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Gravity Festival

5 - 7 November 2021

Gravity is a new festival taking place online and in person from 5 – 7 November, and hosted by The Reader.

Taking its theme from writer, Jeanette Winterson, who wrote: ‘Inside books there is perfect space and it is that space which allows the reader to deal with the normal problems of gravity’, the hybrid literature and wellbeing festival aims to create a place where the serious problems of life can be spoken about, cried over and laughed at. 

A weekend of headline talks, panel discussions, Shared Reading groups and wellbeing workshops will address the inevitable toughness that life in the Covid-era throws at us through literature, laughter, art and beyond. 

The programme is part online and part in person, with physical events taking place at the Mansion House in Liverpool’s Calderstones Park.


Friday 5 November 

Reading with Care online, 12.30pm

Join us for this interactive online session where we’ll be exploring what reading the world’s greatest writers, together and aloud, can do for us when we’re faced with tough times.  

Experts in health and criminal justice, along with a Shared Reading group leader who uses literature to cope with chronic pain, will share examples and experiences of what ‘reading in action’ can do. There’ll also be time for audience questions at the end. 
This event will be of interest to anyone who’s curious about what reading can do for a wide variety of individuals and to all those involved in thinking about the therapeutic benefits of literature and life. 

Chaired by The Reader’s Helen Wilson who’ll be joined by:
Dr Andy Jones (Royal Liverpool Hospitals), Professor Alison Liebling (Director of the Prisons Research Centre, University of Cambridge), Helen Cook (Reader Leader Volunteer).  

Book tickets

Tea and cake with our friends from the North in person, 3pm
Pay what you feel

Shared Reading, which began here in Merseyside, is now a global movement with groups and volunteers in over 16 countries.

Back in 2008, Mette Steenberg the Director of Laeseforeningen (The Reading Society, Denmark) was one of the first to export the Reading Revolution to Europe. Since then, Shared Reading in Denmark has gone from strength-to-strength and is helping young people develop self-confidence and agency.

In this session, The Reader’s Founder, Jane Davis, talks to Mette about how Laeseforeningen is helping vulnerable young people to develop their confidence through reading.

We’ll hear from some of the young people themselves about the texts that have had an impact on them personally and there’ll be some Shared Reading and cake too. 
Book tickets

Ways to Care online, 5pm
Pay what you feel

How difficult it is for any of us to find the right words in times of need, both the person who may be in need of care, and the person doing the caring. How painful it can be, when sitting across from someone in a hospital bed, we find ourselves stuck without words. 

When we find ourselves struggling for the words, literature holds many stories of suffering and care which may help us to expand our own understanding of what we need to survive such human experiences.

Our ‘Ways to …’ series of online events aim to open up the  serious conversations that we don’t always know how to start. In this first session we’ll get different perspectives on what it means to care, and be cared for, by reading and sharing poems and stories reflecting on this topic. 

Join us via Zoom from the comfort of your own home where The Reader’s Clare Ellis will read aloud and create a welcoming space where you can get involved as much – or as little – as you wish. 
Everyone welcome. 

Book tickets

Bandaged Moments in person, 7pm

The Spoken Word team bring day one of Gravity to a close with a very special edition of their monthly Mansion House slot.  

Get set for a night of celebration of the human spirit in the face of adversity. Know that you’re not alone as Liverpool’s most exciting poets perform short sets examining the challenges they have faced to stay healthy and happy in a beautiful but often difficult world.  

There are some dark tales to be told, but there’s also light and laughter to be had as our brave poets speak of how they have tried to bandage the soul – and how they’ve learned to ‘rage against the dying of the light’. 

Book tickets

Saturday 6 November 

Yoga for Mindfulness in person,11am

Join Karen Podesta from More Love Yoga for a nourishing yoga session with a view in the Mansion’s Garden Theatre room.  

Inspired by the themes of ‘gravity’ and ‘grounding’, this workshop has been specially designed for the festival with the intention of making both your mind and body feel good.  

Suitable for newcomers to yoga and all abilities.. Attendees are encouraged to bring their own yoga mat, although some spares will be available if needed.  

Book tickets

Ways to Grieve online,12noon
Pay what you feel

The grief that follows loss is one of the more challenging ‘problems of gravity’. We naturally grieve for the loss of a person or a pet we have loved, but are there other more hidden forms of grief – the loss of an idea about the future or the past, for example, or the sense of ourselves as we change? What can grief give us, if anything? How can we best negotiate our way through it? 
In this, the second of our ‘Ways to …’ online events, we’ll open up the conversation about grief – in all its forms – by delving into literature’s rich tradition of writing about loss. 

The Reader’s Kristin Hutchinson invites you to share in this supportive and relaxed reading session where the subjects of grief and loss aren’t taboo. 

All are welcome. Join via Zoom from the comfort of your own surroundings. You choose whether you want to read, talk or just listen along. 

Book tickets

One Step At  A Time in person, 12noon

Come with us on a restorative walk around the park as we take in the sights and sounds of nature, accompanied by a selection of specially-chosen poems.
Our poetry walks provide a moment of calm and mindful reflection in an otherwise busy and noisy world. They’re also a great way to get active and meet new people. There’s no pressure to read or talk, just make sure you come suitably dressed for the weather. 

Book tickets

Homer’s Guide to Being Alive Now online and in person, 3pm

Homer, the Homer, the original Homer...not Homer Simpson!  

Meet Pranav Sood, VP of Small Business at UK technology company, GoCardless and a trustee of The Reader since 2019. Pranav is a lover of Test cricket and a lapsed Classicist.
Neil Atkinson is CEO of award-winning multimedia group, The Anfield Wrap, and co-writer of British sci-fi film Native (2016). Neil joined Pranav on The Reader's Board of Trustees earlier this year. 

Both self-confessed Homer fans, they invite you to join them as they read favourite bits from the Greek poet’s epic ‘The Odyssey’. Hosted by The Reader’s founder, Jane Davis, Pranav and Neil will consider what this tale of Odysseus’ heroic struggle to return home after the Trojan war and the wider writings of Homer can teach us about modern life.  

Whether you’re new to Homer or not, this event is perfect for anyone who has ever wondered what one of the most influential writers of all time has to offer us now. 

Book tickets

Ways to be Alone online, 5pm
Pay what you feel

Over the last couple of years, the question of how to be alone is one many of us have had to grapple with.  There are many forms of aloneness and it can touch us all in a unique and individual way.  

Join The Reader’s Erin Carlstrom for this friendly and relaxed session where we’ll read and discuss some of the best poetry and prose that expresses what being alone means to us. 

This Zoom event is part of our series of ‘Ways to …’ sessions, opening up the conversations we don’t always know how to start. 

Book tickets

(M)otherhood with Pragya Agarwal online and in person, 5pm

Behavioural scientist and acclaimed author, Dr Pragya Agarwal (Sway: Unravelling Unconscious Bias and Wish We Knew What to Say: Talking with Children about Race) joins us at Calderstones for an evening of reading and conversation. 

Pragya will read from her 2021 book (M)otherhood: On the Choices of Being a Woman, and reflect on how literature has shaped her life, as well as how women and mothers we know from literature help us to shape our understanding of womanhood and motherhood.  Followed by an audience Q&A.   

Book tickets

An evening with Jimmy McGovern, talking Time with Erwin James and Kate Bramhall online and in person, 7pm

Following the recent success of the BBC prison drama ‘Time’, we hear from the show’s creator Jimmy McGovern and writer, Erwin James, as they put life in prison under the spotlight and pose the question … is there the possibility of rehabilitation?  And how could prison life be changed to make that more likely?  
We’ll show clips from ‘Time’ and read from Erwin’s moving and powerful memoir, Redeemable. 

This session will be hosted by Kate Bramhall from The Reader’s criminal justice team that has been reading with men and women living in prison for over a decade. 

Book tickets

Sunday 7 November 

Panel Discussion: Caring, and Reading, during Covid-19 online and in person, 11am

What’s Covid-19 really been like for doctors?  If you’ve been thinking about medics in this tough time, come and join a conversation with Professor Philip Davis as he talks to two GPs; author, Dr Gavin Francis, and Reader Volunteer, Dr Helen Willows, about their reading and caring during the Covid-19 pandemic.  

Gavin will read from his book ‘Intensive Care – A GP, A community and Covid-19’, and Helen will read from works which have sustained her and her community of practice during the past 18 months. 

Book tickets

Ways to Cope online,12noon
Pay what you feel

When we experience difficulty in life, our first reaction is often to push it away. But reacting to the problem in this way isn’t always the answer. 

In this session, we’ll get perspectives from literature where the question posed is not ‘how do we remove the difficulty?’ but rather  – ‘how do we learn to live with the difficulty?’ 

This session will explore how we might find a better language to identify and cope with life’s challenges, while also enjoying  the journey along the way. 

Hosted by The Reader’s Lizzie Dass via Zoom.  

All welcome. No pressure to read or talk, just listen along from the comfort of your own home. 

Book tickets

One Step At A Time in person, 12noon
Pay what you feel

Come with us on a restorative walk around the park as we take in the sights and sounds of nature, accompanied by a selection of specially-chosen poems.  

Our poetry walks provide a moment of calm and mindful reflection in an otherwise busy and noisy world. They’re also a great way to get active and meet new people. There’s no pressure to read or talk, just make sure you come suitably dressed for the weather. 

Book tickets

Not Always A Happy Ending: Maxine Peake reads from Hamlet and Happy Days online and in person, 3pm

The pandemic has taught us all some hard lessons and  many of us feel more fragile after this long period of threat. More than ever we know not everything has a happy ending, and but where do we get the resilience to laugh in face of difficulties? 

Join Maxine Peake in Conversation with The Reader’s Founder, Jane Davis, for an afternoon of readings and thought about living without happy endings. Maxine will read from two of her biggest stage successes – Hamlet, and Winnie from Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days, and she’ll show and talk about some scenes from her 2017 film, Funny Cow 

Book tickets

Ways to Grow Old online, 5pm
Pay what you feel

As we grow older, ‘gravity’ affects us quite literally on a physical level, but what happens within our hearts and minds?  What might be the challenges and joys of growing older?  

In our final ‘Ways to …’ session, Kristin Hutchinson invites you to join her for a relaxed, fun and friendly exploration of a selection of writing that speaks to the theme of growing older. 

This session will be held via Zoom.  No prior reading experience is needed, and everyone is welcome. 

Book tickets

Lockdown Days in person and online, 5pm

During Lockdown, filmmaker and The Farm bassist Carl Hunter, and poet, playwright and activist, Jacqueline Saphra both decided to record their experiences of this strange and difficult time when we all experienced sunny mornings as well as dark nights.  

Carl will share with us his photographs documenting this unique time and Jacqueline will share her poetic response, reading from her book ‘One Hundred Lockdown Sonnets’, in this evening of reflection on our lockdown days.  

Book tickets

Drop in activities over the weekend
No booking required

Pandemic Postcards
The last few years have brought us ups and downs amidst a global pandemic. If you could give your former self some advice following lockdown, what would it be? Is there something that lockdown has taught you, perhaps about yourself, or something that you have really valued or has brought you comfort, perhaps a book or recipe? Please share your thoughts on a Reader postcard and post it through our letterbox.

On the postcard you can 'opt in', so that we can share your thoughts on our social media channels and in our very special Commonplace Book - a community scrapbook which will capture the ways people have lived through this crisis.

Make! at Gravity
“Now is the time for the burning of the leaves.
They go to the fire, the nostril pricks with smoke
Wandering slowly into a weeping mist.”

Drop in for a relaxed autumnal craft session where we will be drawing inspiration from the poem The Burning of the Leaves by Laurence Binyon and making bonfire pompoms. 

Commonplace Book: The Great Outdoors 

The Commonplace Book is a scrapbook for our Calderstones community to share their experiences of the pandemic. Drop in for some peaceful crafting, and create your own Commonplace Book page. Use our craft materials to make a map of the routes which brought you comfort, even if it was only round the garden, and become part of the historic record for future generations. 

Books, Songs and Family Fun
Saturday 6 & Sunday 7 November
10am, 11am, 12pm, 1pm, 2pm and 3pm (25 minute sessions)

Join the Storybarn team as they celebrate Gravity in their own playful style – bringing family-friendly storytelling sessions to the Mansion’s Old Café Room.  

They’ll be exploring big feelings through beautiful picture books, songs and celebrating the joy of reading together. Drop in and join them throughout the weekend.  

No booking needed, fancy dress welcome. Best suited to children aged 4 to 7 but all ages welcome.  

Contact us

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You can also speak to us on: 0151 729 2200
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