself as an Indiana Jones or Time Team explorer or perhaps are looking for a new hobby to embark on this New Year, this is the perfect chance to do some exploring right on your doorstep! Be sure to keep logged on to the Big Dig blog for more news in the coming months.

Featured Poem: from Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage by Lord Byron

January 20, 2015
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You might have noticed a lot of talk online about Blue Monday yesterday – the third Monday of January is said to be the day that gets us down, due to a number of factors including dark nights, plummeting temperatures and distance from all the festivity that was enjoyed around a month ago. We hope that your Monday, and indeed the rest of your week isn’t quite so blue – but of course, not everything that’s azure, sapphire or ultramarine is tainted by negativity. A clear blue sky on a sunny day is often a sight to behold, as is going to the depths of the dark blue ocean, described majestically by Lord Byron in his poetic epic Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage. Plenty to keep you reading and the bad kind of blues fiercely at bay.

from Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage

There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society where none intrudes,
By the deep Sea, and music in its roar:
I love not Man the less, but Nature more,
From these our interviews, in which I steal
From all I may be, or have been before,
To mingle with the Universe, and feel
What I can ne’er express, yet cannot all conceal.

 

Roll on, thou deep and dark blue Ocean–roll!
Ten thousand fleets sweep over thee in vain;
Man marks the earth with ruin–his control
Stops with the shore;–upon the watery plain
The wrecks are all thy deed, nor doth remain
A shadow of man’s ravage, save his own,
When for a moment, like a drop of rain,
He sinks into thy depths with bubbling groan,
Without a grave, unknelled, uncoffined, and unknown.

 

His steps are not upon thy paths,–thy fields
Are not a spoil for him,–thou dost arise
And shake him from thee; the vile strength he wields
For earth’s destruction thou dost all despise,
Spurning him from thy bosom to the skies,
And send’st him, shivering in thy playful spray
And howling, to his gods, where haply lies
His petty hope in some near port or bay,
And dashest him again to earth: —there let him lay.

The armaments which thunderstrike the walls
Of rock-built cities, bidding nations quake,
And monarchs tremble in their capitals,
The oak leviathans, whose huge ribs make
Their clay creator the vain title take
Of lord of thee, and arbiter of war;
These are thy toys, and, as the snowy flake,
They melt into thy yeast of waves, which mar
Alike the armada’s pride, or spoils of Trafalgar.

Thy shores are empires, changed in all save thee-
Assyria, Greece, Rome, Carthage, what are they?
Thy waters washed them power while they were free,
And many a tyrant since: their shores obey
The stranger, slave or savage; their decay
Has dried up realms to deserts:-not so thou,
Unchangeable, save to thy wild waves’ play-
Time writes no wrinkle on thine azure brow-
Such as creation’s dawn beheld, thou rollest now.

Thou glorious mirror, where the Almighty’s form
Glasses itself in tempests; in all time
Calm or convulsed-in breeze, or gale, or storm,
Icing the pole, or in the torrid clime
Dark-heaving; boundless, endless and sublime-
The image of eternity-the throne
Of the invisible; even from out thy slime
The monsters of the deep are made; each zone
Obeys thee; thou goest forth, dread, fathomless, alone.

And I have loved thee, ocean! And my joy
Of youthful sports was on thy breast to be
Borne, like thy bubbles, onward: from a boy
I wanton’d with thy breakers-they to me
Were a delight; and if the freshening sea
Made them a terror-’twas a pleasing fear,
For I was as it were a child of thee,
And trusted to thy billows far and near,
And laid my hand upon thy mane – as I do here.

Lord Byron

Featured Poem: Old and New Year Ditties by Christina Rossetti

January 6, 2015
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If it’s not too late to say it, we’d like to wish a very Happy New Year to all of our Readers. After the fun and frivolity of the Christmas season, January can leave us feeling slightly raw and looking for things to anticipate. On the other hand, the arrival of a New Year also gives the opportunity for a fresh start and clean slate – perhaps not so many resolutions that may inevitably end up being broken but instead a chance to take a different outlook.

However you have entered 2015, we can only hope what’s ahead – ‘be it good or ill’, as Christina Rossetti realistically attests to – will be kind to you as possible, and we certainly look forward to bringing you more poetry across the months to accompany your every mood.

Old and New Year Ditties

New Year met me somewhat sad:
Old Year leaves me tired,
Stripped of favourite things I had
Baulked of much desired:
Yet farther on my road to-day
God willing, farther on my way.

New Year coming on apace
What have you to give me?
Bring you scathe, or bring you grace,
Face me with an honest face;
You shall not deceive me:
Be it good or ill, be it what you will,
It needs shall help me on my road,
My rugged way to heaven, please God.

Watch with me, men, women, and children dear,
You whom I love, for whom I hope and fear,
Watch with me this last vigil of the year.
Some hug their business, some their pleasure-scheme;
Some seize the vacant hour to sleep or dream;
Heart locked in heart some kneel and watch apart.

Watch with me blessèd spirits, who delight
All through the holy night to walk in white,
Or take your ease after the long-drawn fight.
I know not if they watch with me: I know
They count this eve of resurrection slow,
And cry, “How long?” with urgent utterance strong.

Watch with me Jesus, in my loneliness:
Though others say me nay, yet say Thou yes;
Though others pass me by, stop Thou to bless.
Yea, Thou dost stop with me this vigil night;
To-night of pain, to-morrow of delight:
I, Love, am Thine; Thou, Lord my God, art mine.

Passing away, saith the World, passing away:
Chances, beauty and youth sapped day by day:
Thy life never continueth in one stay.
Is the eye waxen dim, is the dark hair changing to grey
That hath won neither laurel nor bay?
I shall clothe myself in Spring and bud in May:
Thou, root-stricken, shalt not rebuild thy decay
On my bosom for aye.
Then I answered: Yea.

Passing away, saith my Soul, passing away:
With its burden of fear and hope, of labour and play;
Hearken what the past doth witness and say:
Rust in thy gold, a moth is in thine array,
A canker is in thy bud, thy leaf must decay.
At midnight, at cockcrow, at morning, one certain day
Lo, the Bridegroom shall come and shall not delay:
Watch thou and pray.
Then I answered: Yea.

Passing away, saith my God, passing away:
Winter passeth after the long delay:
New grapes on the vine, new figs on the tender spray,
Turtle calleth turtle in Heaven’s May.
Though I tarry wait for Me, trust Me, watch and pray:
Arise, come away, night is past and lo it is day,
My love, My sister, My spouse, thou shalt hear Me say.
Then I answered: Yea.

Christina Rossetti

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If you’re looking for more literature to soothe and shelter you this January, our first Short Course for Serious Readers of 2015 is taking place at Calderstones Mansion House on Saturday 31st January. Join us to discover some refuge through the form of a classic and eclectic selection of texts, perfect to relieve the stresses and strains of a post-festive burnout.

For more information, please see our website or contact Course Coordinator Jenny Kelly: jenniferkelly@thereader.org.uk/ 0151 729 2200.

The Reader Organisation’s Review of 2014: Part 2

December 24, 2014
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Yesterday we brought you the first part of our highlights from 2014 – from feeling Better with a Book to Shakespeare to a visit from a Royal guest…

Here’s the second part of what happened at The Reader Organisation this year:

Book Close UpResearch

Our research partners CRILS at the University of Liverpool are seeking to set the world agenda in reading, health and wellbeing and the role of literature in modelling creative thinking about human existence. Contributing to a growing evidence base, three new reports were published this year by CRILS with partners including the Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen NHS Hospital Trust which demonstrate the impacts of shared reading to participants in groups in a range of settings.

Specific studies examining a literature-based intervention for people living with chronic pain and development of research into how shared reading improves quality of life for people living with dementia brought forth a number of positive findings, and the intrinsic cultural value of The Reader Organisation’s weekly shared reading groups in providing a meaningful experience for different sectors of communities was also brought into the spotlight. All three reports can be read in detail on our website.

Courses

This year we created many more shared reading practitioners around the UK and internationally with our revolutionary Read to Lead course. We’ve worked with a range of organisations in places including Calderstones Mansion House, Sheffield, Leicester, Derry, Durham, Devon, and Flanders in Belgium – equipping hundreds of people with the skills to share reading in their workplaces and communities.

Our Ongoing Learning programme brought more Masterclasses touring around the country, and there was a brilliant programme of Short Courses for Serious Readers throughout the year discovering a wealth of great literature from varying topics and eras including The Divine Comedy by Dante, a Whizz-tour through the World of Children’s Literature and learning to Feel the Fear and Read it Anyway with selections of challenging literature.

Awards

Klasse_Jane_Davis-0053-bewerkt 72 dpiWe were delighted to have our impact recognised on a local and national scale by being shortlisted for the Culture Champion award in the Powerful Together Awards for Social Enterprises across Merseyside and the Resilence category at the RBS SE100 Awards – both amazing achievements.

Our Founder and Director Jane Davis was nominated for the EY Entrepreneur of the Year in the Northern heats and shortlisted for Social Enterprise UK’s Women’s Champion Award.

Other highlights

There were plenty of other wonderful things we took part in this year, including a global celebration of reading aloud on World Read Aloud Day, bringing shared reading to the bill at Latitude Festival, combining poetry with the great outdoors on World Mental Health Day and delivering taster sessions at the Literary Kitchen Festival in South London.

This year also saw the expansion of our work into other areas of communal life, namely the opening of The Reader Cafe and The Reader Gallery at Calderstones Mansion House, which have been bustling with people enjoying local exhibitions and a scrumptious selection of food and drink alongside a poem.

G31A7233In September, we signed a lease with Liverpool City Council for Calderstones Mansion House giving us residency for 125 years, allowing us to begin the next stages of development for the International Centre for Reading – and we also relocated our Head Office to the beautiful surroundings of Calderstones too.

Shared reading

Great literature remains at the heart of what we do and this year we expanded the core of our work, bringing shared reading and its benefits to even more people across the country. We began new projects for people with dementia/memory loss and their carers in Wiltshire and Gloucestershire, enabled more volunteers to join us to share reading in London, North Wales, South West and Leicestershire, began a pioneering project with service users, staff and volunteers at Phoenix Futures and employed our first Reader-in-Residence in Sheffield.

Without doubt the best of our highlights come from our Readers who shared their remarkable stories with us, including Shad, D and A.

“Like a person who is discovering his senses I am becoming aware of the wonders of existence that I once took for granted,  but that was cruelly snatched from me by adverse circumstances… I am once again discovering the joy of settling down to a good read.”

Our thanks go out to everyone who has supported us throughout the year – our work could not continue without the valued input of so many people. We hope to keep reading with you for years to come!

You can read more about our work in our Annual Report 2013/14, available on our website.

We’ll be back in the New Year, and until then wish you all a very happy and peaceful festive season.

 

The Reader Organisation’s Review of 2014: Part 1

December 23, 2014
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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.

Events

TR100_410x273At 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.

_MG_9867Calderstones 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.

Publications

On Active Service cover2014 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.

Dutchess of wales joins shared reading Group

Credit: Jenny Steer

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.

 

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