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Ramsey Campbell at Calderstones Mansion House

April 10, 2014

Ramsey CampbellRamsey Campbell
Monday 14th April, 11.30am-12.30pm
Calderstones Mansion House, Calderstones Park, Liverpool L18 3JB

As part of Liverpool Learning Partnership’s City of Readers project, hear award-winning author Ramsey Campbell read from his work at this FREE event this Easter holiday at Calderstones Mansion House.

The Reader Organisation is working in partnership with City of Readers to raise the profile of reading across Liverpool, getting everyone to Give Us 5 for Reading. Alongside Frank Cottrell Boyce, Ramsey is another author who has pledged his support for the campaign by taking part in this special event.

Described as “Britain’s most respected living horror writer” by The Oxford Companion to English Literature, Ramsey is a horror fiction author, editor and critic. He has been writing for well over fifty years, with two of his novels being transported to the screen for non-English-speaking markets. One of the most celebrated horror writers of his generation, he has received more awards for his writing than any other author in the horror genre. It’s an unmissable opportunity to hear one of the country’s most prolific and experienced writers talk about his work.

For more information and to book your free place, please contact Emma Melling: or call 07812 238505.

There’ll be lots more happening for City of Readers over the coming months, so join in the fun as the whole city embarks on a reading adventure. Keep up to date with all that’s happening with City of Readers and find out how you can Give Us 5 by visiting or following City of Readers on Twitter: @LivCityReaders

Described as “Britain’s most respected living horror writer” by The Oxford Companion to English Literature, Ramsey is a horror fiction author, editor and critic. He has been writing for well over fifty years. Two of his novels have been filmed (for non-English-speaking markets). One of the most celebrated horror writers of his generation, he has received more awards for his writing than any other author in the horror genre. – See more at:

‘A ripple of triumph’: feeling Better with a Book in secure settings

April 9, 2014
Lord Howarth

Lord Alan Howarth will be speaking at Better with a Book, TRO’s fifth National Conference

Better with a Book, The Reader Organisation’s fifth annual National Conference, is coming to The British Library Conference Centre in London on Thursday 15th May, with booking now open. Join us and special guests including Lord Melvyn Bragg, Baroness Estelle Morris and Dr Alice Sullivan to explore how shared reading and literature can be utilised to improve mental health, stimulate emotional wellbeing and enhance quality of life.

Amongst the speakers at Better with a Book is Lord Alan Howarth, Co-Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Arts, Health and Wellbeing and previous Minister for Schools and Higher Education (1989-1992) and Minister for the Arts (1998-2001). Lord Howarth previously spoke about The Reader Organisation and his experience attending shared reading groups at last year’s Culture, Health and Wellbeing Conference, in a speech about the creative power of the arts to make an impact on the health of individuals and communities.

After visiting one of our regular groups at Wormwood Scrubs, Lord Howarth corresponded with the group’s leader and practitioner Megg Hewlett, Reader-in-Residence at West London Mental Health Trust, to comment on the positive effects he found that shared reading had in the highly secure environment:

“I’m in no doubt that this particular experience of reading helps the participants to think anew about moral, personal and social issues through focusing calmly and attentively on the texts and relating to other people engaged collaboratively in the same activity.” – Lord Alan Howarth to Megg Hewlett, After the Visit, The Reader 53

A series of the correspondence between Lord Howarth and Megg appears in Issue 53 of The Reader magazine, alongside an interview with columnist and former prisoner Erwin James. In light of the recent news restricting the access that prisoners have to books, the piece indicates how shared reading of quality literature can offer bonding, a greater sense of self-awareness and a better understanding of a world outside of the self to prisoners and those residing in secure environments, factors which help to contribute to reducing reoffending. Lord Howarth will be chairing a discussion between Megg and Nick Benefield, previously Joint Head of the NHS and NOMS Offender Personality Disorder Implementation Programme, about the effects of shared reading as a therapeutic intervention in secure environments as part of Better with a Book.

In their correspondence featuring in The Reader 53, Megg explains the challenges of reading within a secure environment to Lord Howarth, which include engaging often reluctant readers amongst other factors. Yet once they discover that reading can be enjoyable and uplifting, other significant benefits follow:

“For many I read with a book is as terrifying as climbing a vertical rockface with little equipment and no training. When they first come into the room the terror is often palpable – a being in its own right – and my job is to attend to that part of the person, settle it down, and help them find some joy in something that has only previously given pain or been of no interest. You’re looking for small indications but they mark big events. The most common comment I have in that group is ‘I didn’t think I’d like this but it’s not bad’. When I hear this I feel a tiny ripple of triumph.”

Hear Megg speak to Lord Howarth firsthand about the experiences of sharing reading in secure environments, and learn more about how shared reading works practically in Psychologically Informed Planned Environments (PIPEs) at Better with a Book.

Full day delegate places (including VAT, lunch and refreshments) cost £140. Booking is available online via Eventbrite or via cheque or invoice – full information on how to book using these payment methods is available on the Conference page of our website. For queries or more information, please contact Abigail on or call 0151 207 7221.

For all the latest news on the Conference, follow the #betterwithabook hashtag on Twitter

Job Opportunities at The Reader Organisation

April 8, 2014

The Reader Organisation can announce three new job opportunities in Liverpool, for a Human Resources Coordinator, Buildings Manager and Cleaner.

Human Resources Coordinator

  • Salary: £17-19,000 per annum
  • Hours: 35 hours per week
  • Duration: 1 year fixed term in the first-instance
  • Based: Calderstones Mansion House, Liverpool

We are looking for an experienced HR professional for this new role, which focuses on implementing the organisation’s HR policies and procedures and ensure that these procedures are fit for purpose and meet with the organisation’s values. If you are flexible, able to be bold yet kind and can look for innovative solutions to traditional problems, this role could be for you.

Deadline for application to this role: 10am, Tuesday 15th April

We will endeavour to contact successful applicants for interview by 17th April 2014. Volume of applications may make replies to everyone impossible.

Interviews: Tuesday 22nd April 2014 in Liverpool.

Role begins: As soon as possible thereafter

Buildings Manager

  • Salary: £19-22,000 per annum
  • Hours: 35 hours per week
  • Duration: Permanent Contract
  • Based: Calderstones Mansion House, Liverpool

This is an exciting opportunity for an organised individual with a proven track record to manage a complex site in mixed use at Calderstones Mansion House. You will be responsible for managing the Mansion House, Coach House, Stable, Barn and outhouses, which have a range of uses, including reading activities, public events, office space and gallery exhibition. The sense of place within the site is key; from the moment people walk through our door, they must feel welcome, relaxed and connected to the ethos and values of The Reader Organisation.

Deadline for application to this role: Friday 18th April

Volume of applications may make replies to everyone impossible.

Interviews: Monday 28th April 2014

Role begins: As soon as possible thereafter


  • Salary: £7.65 per hour
  • Hours: 14 hours per week
  • Duration: Permanent Contract
  • Based: Calderstones Mansion House, Liverpool

This is a new opportunity for a flexible, committed individual with a proven track record to maintain high levels of cleanliness within our complex site in mixed use at Calderstones Mansion House. As the onsite cleaner, you will be responsible for ensuring that the communal and public areas of the site are hygienic, attractive and safe. These areas include a kitchen, toilets and entrance foyer.

Deadline for application to this role: Friday 18th April

Volume of applications may make replies to everyone impossible.

Interviews: 28th April 2014 at Calderstones Mansion House, Liverpool

Role begins: As soon as possible thereafter

How to apply

Please do not just send in a CV. We will only consider applications that adhere to the following process:-

Visit our website and click to Job Opportunities under ‘Working With Us’ where you will be able to view the full job description for all of the above roles and download an application form. For all roles, please complete the application form and submit a covering letter, explaining how you meet the requirements, to

We would encourage you to complete a covering letter. Your covering letter is an opportunity for you to include any additional information which could not be explained within the application form.

Featured Poem: Adlestrop

April 7, 2014
Although we’re back to grey skies and rain again today, this week’s poem is a reminder that we’re getting closer and closer to those sunny summer months when the English countryside is at its glorious best and time seems to stand still.



Yes. I remember Adlestrop –

The name, because one afternoon

Of heat the express-train drew up there

Unwontedly. It was late June.

The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat.

No one left and no one came

On the bare platform. What I saw

Was Adlestrop – only the name

And willows, willow-herb, and grass,

And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry,

No whit less still and lonely fair

Than in the high cloudlets in the sky,

And for that minute a blackbird sang

Close by, and round him, mistier,

Farther and father, all the birds

Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.


Edward Thomas

What Do You Think?

April 4, 2014
Short Course for Serious Readers:
What Do You Think?
Mondays 10.30-12.30,
6 sessions running between 14th April and 9th June
The Lauries Centre, Birkenhead, CH41 6EY


£45 for 6 sessions, £25 for concessions


Illustration by Clifford Harper/ from


As part of our Short Course programme this Spring we invite you to consider ‘What Do You Think?’ with Brian Nellist – godfather of the Reader Organisation and inspiration to Merseyside readers for many years.

After watching a play on the box my uncle Arthur used to grumble “They never finish anything properly nowadays”.

It made me realise that modern stories rarely offer closure and often leave endings open to the reader. Such stories are told to prompt reflection rather than to offer settled conclusions, and so they begin to make us question how we respond to reality. When we are then confronted by actual people, situations and events we often have varied and contradictory responses. It’s arguably Chekhov who began to write these novels which led the reader up the garden path and then left them perplexed by the end.

– Brian Nellist

Brian will be exploring this notion of unsettled endings whilst reading stories by Chekhov himself, James Joyce, Katherine Mansfield, Lawrence, Doris Lessing and William Trevor. The course will run at the Lauries Centre in Birkenhead on Monday mornings at 10.30-12.30.

With Easter running late and other bank holidays during this period the sessions will be running on the following dates – April 14th and 28th, May 12th and 19th and June 2nd and 9th.

All copies of the texts as well as refreshments and good company will be provided.


Short Courses for Serious Readers are for anyone who loves shared reading and getting a grip on great literature with like-minded company. Led by some brilliant readers, thinkers and teachers, these courses enable you to take a break from life for a while to immerse yourself in great literature. Brian’s courses on a Monday morning will allow you to regularly join together with a group, reading and feeling good in turn.


Places on the course cost £45 for the 6 sessions; £25 concessions.

For more information on What Do You Think? visit our website. You can book your place by contacting Literary Learning Coordinator Jenny Kelly on or by calling 0151 207 7207.


‘Sigh no more’… Globe on Tour is returning to Calderstones Mansion House!

April 3, 2014

‘Wow! Now THAT is life!’… These were the words of an audience member who attended last year’s sell-out performance of King Lear by The Globe on Tour, when the garden theatre at Calderstones Mansion House was unveiled for the first time in thirty years.

After such a wonderful success, we are overjoyed at The Reader Organisation to announce that The Globe are returning to Calderstones this June, with one of Shakespeare’s finest comedies, Much Ado About Nothing, packed with memorable lines, and – I think – two of Shakespeare’s wittiest characters.

Much Ado tells the tale of two love stories, one – between Hero and Claudio – of romance, open declarations of love, and drama; the other – between Beatrice and Benedick – a battle of sharp-wit, denial and passion from the play’s two favourite comedic characters.

Played previously by stars such as Judi Dench, Emma Thompson, Kenneth Branagh and David Tennant, Beatrice and Benedict are renowned for their sharp tongue, and adorable denial of love. With these characters, Shakespeare has undoubtedly inspired many famous literary couples such as Austen’s well-known couple, Mr Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett. Like many of Shakespeare’s plays, Much Ado About Nothing comes with a host of lines and phrases, which remain present in our everyday lives… for example, the popular track Sigh no more, by Mumford and Sons, features a number of lines from Much Ado About Nothing.

Maintaining their prestigious reputation, The Globe on Tour wowed audiences last year with King Lear,

‘@The_Globe #Lear is exactly as touring Shakespeare should be. Snappy, high energy and inventive’.

With this in mind, we’re looking forward to a knock-out performance of Much Ado About Nothing and can’t wait to see what this year’s Benedick and Beatrice, played by Simon Bubb and Emma Pallant, have in store for us. And to top it all off, Calderstones Mansion House garden theatre is a truly perfect venue, as highlighted by an audience member last year, ‘The theatre garden really made it seem very personal.’

Much Ado  A3  SuperBlank

Performance Dates and Times:

Thursday 12th June, 7:30pm
Friday 13th June, 2:30pm & 7:30pm
Saturday 14th June, 2:30pm & 7:30pm

Ticket information:
Tickets are now on sale!

Price of tickets: £20

To purchase your tickets online, please visit: Shakespeare’s Globe website. There is a transaction fee of £2.50 for online bookings.

Please contact The Globe’s Box Office on 020 7401 9919 if you want to book for a Group; if you require access bookings; if you have children U18 or would like to use Theatre Tokens.
N.B. Concessions do not apply to Senior citizens for theatre performances. Discounts cannot be applied retrospectively.

Tickets will sell out, so book yours now to make sure you don’t miss out!

Shared reading group members and volunteers

The Reader Organisation has a limited number of £15 discounted tickets for shared reading group members and volunteers which can be obtained through your group leaders.

If you have any questions, please contact Abi:

Join the conversation for this upcoming tour on Twitter by using the hashtag #MuchAdo

Inside Time: The Send-Off in HMP Liverpool

April 2, 2014

Throughout the UK we are sharing reading in prisons and secure Criminal Justice settings, with the reading and discussion of great literature creating the opportunity for offenders and ex-offenders to transform their attitudes, thinking and behaviour, improve their health, wellbeing and interaction and increase levels of self-confidence and self-reflection.

Each month highlights from shared reading sessions are featured in Inside Time, the national newspaper especially for prisoners in the UK, and we’ll be publishing the articles here on The Reader Online after they’ve been featured in the paper.

The latest article comes from Amanda Brown, who is in charge of the strategic development of our Criminal Justice projects, and her ‘Read and Relax’ group at HMP Liverpool. The group are discussing The Send-Off by Wilfred Owen:

Down the close, darkening lanes they sang their way
To the siding-shed,
And lined the train with faces grimly gay.
Their breasts were stuck all white with wreath and spray
As men’s are, dead.

Dull porters watched them, and a casual tramp
Stood staring hard,
Sorry to miss them from the upland camp.
Then, unmoved, signals nodded, and a lamp
Winked to the guard.

So secretly, like wrongs hushed-up, they went.
They were not ours:
We never heard to which front these were sent.
Nor there if they yet mock what women meant
Who gave them flowers.

Shall they return to beatings of great bells
In wild trainloads?
A few, a few, too few for drums and yells,
May creep back, silent, to still village wells
Up half-known roads.

- Wilfred Owen

K, T, W, M, L, D and P discuss this with me.  All listen while I read, after which there is silence.

“Troops going to war. Very poignant.” K sighs. “Old men make wars, young men fight them.”

M, a young man, stabs at the page and looks up.

“I can see them – on the trains.  Grimly gay – gay meant happy then. They had to go.  Didn’t want to go.”

“It’s the title that hits me – The Send-Off – it’s like a funeral,” says P. “all white with wreath and spray…”

“As men’s are, dead,” adds L.  He leans forward, animated.  “Why would they be getting onto a train if a siding shed?  They’re not alive!”

Others need to consider this.  D frowns.

“That’s interesting, what you’re saying,” says K.  “I hadn’t seen that.”

There is lively debate here.  D suggests lines of the poem which seem to contradict L.  Lee remains adamant.

“That’s the beauty of poetry,” he claims.  “You see one thing, I see something else.”

When they pause, W speaks quietly.

“If I didn’t know Wilfred Owen was writing in WW1, I’d have said it’s about the Jews being sent to concentration camps.  I can see that.”

We exclaim, then, about the possibilities of the poem, unknown by the writer, provided by history.

“Owen knew nothing about WW2.  We can’t read his poetry without knowing about it.”

“Makes me think about taking my granddad, who’d been in the war, to see Saving Private Ryan. That opening sequence – he said it was just like that.”

“Secretly, like wrongs hushed-up, they went.” I repeat.  Then, all at once, everyone is speaking.

“They don’t know where they’ve going.  They’re young.  Leaving their homes, their wives and girlfriends.”

“That’s why the women gave them flowers.”

“’Don’t forget me!’ – that’s what the flowers mean.  That’s like my missus.  She sprayed my clothes with her perfume before I came here.”

“My ex-father-in-law was in the war.  He was from Scotland. He was shipped out of Liverpool and his sisters came all the way down to Liverpool to see him off.  They bought him flowers – he told me that.”

I reread the lines: Nor there if they yet mock what women meant/who gave them flowers and suggest that maybe the women’s message was ‘Look after yourself. Come back to me.’

“The wives won’t know where their men are – no-one knew,” says M.

“They don’t know where their letters are going.  They write, but then they hear nothing,” says T.

I wonder about the question in the poem: Shall they return to beatings of great bells/ In wild trainloads?

“Because they won’t be coming back,” says P.  “Most of them won’t.”

“Just a few, maybe,” adds D. “No parades.  No cheering.”

We discuss the scenes in Wootton Bassett – the silent respectful crowds.

“Creep back, silent, to still village wells,” reads L.  This is their spirits coming back!”

“I don’t see that,” says D.  “But I can understand where you get that from.”

“Reading like this – it’s like splintered glass,” says K.  “It’s spread out in so many different directions.”

“I think this poem is the easiest to understand of all the ones we’re read,” says D.

“It means something to all of us,” says K.  “We feel it.”

Discover more about shared reading in prisons and Criminal Justice settings on our website:

Nick Benefield, former NHSE PD Advisor and Joint Head of NHSE/NOMS Offender PD Team, and Lord Alan Howarth, All Party Parliamentary Group for Arts, Health and Wellbeing, will be discussing the effect of shared reading in secure mental health settings at Better with a Book, The Reader Organisation’s 2014 National Conference on Thursday 15th May at the British Library Conference Centre, London. Head to our website to discover how you can book your place:



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