Funding boost for International Centre for Reading

Mansion House

Liverpool City Council is set to inject up to £2.1 million to help deliver an International Centre for Reading at the historic Calderstones Mansion House.

The Reader – a charitable social enterprise working across the UK to connect people with great literature and each other – took over the building at Calderstones Park from the city council in 2013.

Last December, it secured £1.99 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for the project – and now the council’s Cabinet is being asked to match the funding with a grant of up to £2.1 million to make sure the scheme is delivered.

Other funding such as grants and donations from private trusts is expected to reduce the finance needed from the city council, and in the long term it will be cost neutral because The Reader will repay the money back through its long term lease on the building.

The ‘Reader at Calderstones’ project will restore and showcase the heritage of the Grade II listed Mansion House and the Neolithic monoliths known as The Calderstones, which are older than the Pyramids.

The project will create 40 jobs and 150 volunteer positions and is expected to attract up to 450,000 people within three years of completion.

Mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson, said: “This clearly demonstrates our commitment to working with our partners to come up with creative new uses for our important historic buildings.

“We are absolutely determined to make sure that where at all possible they are retained and improved and can be enjoyed by local people, and that is exactly what is happening here.

“The Reader have come up with a really exciting and innovative project for Calderstones which will secure the future of the historic Mansion House.

“They do the most incredible educational work and the International Centre for Reading will be a major attraction at the heart of one of our most beautiful parks.”

Later this year The Reader will begin initial work to secure the building, which over the years has fallen into a state of disrepair. Currently hidden architecturally significant elements will be carefully revealed and restored, bringing the building back to life.

The finished building will house a heritage room which will show how one of the rooms may have looked in 1880 with visitors having the opportunity to interact with objects and learn about the history of the house at that time.

There will also be four key reading rooms allowing The Reader to continue their shared reading groups, bringing people together to read great literature out loud as a practical way of improving wellbeing, building stronger communities and extending reading pleasure. A newly created bistro will also allow visitors to relax after their visit and soak up and reflect on the atmosphere of the house.

Dr Jane Davis, Founder and Director of The Reader said: “We’re delighted with the support we are receiving from Liverpool City Council and other funding partners including the Heritage Lottery Fund.

“It will allow us to grasp this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create something truly special at Calderstones. This will benefit communities right across Liverpool and beyond. We are already delighted to be welcoming readers from all corners of the city – everyone is welcome here.

“We’ve had visitors from all over the world including South Korea, Australia, Germany and Scandinavia, completed work on our Storybarn offering a space for children in Merseyside to come and fall in love with reading for pleasure; and our outreach projects are also reaching people who are socially isolated or living with mental health conditions in order to build stronger communities. The support we are receiving from Mayor Anderson and Liverpool City Council not only means we can offer more of our shared reading groups and continue to grow our wellbeing initiatives but will allow us to keep developing our work in truly making Liverpool a city of readers.”

The report will be considered by the Cabinet on Friday 18 March.