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National Poetry Day 2014: Which poems do you remember?

October 2, 2014

Today is National Poetry Day 2014, and perhaps fittingly for the centenary year of the First World War, this year’s theme is ‘Remember’.

Certainly at The Reader Organisation there are many poems we’ve read over the years – and from week to week in our shared reading groups – that remain particularly memorable. Everyone can recall the opening to I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud by William Wordsworth, or perhaps Leisure by William Henry Davies (‘What is this life if, full of care,/we have no time to stand and stare’). On this National Poetry Day, Cambridge University is launching The Poetry and Memory Project, which is investigating experiences of poetry learning and how poetry not only interacts with memory but can contribute to the ways in which we think about and perceive the world. You can find out more about the three year long project here:

At The Reader Organisation we can testify to the importance of poetry for stimulating memory and helping us to think about ourselves and the world around us in new and sometimes challenging ways. From schoolchildren learning classic poems for the first time to people with dementia listening and interacting with verses from their childhood, poetry has something to unlock in everyone.

As part of the celebration of this day, people from all over the UK (and beyond) are being asked to ‘think of a poem’. Which poem is most memorable to you, and for which reasons? It could be something cherished for years, or otherwise something you came across just recently. You can share them on Twitter via the hashtag #thinkofapoem

And here’s a poem that sticks in the memory for us at TRO – and it’s short enough that you may even be able to remember it by heart:

Below the surface-stream, shallow and light

Below the surface stream, shallow and light,
Of what we say and feel — below the stream,
As light, of what we think we feel, there flows
With noiseless current, strong, obscure and deep,
The central stream of what we feel indeed.

Matthew Arnold

The Penny Readings 2014

September 29, 2014

The Reader Organisation’s most popular annual event is returning for its eleventh year and is already highly anticipated – and today we can announce the dates for when you’ll be able to get your hands on tickets to the Penny Readings 2014, which returns to St George’s Hall in Liverpool on Sunday 21st December.

Tickets will be released to the general public in the week commencing Monday 17th November. This year, tickets will be allocated on a first come, first served basis, available both online, at Calderstones Mansion House and further distribution points to be announced at a later date.

Members of our shared reading groups will be able to apply for priority tickets two weeks before general release, on Monday 3rd November, and can apply through their group facilitators.

As ever, you’ll be able to apply for tickets to the family-friendly Ha’penny Readings in the afternoon as well as the evening event.

The Penny Readings have become a staple of the festive season in Liverpool, so make sure you pop the dates in your diary! Stay tuned for more information on what promises to be another spectacular show of reading, music and entertainment coming soon…

Penny Readings fest 1 online



Featured Poem: The Autumn by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

September 29, 2014

Last Tuesday was the first day of Autumn – you may already notice a flurry of leaves falling from the trees, as well as conkers (can you tell we’re looking forward to the North West Conker Championship this weekend at Calderstones Mansion House?).

To celebrate the start of the new season, here’s an autumnal verse from Elizabeth Barrett Browning for this week’s Featured Poem.

The Autumn

Go, sit upon the lofty hill,
And turn your eyes around,
Where waving woods and waters wild
Do hymn an autumn sound.
The summer sun is faint on them –
The summer flowers depart –
Sit still — as all transform’d to stone,
Except your musing heart.

How there you sat in summer-time,
May yet be in your mind;
And how you heard the green woods sing
Beneath the freshening wind.
Though the same wind now blows around,
You would its blast recall;
For every breath that stirs the trees,
Doth cause a leaf to fall.

Oh! like that wind, is all the mirth
That flesh and dust impart:
We cannot bear its visitings,
When change is on the heart.
Gay words and jests may make us smile,
When Sorrow is asleep;
But other things must make us smile,
When Sorrow bids us weep!

The dearest hands that clasp our hands, –
Their presence may be o’er;
The dearest voice that meets our ear,
That tone may come no more!
Youth fades; and then, the joys of youth,
Which once refresh’d our mind,
Shall come — as, on those sighing woods,
The chilling autumn wind.

Hear not the wind — view not the woods;
Look out o’er vale and hill-
In spring, the sky encircled them –
The sky is round them still.
Come autumn’s scathe — come winter’s cold –
Come change — and human fate!
Whatever prospect Heaven doth bound,
Can ne’er be desolate.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

The Reader Organisation signs lease for Calderstones Mansion

September 25, 2014

Calderstones_Mansion_House_409x273Very exciting news – The Reader Organisation is proud to announce that we have signed a lease with Liverpool City Council for Calderstones Mansion House giving us residency for 125 years.

We have been working within the Mansion House for 18 months since securing preferred bidder status from Liverpool City Council in January 2013. Since then, we’ve been welcoming thousands of visitors of all ages to enjoy shared reading groups, heritage tours and special events all aimed at creating a model reading community, the first of its kind in the UK – somewhere for people to read, learn, play, make new friends, find new opportunities and feel at home.

Other significant steps in the regeneration of the Mansion House have included opening a thriving social enterprise cafe, reopening the Gallery space to host passionate local artists and utilising the beautiful ‘secret garden’ of the Mansion House for theatre productions by Shakespeare’s Globe and other companies, as well as for our first Children’s Literature Festival. You can keep updated with all the current activity at Calderstones on our website:

The signing of the lease means that we are able to start the next exciting stages of redevelopment, which will include working with members of the community to raise funds for vital mansion refurbishment, as well as working together to make sure local voices who feel a connection with the building are heard in the process. The project will need to acquire funding of £4 Million and has already secured a first stage Heritage Lottery Fund grant alongside a Social Investment Business feasibility grant.

We have been incredibly lucky to have the support of the community as well as Liverpool City Council in the first stage of this journey:

“This is a major step forward for the Reader Organisation’s plans for the Mansion House. It will enable them to press on with their exciting proposals to develop the building. We wanted the Mansion House to be taken over by an organisation that would bring it back into use in very positive manner and would  protect its future. The work that the Reader Organisation are doing alongside us and the local community will ensure that happens. We are confident that by granting them this lease it will help the Reader Organisation go forward and make their proposals a reality to the enormous benefit of the city.” – Councillor Malcolm Kennedy, Liverpool city council cabinet member for regeneration

We are thrilled to have reached this stage and continue to develop the prospects for the Mansion House, Stables and surrounding buildings. Current future plans include the possibility of a bistro, accommodation for literary residencies, and the restoration of the much loved garden theatre. The Mansion House will continue to be open to the public whilst it undergoes future changes, not only with its shared reading groups but with rentable offices, catered events spaces and regular seasonal events.

‘This is a key milestone in the development of The Reader at Calderstones.  We are very pleased that Liverpool City Council have confidence in our vision for the Mansion House and have backed it with a 125 year lease.  Whilst the building will undergo a significant refurbishment over the coming years – we are very much open for business – you can attend shared reading groups, visit the café and gallery, rent event and office spaces – please come and visit the house!’ Dr Jane Davis, Founder and Director, The Reader Organisation

We’re just about to move our Head Office to Calderstones, so all systems are go for a bright future to begin for Readers across Liverpool and the rest of the country.

You can stay up-to-date with everything that’s happening at the Mansion House by visiting our website, and following @CaldiesMansion on Twitter. You can also pop in, pick up a What’s On Guide and enjoy some shared reading!

Working with Phoenix Futures

September 24, 2014

england_logoThis month, The Reader Organisation is getting an exciting new partnership underway – unlike any other we have embarked on before.

We’ve been commissioned by Phoenix Futures, a leading provider of services for people with drug and alcohol problems across the UK, to set up a shared reading project which will improve the health, wellbeing and emotional experience of those involved. Following the successful delivery of a group at Phoenix Futures in Wirral since 2005, this project will be rolling out the benefits of shared reading nationwide. Over twelve months we will pilot the development of a culture of shared reading across the organisation’s work with service users, staff and volunteers, based on a jointly held value that every person who is dependent on drugs and alcohol has the ability and the potential to rebuild their life.

“I feel the reading group has had a massive positive effect in the process of my recovery. I look forward to every Tuesday as it gives me an hour to sit back and relax in a good short story and takes my mind off problems I may have going on at that time.”

We have recruited a Reader-in-Residence especially for the project – Tom Young, Phoenix Futures Project Manager for The Reader Organisation, gives us a little more information:

“The groups will be open to service users, their families and Phoenix Futures staff, with the aim of improving not only health and wellbeing but communication across these groups. The first two groups have been confirmed in their Trafford services – one with adults recovering from addiction and another with young people. These will both begin towards the end of September. The project will eventually expand into Phoenix’s services in other regions, including Lancashire, Sheffield and Barnsley. In addition to the reading groups, we will be training staff and service users in our core literary learning programmes (Read to Lead; A Little, Aloud; and Stories for You and Yours). A second strand of training will be the Workplace Wellbeing workshops – a series of bespoke sessions with Phoenix Futures staff, each addressing a particular area of need. The commission differs somewhat from many of our previous projects in its emphasis on achieving organisational change, in addition to the work with service users. I have been working on the project since the beginning of August.”

Our various shared reading projects in the sphere of health and wellbeing have proved to have deeply profound personal, social and educational impacts upon those who take part. Of particular importance is the relaxed, informal atmosphere that is created at every session – which can offer a respite and take people away from the problems they may be experiencing elsewhere in life – and the fact that reading aloud doesn’t excude anybody, no matter what their abilities. Not only does our shared reading activity promote recovery, it also builds supportive communities and improves quality of life.

We have worked with people in detox and recovery in a wide range of healthcare settings, as well as through Phoenix Futures in Wirral, with powerful and transformative results:

“I needed something, somewhere I felt comfortable to escape to, to start meeting people, away from home and other distractions and this fell into my lap just when I needed it. [The group] has not only re-kindled my love of reading but it has provided me with a forum for my thoughts which until this, I internalised. It has connected me with people as I had distanced myself from everyone through drinking and the anxiety following stopping. The books, stories and poetry, whilst not necessarily dealing with my own problems directly, raise issues similar to my own which I have found myself addressing vicariously, assisted by the thoughts, suggestions and ideas of other group members. It has brought structure to my life, something that disappeared because job loss and drinking. Discussions, raised on points from the story or poem, often range far from the subject matter but are just as important for me as they encourage me to think and interact on all levels. Without the reading group, I don’t feel that my recovery would have been possible. Listening to someone tell a story, read a play or recite a poem holds my attention for far longer than anything else can, giving me food for good thoughts and distracting my attention away from my issues and addiction triggers.” – shared reading group member and facilitator

“The reading group at Phoenix House has changed my ideas about what reading is. I’ve noticed that this is the case with many of the community, here; it’s got people interested in literature, especially now that we have a library. People are not embarrassed to say ‘I’ve read a poem’. The reading group is the most participatory of all the groups that provide our ‘structure’. In many of these we feel a bit talked at, but in the reading group we are invited to discuss, to express opinions, and there are no boundaries. People can be involved in whatever way they are comfortable.” – shared reading group member, Phoenix House Bidston

Having built the foundations, we’re very much looking forward to getting shared reading up and running and woven into the fabric of Phoenix Futures.

Opportunity: Volunteer Reception Assistant

September 23, 2014

As we move our Head Office to Calderstones Mansion House, The Reader Organisation is seeking a Volunteer Reception Assistant to join us as part our Calderstones team.

Calderstones Mansion House is a home from home for all of its visitors, and so this role is crucial in creating a instantly welcoming, friendly atmosphere that is representative of The Reader Organisation. As Volunteer Reception Assistant, you will be the first port of call for any visitors to Calderstones Mansion House. We will rely on you to create a good impression so above anything else you’ll need to have a good rapport with many different types of people helping them to feel looked after and at ease.

Key Responsibilities include:

  • Answering the telephone, taking and relaying messages
  • Greeting visitors in a welcoming and friendly manner, offering them refreshments, and directing them to the right location
  • Monitoring those entering and exiting the building
  • Keeping the reception area tidy
  • Providing information about TRO, Calderstones, and activities going on in and around the building
  • Providing assistance at TRO events
  • Providing general clerical and administrative support as required

What you will get out of it:

  • Internal and external training
  • Opportunities to meet and work with new people
  • The opportunity to use existing skills and gain new ones
  • Attendance at regular Get Into Reading groups and volunteer events

A full role description can be downloaded on our website.

We’re looking for someone who is happy to make a commitment for half a day each week (for a minimum of 3 hours per week). This role will be ongoing, with a minimum of 3 months commitment.

Induction and training sessions will be provided for this role, and must be completed before starting the placement.

This role is unpaid, but travel expenses will be provided as per TRO’s Expenses Policy.

For more information about or to express interest in this role, please email, or phone our Head Office at 0151 207 7207.

You can also find out more about the role on our website:

Featured Poem: Indian Summer by Emily Dickinson

September 22, 2014

It’s meant to be one of the warmest Septembers on record, so for this week’s Featured Poem we’re celebrating the prolonged burst of summer with this choice from Emily Dickinson. Whatever the weather, this poem should bring a burst of sunshine into your Monday.

If you’re looking for more selections to meet your poetry fix throughout the week, delve into our Featured Poem archive.

Indian Summer

These are the days when birds come back,
A very few, a bird or two,
To take a backward look.

These are the days when skies put on
The old, old sophistries of June, –
A blue and gold mistake.

Oh, fraud that cannot cheat the bee,
Almost thy plausibility
Induces my belief,

Till ranks of seeds their witness bear,
And softly through the altered air
Hurries a timid leaf!

Oh, sacrament of summer days,
Oh, last communion in the haze,
Permit a child to join,

Thy sacred emblems to partake,
Thy consecrated bread to break,
Taste thine immortal wine!

Emily Dickinson


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