Reader Story: Conor, Greater Manchester Probation Trust

“I don’t like being in groups and talking about myself. But doing it, being in this room is conquering those fears. It’s therapeutic for me.”

Conor* joined the Shared Reading group during session four. We were reading a Deep South-set American story, A Worn Path. Conor volunteered to read a section of it aloud and did a fabulous American accent – much to everyone’s pleasure.

Conor has attended every week since. He is a thoughtful member of the group. He is not always the first to jump in with an opinion, but when he does say something it is well considered. He has shown an interest in how people behave towards one another, equality, and the way the world works (or doesn’t) in this respect. While reading Shereen Pandit’s short story She Shall Not Be Moved, Conor said:

“The way the narrator doesn’t give a seat to the white woman as some sort of ‘revenge’ – that’s why we’ve got all the problems in the world that we have – the mentality that says, ‘You did this to me so I’m going to behave like that to everyone who looks like you.”

And his empathy with characters is strong, he reflects here on Carol Ann Duffy’s Stealing:

“He wouldn’t be doing this [stealing a snowman] if he had things in his life – like friends, family, a job. He’s lonely.”

Conor’s confidence in sharing his thoughts and his own experiences has grown steadily over his participation. His announcement that he believed in marriage during one of our discussions led to poignant exchanges and advice about relationships being given to him by the older members of the group which he gracefully accepted.

He has talked about his less-enviable habits, like being anti-social when he’s on buses and shutting himself down against talking to strangers, and how his mum embarrasses him: “She’s loud, she takes over a room!”

Interestingly, he very recently said:

“I don’t like being in groups and talking about myself. But doing it, being in this room is conquering those fears. It’s therapeutic for me.”

He added:

“It’s life imitating art. We’re like those characters in that film The Breakfast Club, a group of very different people who are forced together. But then they start finding out how similar they are, the things they have in common. They open up to one another. That’s us.”


*Please note that all our Reader Stories are anonymised.

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