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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

Issue 55 of The Reader is now available to purchase

November 8, 2014
The READER 55 Cover

It’s the perfect time to curl up with this brand new issue of The Reader as those cold, dark evenings draw in. In issue 55 which is packed with literary goodness, our editor Phil Davis talks to actress Maxine Peake about risk taking and writing and you will find a fascinating essay from the wonderful Howard Jacobson on Jane Austen. We hope you will also enjoy the excellent selection of new and old literature in this issue including new fiction from llana Baram and a particularly fine collection of poetry from Anna Woodford, Tony Cosier, David Constantine and Paul Connolly.

Please note we are currently having some technical issues with our website, so to order your copy, or subscribe to The Reader please email

We will inform you on here when the website is fixed.

Have a lovely weekend all.

A big move for TRO in the South West

November 6, 2014
SW office 1

TRO’s South West team have arrived in their new office

The Reader Organisation’s South West team has been operating since 2011 – in the space of just over three years they have recruited and bid farewell to colleagues, expanding the reach of shared reading across the region from Cornwall all the way across to Gloucestershire.

And we can announce some exciting news – having spent these years without a central office and working remotely, the South West team now have their very own premises, based in Plymouth Central Library in Devon. Moving is something we’ve been used to lately, as just over a month ago we relocated our Liverpool HQ from West Everton to the Coach House at Calderstones Mansion.

Jennifer McDerra, The Reader Organisation’s South West Development Manager, fills us in on the big move:

‘In ceiling, floor and windows, we are given to where we have been…’

The South West team have all been working from home since shared reading began here, as well as in various lobbies and cafes, so we’re really looking forward to sharing ideas, tea, and anecdotes in a room of our own – and welcoming our volunteers and visitors.

There are poems, ideas, and maps on the walls already, and we’ve had and won a fight with a crumbling thirty year old phone system. Thanks to the supreme talents of TRO’s IT and Facilities Manager Craig Bentley, we are now on broadband faster than everyone else in Plymouth!

It was lovely selecting resources with the People and Support team at TRO HQ in September to create that irreplaceable back-to-school feeling – trundling down from Liverpool to Plymouth by train with a suitcase containing the entire contents of the new office felt like something of a pilgrimage.

SW office 2

Making the office feel Readerly…

It’s great timing, as we will soon be welcoming a new member of staff, Sarah Dangar, who will be the Team Leader responsible for operational management of the South West. Sarah and I will work be working full-time from the office, joined by the South West team members from Cornwall, Devon, Plymouth, Wiltshire and Gloucestershire in-between delivering their shared reading groups.

The process I’ve witnessed on the occasions when I’ve visited Liverpool during the office move from WECC to Calderstones Mansion and Coach House, and the one we’ve undertaken in securing premises in the South West has brought to mind many pieces of literature about place and belonging, but mostly the recurring sense of how we imbue places with meaning, the importance of walls and floors and windows reminded me of Brendan Kennelly’s We Are Living:

What is this room

But the moments we have lived in it?

When all due has been paid

To gods of wood and stone

And recognition has been made

Of those who’ll breathe here when we are gone

Does it not take its worth from us

Who made it because we were here?

As a team, we’re looking forward to welcoming our colleagues from the rest of the country to our new home, and continuing to create strong shared reading connections throughout the South West which link up to the work going on across the UK. Thanks to the staff at Plymouth Central Library for their considerable efforts in preparing the space for us and making us welcome.

For more information on our shared reading projects in South West England, see our website:

You can also get updates from the team in their lovely new office – and from all around the South West –  by following @TheReaderSW on Twitter.

The Reader Organisation’s Annual Report 2013/14

November 5, 2014

peckhamFollowing a successful 2014 AGM last week – our second held at our new HQ, Calderstones Mansion HouseThe Reader Organisation’s Annual Report for 2013/14 is now available on our website to read and download.

Our latest Annual Report charts what has been the biggest period of growth and development for TRO, with more shared reading projects expanding across the UK. Highlights of the year include a significant boost to our community projects in South London thanks to the development of a 3 year project to establish more than 100 shared reading groups across the area which meet the needs of the ‘whole person’ – a health priority flagged up at our National Conference 2013 by Andy Burnham MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Health; an expansion of our North Wales project, which is crucially volunteer-led to help us reach some of the most remote parts of the UK; a Reader-in-Residence project which saw shared reading brought to the heart of a workplace across Merseyside, and ongoing work with our partners including Mersey Care, Liverpool Hope University and CRILS (Centre for Research into Reading, Literature and Society).

The report charts our work across a number of areas, including Health and Wellbeing, Dementia, Criminal Justice and Children and Young People, and also showcases the impact of shared reading in its most vital and human sense, as told through the words of some of our Readers from a variety of settings and places:

“I’ve experienced so many emotions; failure, success, fear, laughter, tension and escapism. Most of all, how enjoyable and magical reading can be.” – D, a shared Reader

“I… have learnt more of what it is to be a human being, the role of emotions in myself and others, in fact
the whole range of human experience… than I have in half a dozen psychological “treatments” ” – group member in Criminal Justice setting

“New friendships have been formed, new horizons opened up and confidence has been boosted. The reading
revolution has started in Buckley Library!” – North Wales Project volunteer

In a year which has also seen us consolidate our work in a practical sense with support from Big Venture Challenge and Social Business Trust, it is a heartening achievement that the serious pleasure of serious reading is continuing to spread further from its strengthened roots.

The Reader Organisation’s Annual report 2013/14 can be downloaded or read on our website:



Featured Poem: Strange Meeting by Wilfred Owen

November 3, 2014

The month of Remembrance is here, with poppies of paper and metal being displayed upon many a-person. It is perhaps a bittersweet memorial that the worldwide occasion of remembering the fallen coincides closely with the anniversary of the death of one of the most famed War Poets, Wilfred Owen. Owen died in battle at the age of 25 on November 4th 1918, just a week before the armistice to WWI was called.

One of his most well-known poems, it serves as an even more poignant read in light of the way in which he died – those last few lines especially haunting.

Strange Meeting

It seemed that out of the battle I escaped
Down some profound dull tunnel, long since scooped
Through granites which Titanic wars had groined.
Yet also there encumbered sleepers groaned,
Too fast in thought or death to be bestirred.
Then, as I probed them, one sprang up, and stared
With piteous recognition in fixed eyes,
Lifting distressful hands as if to bless.
And by his smile, I knew that sullen hall;
By his dead smile I knew we stood in Hell.
With a thousand fears that vision’s face was grained;
Yet no blood reached there from the upper ground,
And no guns thumped, or down the flues made moan.
‘Strange, friend,’ I said, ‘Here is no cause to mourn.’
‘None,’ said the other, ‘Save the undone years,
The hopelessness. Whatever hope is yours,
Was my life also; I went hunting wild
After the wildest beauty in the world,
Which lies not calm in eyes, or braided hair,
But mocks the steady running of the hour,
And if it grieves, grieves richlier than here.
For by my glee might many men have laughed,
And of my weeping something has been left,
Which must die now. I mean the truth untold,
The pity of war, the pity war distilled.
Now men will go content with what we spoiled.
Or, discontent, boil bloody, and be spilled.
They will be swift with swiftness of the tigress,
None will break ranks, though nations trek from progress.
Courage was mine, and I had mystery;
Wisdom was mine, and I had mastery;
To miss the march of this retreating world
Into vain citadels that are not walled.
Then, when much blood had clogged their chariot-wheels
I would go up and wash them from sweet wells,
Even with truths that lie too deep for taint.
I would have poured my spirit without stint
But not through wounds; not on the cess of war.
Foreheads of men have bled where no wounds were.
I am the enemy you killed, my friend.
I knew you in this dark; for so you frowned
Yesterday through me as you jabbed and killed.
I parried; but my hands were loath and cold.
Let us sleep now…

Wilfred Owen

Volunteering with The Reader Organisation in Devon

October 30, 2014

reading 1The Reader Organisation’s volunteering presence is about to grow in South West England, as we look for more people to help us continue to develop our shared reading projects in the area.

We’ve already got valued volunteers on board with us in Wiltshire reading with people living with dementia, and now we’re recruiting for volunteer group facilitators for our community shared reading project in Devon.

Applicants will join us to run Feel Better with a Book groups at libraries in Exeter, Tiverton and Cullompton. Funded by Devon County Council and run by The Reader Organisation, Feel Better with a Book groups provide a stimulating environment where people can meet weekly to connect with each other through the shared reading of great literature. This opportunity will give you the chance to become part of The Reader Organisation in the South West, receiving fully funded training, as well as engage with literature on a fresh and emotionally stimulating perspective.

For a short amount of time – one and a half hours per week – you will be acting as an assistant group facilitator in a weekly Feel Better with a Book group before training to independently facilitate the same group. We ask for a minimum of a one year commitment, but the opportunity is ongoing and can last for as long as you and your group want it to.

This position will also benefit from a free place on The Reader Organisation’s revolutionary Read to Lead training, a three-day course in shared reading which will qualify you as a shared reading practitioner able to facilitate in community settings. The three day training will take place at The Hayridge Centre, Cullompton, Devon from Tuesday 25th – Thursday 27th November.

One of current volunteers in Devon explains what volunteering with The Reader Organisation means to her:

“I saw the opportunity to be a ‘Read to Lead’  volunteer as a way of combining what I most enjoy; being in conversation with people of all ages and reading wonderful literature together.  I am learning new ways of appreciating others’ thoughts and responses to what has been read, as well as becoming better at listening and staying focused in general.   The group is fun, engaging and relaxed at the same time. I have been reading a lot more on my own steam too – as a result of feeling inspired to do so.  This is volunteering at its best for me!”

If you have excellent literacy and comprehension, are good at reading aloud or willing to learn to improve your skills, have the ability to manage group dynamics and a desire to relate to people in an open and human way, you could become a Volunteer Assistant Group Facilitator with us in Devon.

For more information on volunteering with us in Devon, please contact Emily Lezzeri: or call 07450 167788, and see our website:

Full details of our open Feel Better with a Book groups running across Devon and the South West can be found on our website:

Allerton Oak shortlisted for England’s Tree of the Year

October 29, 2014

AllertonOakAs the leaves are cascading, it’s a time to take notice of the trees lining the streets and scenery around us – and there’s exciting news as one of Liverpool’s most famed trees has been shortlisted to become England’s Tree of the Year.

The Allerton Oak – Calderstones Park’s star attraction – has made the list of ten shortlisted trees, whittled down from over 200 nominations.  The first England’s Tree of the Year award has been organised by The Woodland Trust to recognise the cultural and ecological value of England’s countryside, as well as to discover which is the most unique and well-loved of the country’s trees.

The list contains trees steeped in all kinds of history and heritage, including one where the Magna Carta was thought to have been signed and the inspiration for Newton’s discovery on his theory of gravity. The Allerton Oak itself has many stories to tell, with its fables famous across the city. It is believed to have stood in Calderstones Park for over a thousand years, though in fact it is probably nearer to being 800 years old, and was the meeting place of The Hundred Court of Liverpool, in the absence of a court being available.

The Allerton Oak has also weathered destruction – some of its branches are missing and propped due to damage caused by the explosion of a gunpowder ship called the Lottie Sleigh in the River Mersey, which split the tree in half – and was also incorporated into keeping the spirit up during WWII, when leaves from the tree were pressed and included in Christmas cards sent to members of the park’s staff who were serving in the forces.

The title of England’s Tree of the Year will be decided by an online public vote, closing on Tuesday 4th November. The winner will go on to represent the country in the 2015 European Tree of the Year contest.

Head to The Woodland Trust’s website to vote for The Allerton Oak:

And to inspire you further, here’s an ode to trees of all shapes and sizes:


I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the sweet earth’s flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

Joyce Kilmer


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