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Jimmy McGovern and Maxine Peake to headline charity’s literature festival for the covid-era 

Written by Francesca Dolan, 4th October 2021

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

Actor, writer and activist Maxine Peake and screenwriter Jimmy McGovern feature in the programme alongside authors Erwin James (Redeemable) and Dr Pragya Agarwal ((M)otherhood).

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 Reader’s headquarters in Liverpool’s Calderstones Park. Highlights include:

  • Not Always A Happy Ending: Maxine Peake reads from Hamlet and Happy Days in conversation with The Reader’s founder, Dr Jane Davis  
  • An evening with Jimmy McGovern, talking Time with writer, Erwin James 
  • (M)otherhood with Dr Pragya Agarwal, behavioural and data scientist, and author  
  • GP and author Dr Gavin Francis reads from Intensive Care – A GP, A community and Covid-19
  • Homer’s Guide to Being Alive Now – Neil Atkinson (The Anfield Wrap) and Pranav Sood 
  • Hourly, drop in Shared Reading groups for families 
  • Ways to… Online Shared Reading workshops with a specific focus, exploring ways to grieve, age, care and be alone. 
  • Wellbeing workshops – unwind and let loose with arts and crafts, yoga, and nature poetry walks. 

Dr Jane Davis, founder and director of The Reader, explains ‘Lots of studies have shown that what makes people happy, above all, is a supportive network and a sense of purpose. Gravity Festival aims to provide both. 

Gravity creates a place where we can open up the serious conversations we humans need but don’t always know how to start. Stories, poems and complex dramas, like Jimmy McGovern’s Time, give us a rich language with which to talk about and understand our lives. And if you’d rather quietly do yoga or make a piece of origami or go for a poetry walk with someone you don’t have to talk to… they are available, too.’

The Reader is supported by Arts Council England, The National Lottery Community Fund, players of People’s Postcode Lottery and the Steve Morgan Foundation.  

Gravity Festival is supported by the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, Garfield Weston Foundation and The Granada Foundation. 

Tickets for Gravity Festival are now on sale and can be purchased online at 

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