Whether working at our headquarters in Liverpool, or in communities across the UK, our people believe in the value of great literature.
Name: Jane Davis, Founder and Director
Bio: Jane launched The Reader as a magazine in 1997, developing Shared Reading around the same time, with the aim of opening up great literature to people who need it.
A book/poem/play I’d like to share: Depends who you are but almost everyone might enjoy The Mouse and His Child by Russell Hoban . Failing that – read Pastoralia by George Saunders or Adam Bede by George Eliot
Why I work at The Reader: Fewer than 1% of the population study English Literature at University…what a waste of ‘the good stuff’! I founded The Reader because I wanted to make it possible for all kinds of people to enjoy the experiences that great writers had provided for me.
Name: Ailsa Horne, Chief Operating Officer
Bio: Since joining The Reader in 2015, Ailsa has worked across various different departments, as COO she is now responsible for the effective running of the organisation. Previously she worked in local economic development as well as the charity and public sectors.
A book/poem/play I’d like to share: To be of use by Marge Piercy; a poem about the patience, commitment and collaboration that is essential to move things forwards.
Why I work at The Reader: the inspiring work and the kind, genuine people.
Name: Jemma Guerrier, Director of Development and Communications
Bio: Jemma moved from London to join The Reader in 2016 after 12 years in the voluntary sector. She’s responsible for leading the teams who secure the income required to sustain and grow the Reading Revolution, inspire new partnerships and spread the word about our work and its impact.
A book/poem/play I’d like to share: My favourite book is Little Women which remains as poignant to me now as it did when I was a teenager. It’s timeless and the themes are universal, from friendships to family, gender to bereavement.
Why I work at The Reader: The ambition – we are ambitious for Shared Reading because we know it changes lives and is so accessible. We’ve accomplished a lot but there is so much more to do. The impact and future potential drives me here, as does a hefty challenge and the constant reminder that I have so much literature to explore!
Name: Geetha Rabindrakumar, Director of Equality and Diversity
Reader story: Geetha is an experienced social sector leader. She was Head of Engagement at Big Society Capital, focused on increasing understanding and use of social investment by charities, social enterprise and funders as a tool for sustainability and growth. Her previous career was spent in finance roles in charities and social enterprises, including Finance Director at disability charity Scope. She is also a trustee at homelessness charity Crisis.
A book/poem/play I’d like to share: The Milkman by Anna Burns – a novel set during the troubles in Northern Ireland, with the themes of pressures of conformity, sexism, tribalism, intimidation and religion running through it that have parallels in other times and places. The young women’s story is told in a way that is funny, surprising and original, and yet there’s lots that also feels true and familiar.
Why I work at The Reader: Having been brought up in a family of readers, I was intrigued by the Reader’s work. It was wonderful to experience Read to Lead Training several years ago, which gave me insight into how Shared Reading can transform people’s lives. It is a joy to be involved with an organisation that raises its sights to amazing possibilities and wants to help bring something deeply meaningful into everyone’s everyday.
Name: Anton Clarke, Director of Social Enterprise
Bio: Launching and leading social enterprises at The Reader at Calderstones, including a new events business, plus IT and site facilities.
A book/poem/play I’d like to share: Candide by Voltaire
Why I work at The Reader: Life is about finding purpose. Having worked many jobs in many sectors, I was fortunate enough to have an opportunity to work at The Reader back in 2014. Since then, I’ve found that the work that we do as an organisation – both locally and further afield – has given me the purpose and motivation to be my best self.
Name: Zoe Gilling, Director of People and Shared Reading Programmes
Bio: Zoe came to The Reader after a 15 year career in HE. She is responsible for making sure our staff and volunteers are well supported and that our UK wide Shared Reading provision is run well and available to those who need it most.
A book/poem/play I’d like to share: If you haven’t read it yet, read Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. Unputdownable once you start reading, something for everyone to identify with: love, family, marriage, betrayal, tragedy, hypocrisy to name but a few!
Why I work at The Reader: My role at The Reader continually challenges me, provides me with meaningful connections with lots of different types of people, and a chance to read with others on a regular basis.
Name: Ginny Hopton, Director of Finance
Bio: Ginny joined The Reader in 2019, having previously held a range of senior financial and operational roles. Ginny is responsible for strategic financial management and leadership, supporting The Reader to plan for growth and fulfil its ambition whilst ensuring the accounting fundamentals are delivered.
A book/poem/play I’d like to share: Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas – a lyrically written “play for voices”, Under Milk Wood is a deeply moving, often comic examination of Welsh life.
Why I work at The Reader: I can use my skills to make a difference, I am continually inspired and challenged, I can be my own person, and I work with wonderful people.
The Reader is a charitable social enterprise with a board of trustees who oversee operations, and work in the interests of the charity and our beneficiaries. In 2014, The Reader created the Calderstones CIC to manage the business interests of the social enterprises at The Reader at Calderstones.
This board is comprised of individuals from academia, health, policy, community, business and the arts organisations, drawn from across the UK. It meets four times a year.
Name: Anita Marsland, Chair of the Board of Trustees at The Reader
Reader Story: Anita is the former Chief Executive of NHS Knowsley and Chief Officer at Knowsley Council, a joint appointment between the Council and PCT. She was seconded to the Department of Health in 2010 to lead the Public Health Transition Team overseeing the transfer of the local Public Health function from the NHS into Local Government and the establishment of Public Health England. This followed a long and distinguished career in Social Work in the North West of England. Anita is retained by Public Health England as an adviser on Local Government matters, she is a Non Executive Director at Alder Hey Childrens NHS Foundation Trust and Independent Chair of Sefton Health and Care Transformation Board. Anita was awarded an MBE in 2008 for services to Health and Social Care and more recently an Honorary Membership of the Faculty of Public Heath in 2017. She is a Director of Unique Health Solutions (Health and Care management consultancy).
A book/poem/play I would like to share: The Invisible Woman, Claire Tomalin. The story of Dickens relationship with Nelly Ternan – a fascinating and illuminating social history. Another suggestion would be The Life and Rhymes of Benjamin Zephaniah Poet Lyricist Writer Activist.
Why are you involved with The Reader? I was introduced to the work of The Reader some years ago and was immediately inspired by both the ethos and ambition of the organisation. I promised myself that following retirement from full time work I would offer my services as a volunteer… and here I am. It is such a privilege to be Chair of The Board of Trustees at this amazing organisation.
Name: Hugh Biddell
Reader Story: As head of charities and not-for-profit at RBS, Hugh supports organisations to collaborate across the public sector. He was previously a trustee for homelessness charity Crisis.
A book/poem/play I’d like to share: Exile’s Letter by Ezra Pound from Cathay, For the Most Part and the Chinese of Rihaku. It’s a warm toned reflection on a long friendship. From the measured formal opening address to his friend be swept along by its wonderful headlong rush through the writer’s memories of their youth – light, colour, conviviality and separation. “There is no end of things in the heart.”
Why are you involved with The Reader: In my work I have an insight into many fantastic charities. I wanted to give time to one where I also felt personally passionate and enthused. I have no doubt of the impact The Reader’s method of Shared Reading and I know that reading great literature continues to enrich my life.
Name: Pranav Sood
Reader story: Pranav is VP International Expansion at UK-based FinTech GoCardless. Pranav started his career at Bain & Company, where he led Bain’s Social Business Incubator. He is governor of a primary school in Islington.
A book/poem/play I’d like to share: The Odyssey by Homer. The original adventure story and still the best.
Why are you involved with The Reader: I’m a passionate believer in the impact that great literature can have on people’s lives.
Name: Phil Davies
Reader story: Phil Davies was the Labour Leader of Wirral Council from 2012 to 2019, having represented Birkenhead and Tranmere Ward since 1991. He’s a non-executive director at The Engineering College in Birkenhead and a trustee of Wirral Food Bank.
A book/poem/play I’d like to share: Middlemarch by George Eliot. A powerful Victorian novel with a complex web of characters who display the best and worst of human nature.
Why are you involved with The Reader: I really like the idea of using great literature to improve the lives of everyone, particularly people who are vulnerable and disadvantaged.
Name: Dr Ruth Hussey CB OBE
Reader story: Ruth retired from her role as Chief Medical Officer for Wales in 2016, after starting out as a GP, becoming Director of Public Health in Liverpool, then working in Public Health in north West England and the Department of Health. Her current portfolio focuses on food, as a board member of the Food Standards Agency, as well as health inequalities and health policy through various Board and advisory roles.
A book/poem/play I’d like to share: The Man Who Planted Trees by Jean Giono. It is an allegorical story about a shepherd’s long and successful effort to re-forest a desolate valley.
Why are you involved with The Reader: The Reader’s work is a fantastic way of using literature to change lives for the better and I am delighted to support its efforts to improve health and wellbeing across the UK and beyond.
Name: Sarah Fletcher, Chief Operating Officer and Director of Finance
Reader Story: Sarah is Director of Finance & Operations at Alder Hey Children’s Charity. She is responsible for developing and delivering the financial strategy of the Charity, working with Alder Hey Children’s Hospital to enable the Charity to provide vital funds for the work with the hospital’s brave young patients. Sarah started her career with PwC in August 2000 where she trained to be a chartered accountant. Following this, she moved to another top ten accountancy firm RSM where she worked as a manager overseeing a team delivering internal audit, technology and risk assurance services. Sarah joined The Reader in January 2016 as Chief Operating Officer and Director of Finance. She was responsible for implementing and strengthening the organisational processes that would allow Shared Reading to grow and fulfil its ambition across the UK. In her role, Sarah developed and delivered The Reader’s financial strategy. Following her move to Alder Hey Children’s Charity, Sarah continued in her role as Director on the Board for Calderstones Mansion House Community Interest Company and joined the The Reader Board as a Trustee.
A book/poem/play I’d like to share: Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces that stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull
Why are you involved with The Reader: To make a difference.
Name: Rosemary Hawley
Reader Story: I first heard about The Reader when I re-met Jane and she told me about what she had been pioneering from within the University of Liverpool, and her intention to move the work from there and create a new charity. I was involved in the NHS and passionate about health and wholeness. I became the chair of this organisation and had the most exciting and rewarding time playing a small part in this new venture as it grew – and grew – nationally and internationally, with its headquarters moving from Abercromby Square to Everton to Calderstones. When on retirement we left Liverpool I was asked to stay on as a trustee, I was honoured. So I have seen the Reader develop and flourish which has been an enormous privilege.
Poem to share: The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. This is a fabulous vivid telling in verse of a story with a dream like quality – an allegory really – of a sea journey involving a destructive act, the killing of the bird, the ensuing hell like suffering, and then redemption from blessing the water-snakes as other living parts of creation, that is rescuing a bad situation through love. The Mariner must then tell the story, as The Reader shares so many stories.
Why are you involved? Because I love what it does and the values and ideals underpinning it and what it brings to so many of wider experiences, possibilities, emotions and relationships.
Name: Neil Atkinson
Reader Story: Neil Atkinson is CEO and host of the multimedia group The Anfield Wrap, the world’s leading supporter media organisation. He regularly appears on many networks including BBC, CNN, ITV, Sky, BT, Sirius XM and L’Equipe. He co-wrote and co-produced the feature film Native in 2014, has hosted live radio, co-written three books about football and joined The Reader’s Board of Trustees in 2021.
A book/poem/play I’d like to share: The Act Of Love by Howard Jacobson for how it builds great literature on top of other great literature and does so with shocking intensity.
Why are you involved with The Reader: Much of my work with The Anfield Wrap has been taking enthusiastic volunteers and finding ways to raise their voices. The Reader, in a completely different but still fascinating to me sector, has done the same brilliantly and I want to be able to add support where I can and learn from its trials and tribulations.
Name: Helen Willows
Reader story: I am a GP working both in Shropshire and in the Scottish Highlands and Islands. Prior to studying medicine, I worked in the tobacco industry and in market research for the healthcare industry across Europe, and also worked for a pharmaceutical company in the UK. I am a Reader Leader in Shropshire and also support a group of around twenty TRO volunteers across Shropshire and into Wales and Cheshire.
A book I’d like to share: Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murukami. This book follows no rules, it challenges normal ways of thinking and behaving.
Why involved with The Reader: Having moved into medicine from the tobacco industry I quickly realised that pills are not the answer for many patients. I heard Phil Jupitus talk about The Reader on Woman’s Hour and was inspired by the promises it offered. Having investigated in detail, I decreased my working hours in the practice and started my Reader journey. I am excited to be part of this incredible imaginative, inclusive and inspiring organisation, and feel honoured to now be a trustee.
Name: Olu Alake
Reader Story: Olu is CEO of a community-connecting charity, The Peel Institute, based in London, where he uses all available assets including especially the power of arts, culture and heritage to bring people together and help to alleviate the impact of poverty and deprivation on young people’s life attainment. In previous roles, he has developed, reviewed and funded various social impact projects and programmes across the UK.
A book/poem/play I’d like to share:
‘Debris’ – a poem by Othuke Umukoro, winner of the 2021 Brunel International African Poetry Prize, is a recent discovery I find very heart-achingly compelling.
‘Dona Flor and her Two Husbands’ by Jorge Amado is one of my favourite books, for its multi-layered commentary on Brazilian culture and history as well as great comedy. The Autobiography of Malcolm X is a book I return to every so often, especially when I need to ‘re-centre’ myself.
Why are you involved with The Reader:
I recognise the power of literature in broadening horizons, promoting wellbeing and developing a sense of community. I find in The Reader’s Shared Reading approach a very potent tool to make real and sustained impacts on lives. I have joined to help them widen their reach to more people and with a wider offer – and given my passion for literature, to learn and have fun for myself as well!
Calderstones CIC’s Board of Directors
The Calderstones CIC oversees any non-primary purpose activity – including The Reader Ice Cream Parlour and The Reader Café. These, and future social enterprises, help to build a community in the park, create jobs and support The Reader’s primary purpose activity, as all profits are gifted back to the charity.
The board meets four times a year and is made up of Anita Marsland (Chair), Pranav Sood, Phil Davies, Ailsa Horne, Sarah Fletcher, Kelly Spells and Pauline Hughes.
Our CIC Board of Directors
Name: Kelly Spells
Reader Story: A Chartered Accountant with over a decade of experience in the publishing industry. Kelly is Commercial Director of the HQ and Mills & Boon imprints at HarperCollins, a leading global publishing house.
A book/poem/play I’d like to share: The Secret History by Donna Tartt
Why are you involved in The Reader? To support the Reading Revolution! Literature has been a constant throughout my life, and this has created a deeply rooted belief that everyone should have access to books and reading in order to live well.
Name: Pauline Hughes
Reader story: Pauline is an executive coach, facilitator and communications expert who specialises in helping leaders in high pressure roles to adapt and thrive in today’s complex and uncertain business environment. Prior to her move into coaching, Pauline spent the majority of her career working in communications, and has led award-winning external affairs and communications divisions as Director of Communications for the charity Whizz-Kidz and Director of PR for the government organisation, Central Office of Information (COI).
A book/poem/play I’d like to share: Shuggie Bain – a Booker prize winner by Douglas Stuart. It rips your heart out several times, but ultimately leaves you feeling uplifted by the strength of the human spirit and the unbreakable bond between a mother and son.
Why are you involved with The Reader: I am deeply motivated by making a difference to people’s lives, and The Reader creates communities, and improves the mental health and wellbeing of so many. I see the costs of disconnection every day, and The Reader’s work has never been more essential.
The Reader began life as a magazine and has since become the inspiration for a global movement.
Our values reflect and shape our behaviour, and guide our volunteers, staff, trustees and supporters as we work together to...
Shared Reading changes lives by improving wellbeing, reducing social isolation and building stronger communities.