charity launches the UK’s first centre for
literature and wellbeing in Liverpool city park
space aims to start a national conversation about the impact of literature and
the arts on health and society
Includes new exhibition centre, The
Calderstones Story, which tells the 5,000-year history of life in Liverpool
part of this, the Calder Stones, older than the Great Pyramid at Giza, are open
to public for the first time, charting the evolution of storytelling
charity The Reader is opening the UK’s first centre dedicated to demonstrating
the power that literature has to change people’s lives.
after the three-year refurbishment of the Mansion House in Liverpool’s
Calderstones Park, the International Centre for Shared Reading puts the UK at
the forefront of a worldwide ‘Reading Revolution’ that has followers in countries
including Australia, Brazil, Germany and the US.
new space takes a community-centred approach to health and wellbeing, providing
meaningful opportunities for people of all ages to connect. The project marks
the ‘next chapter’ of The Reader’s story, after more than a decade being
commissioned to read aloud in prisons, care homes, hospitals and community
spaces across the UK.
charity has already supported thousands of people to live well and connect with
others through ‘Shared Reading’. The opening of the International Centre for
Shared Reading will bring a major expansion of its work, enabling The Reader to
offer many more people the chance to experience literature’s life-supporting
benefits, through a range of activities known to be good for our health.
2019, 91% of readers attending Shared Reading groups in communities across the
UK reported that it ‘helps me to feel better’, while 84% said that they
had ‘made new friends in the group’.
group member, who began attending a Shared Reading group while receiving
treatment at a psychiatric hospital in Wirral, Merseyside, said: “I really
believe that it’s the reading groups that have helped me more than anything
else – they are a different kind of medicine and it’s through them that I’ve found
a way back into life.”
initial programme of activities includes gardening, heritage, nature walks,
yoga, art and crafts, along with more than 30 Shared Reading groups, and a
range of new jobs and volunteering opportunities. There
is also a new café, a shop, event spaces, reading rooms, a wellbeing studio and
commercial offices for hire.
will be able to travel back in time in a dedicated exhibition that tells the
story of life in Liverpool, beginning in the late Stone Age. In the garden, you
can get up close to the ancient Calder Stones that give the local area its
name, inside their purpose-built home. Inside, imaginative exhibition rooms
weave together the life of the Calder Stones and the Mansion House, alongside
the development of storytelling and literature.
Lord Alan Howarth of Newport, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Arts, Health and Wellbeing, who was recently appointed as a patron of The Reader, said: “I’m delighted to be associated with such a ground-breaking initiative which will be an exemplar for how the arts can support longer lives better lived.
the challenges facing the existing health and social care system, it’s clear
that we all need to work together do things differently. The Reader’s work here
at Calderstones has huge potential to help the NHS deliver social prescribing.”
Reader’s founder, Jane Davis, said: “Literature’s power to help us make sense
of things, bring us closer to others and spark change is needed more today than
at any other time since The Reader started life in 1997.
International Centre for Shared Reading sits at the heart of a new kind of
community where literature is part of the fabric of daily life. Providing
people with more opportunities to find increased meaning, purpose and a sense
of belonging through activities such as Shared Reading, gardening and walking,
can help us all to lead healthy and productive lives.”
International Centre for Shared Reading is open to all and free to enter. It
officially opens its doors to the public on Saturday 14 September. The centre
is based in the 200-year-old Mansion House in Calderstones Park in Liverpool,
which has recently undergone a £5 million refurbishment project.
refurbishment project has been supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund,
Liverpool City Council, Garfield Weston, The Tudor Trust, AKO Capital,
Ravensdale Trust and The Pilkington Charities Fund.
The emerging programme is being backed by a number of supporters including The EsméeFairbairn Foundation, Peoples Postcode Lottery and The National Lottery Community Fund.
David Renwick, Director, England: North, The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said:
“We are delighted that money raised by National Lottery
players has enabled Calderstones Mansion House to be restored to its original
splendour and transformed into a literature and wellbeing hub for the
“It is also fantastic to see that the Neolithic Calder
Stones, Liverpool’s oldest monument are at the heart of the project. Dating
from the same time as Stonehenge, their specialist conservation ensures that
they will be preserved for many more years, with their story being brought to
life for visitors to enjoy in the brand-new exhibition space.”
Deputy Mayor for Liverpool, Councillor Wendy Simon, said:
“We are delighted to have supported The Reader in the
development of this transformational flagship centre.
“To have a space which puts literature and wellbeing at the
heart of our beautiful Calderstones Park will make for a unique learning
experience. Everyone can engage with this new centre, and as a community
resource it will have a positive impact on mental and physical health for all
who use it.
“To have the Mansion House brought back in to use and open
to the public is a fantastic boost, and I have no doubt the Calder Stones will
be a fascinating visitor attraction.”
About The Reader www.thereader.org.uk The Reader is a national charity that wants to bring about a reading revolution so that everyone can experience and enjoy great literature, which we believe is a tool for helping humans survive and live well.