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An update on Shared Reading groups and activities

Written by Rachael Norris, 9th July 2020

Government guidelines have recently been changed to allow some easing of social distancing and places like libraries and cultural venues are getting ready to open. Many of you are asking when you can get back to your physical Shared Reading groups or other Reader activities at Calderstones.

There’s nothing more we’d like than to turn the page and restart our community activities because we know for so many of us, they are a valued part of our weekly routine. However for now, we have to say, ‘Not yet’. ‘They also serve who only stand and wait…’ as John Milton says, in the poem ‘On His Blindness’.

The health, safety and wellbeing of all our group members, volunteers and wider community is the most important factor in our planning. Before lockdown, there were over 500 weekly Shared Reading groups across the UK taking place in a variety of venues – from cafes to hospitals, care homes to sheltered accommodation, in Calderstones to Cornwall. Therefore, giving a green light for all at this point is hard. We need to wait until we have a set of guidelines in place that  most group leaders can follow.

As you can imagine, making reopening plans across such a large number of locations is complicated,  and is also partly dependant on different partner organisations and external factors. We aren’t in a position to confirm when things will change, but rest assured, we are getting ready for that time. We’re gathering information now about when different settings across the country may reopen. And we are working on guidance and advice for all our volunteers to help you make judgements about your own groups when the time comes.

If you are a volunteer and in touch with your host venue and know some information about their plans, then please tell us via your Reader point of contact. Of course we recognise everybody’s personal situation is different and we want to reassure you that nobody will be under pressure to resume running their group in person if they don’t feel comfortable or ready to do so, some of you and your group members may continue to read together in an alternative way after we begin to reopen – and that’s fine.

At Calderstones, our national HQ in Liverpool, the Ice Cream Parlour and The Reader Café are already open and operating a takeaway service, and The Reader Shop and Calder Stones exhibition will be open from Saturday 4 July. We’re currently working through many options for the safe reopening of the Mansion House and cooking up some exciting ideas for activities that we can safely run in the park over the summer.

But in the meantime, we hope that we can help you find some comfort, connection and company through our The Reader at Home services. We encourage you to continue to read together by whatever means works for you – whether via Zoom, over the phone or by any of the other ways you’ve embraced over the last few months.

Thank you to all our amazing volunteers who are finding new ways to bring people together where you are.  We look forward to seeing you all soon.

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