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Jack’s Reader Story – “I come out of the sessions feeling fulfilled.” 

Written by Lily Kehoe, 15th August 2023

Spider Project Café 71 in Chester is a safe, non clinical community space for anyone struggling to cope in a crisis. Jack has been attending the Café’s Monday morning Shared Reading group and talks to us here about the experience.  

I thought the group would benefit me as I’ve not done anything like that since I was 16 and I’ve been in the world of work since 1973.  I’ve also been a Trade Union official but I’ve never come across anything as interesting as the Shared Reading group. 

The Reader Leaders are great - they respect each member of the group, showing empathy and lead it in a way that includes everybody.  They put people at ease and we have great discussions. I’m impressed by how they conduct the whole process of sharing a piece of literature that nobody knows about. 

The group has given me a great opportunity to talk to real people and have real conversations, which I enjoy.  I’ve discovered a great feeling of wellbeing and self-worth that I haven’t experienced in a long time.   

I became totally absorbed by the short story, The Bet by Anton Chekhov, and we wanted to know what happened next.  I felt disappointed to learn that there wasn’t a sequel so I wrote one myself.  I relished writing it, trying to make it plausible and credible with a realistic ending.  It gave me a huge sense of achievement.   


Discovering poetry 

I’d never read poetry before joining the group and I am taking my time with it. Savouring each discovery. 

‘Mother to Son’ by Langston Hughes is a great poem of courage and really touched me. 


“Well, son, I’ll tell you: 

Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair. 

It’s had tacks in it, 

And splinters, 

And boards torn up, 

And places with no carpet on the floor— 



The words ‘no crystal stair’ really resonated with me.  The language of the poet.  

Another poem we’ve read is ‘June Light’ by Richard Wilbur. 

We talked about: why June light, why not July or August? And it got me thinking that this man is writing to his loved one on 5th June 1944 on the troop ship, heading into battle at Normandy with the full knowledge that he may not return. The poems give me something else to think about and I come out of the sessions feeling fulfilled.  

Literature has brought me through some tricky times.  I remember sleeping on the carpet with sciatica and watching Shakespeare’s plays on the BBC.  I didn’t get every line but what I caught I enjoyed.   

In the group we also enjoyed a translation of a poem by the Persian poet Hafiz called ‘The Astonishing Light’.  A piece of some antiquity, translated by Daniel Ladinsky.  I was inspired to know that some of the words from this poem have made it into everyday quotes that you come across in all sorts of ways. 

“I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in the darkness, the astonishing light of your own being”.  This is very uplifting.  “Even after all this time the sun never says to the Earth, You owe me”.  This reminds me of my relationship with my son.   


It’s a privilege to be part of the group – I don’t take it for granted.  I had a drink problem and was discharged from a support service last year.  The Spider Project has been very supportive with my wider rehabilitation.  I’m due back in work tomorrow and feeling like I can give something back.  I am planning to volunteer for Spider. 

Shared Reading is not like going back to school, everybody is made to feel extremely welcome. If you want to express an opinion nobody is going to ridicule.  Every opinion is welcome and if you want to participate, you’ll be more than welcome. There’s no pressure.  I could happily sit there all morning.  It is a pleasure. 

I’m not ashamed of my journey and I’m thankful to be feeling nourished and inspired.  Shared Reading has been a revelation to me and the fact that it is free is a benefit.  It’s wonderful. 

As a charity we rely on the generous support of individuals and organisations to help us change lives through Shared Reading. A donation allows us to train volunteers, provide resources for groups and help reach more people. We want to make sure everyone can attend a Shared Reading group, no matter their background, income or situation, and we'll be so grateful for your help.

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