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The Reader asks Londoners to get together around great literature to head off loneliness this festive season

Written by Rachael Norris, 23rd October 2019

After a decade reading aloud across the capital, new Shared Reading groups will help tackle loneliness in West London communities 

Volunteers read great literature aloud each week – to create time and space for better conversations with neighbours 

Volunteers who completed Read to Lead training in London

National charity The Reader is looking for new volunteers from across West London to join a free training programme hosted at King’s College London that will see them poised to transform their local community.

Shared Reading – bringing great novels, poems and plays to life through live reading aloud and group discussion – is a powerful group experience that sparks connection, reflection and discovery.

According to the Office for National Statistics, loneliness is felt across age, sex and income group, with 1 in 20 adults in England saying they are often or always lonely – equivalent to more than 430,000 Londoners.

The Greater London Authority, meanwhile, believes over a quarter of people in the capital are lonely, increasing among younger people, single people, LGBTQ+ people and those from BAME communities.

With support from players of Peoples Postcode Lottery, there are already 43 volunteers leading 31 Shared Reading groups across Hammersmith and Fulham, Kensington and Chelsea, and Westminster, with Ealing next to get on board.

One of the new groups will be reading in the former Rothschild banker’s mansion in Gunnersbury Park, which is now a museum. Kensington and Chelsea’s Older Residents’ Forum is also looking for new Reader Leaders to read aloud with people who are living in sheltered housing locally.

By creating regular space for people of all backgrounds and life situations to explore their inner lives and develop meaningful relationships with others, Shared Reading promotes confidence, improves wellbeing and builds communities.

With winter almost here, there’s never been a better time to start Shared Reading, as getting together around great literature is great for beating the blues.

In The Reader’s latest Feedback Week survey of more than 1,500 Readers across the UK:

  • 94% said they look forward their Shared Reading group ‘as an important event in my week’.
  • 91% said ‘the reading sessions make me feel better‘.
  • 84% said they’ve made new friends in the group.

Volunteers benefit too. Of more than 400 volunteers asked during Feedback Week:

  • 94% said it has given them a sense of achievement
  • 86% said it had increased their enjoyment of reading
  • 84% said it has improved their wellbeing

“As the days get shorter and darker, we know this is a particularly tough time for people across the country,” said Jane Davis, founder and director of The Reader.

“London is a unique and diverse city, but can be a lonely place at times, so we’re inviting people from across the west of the city to experience Shared Reading's unique power to help people make meaningful connections with each other. Then, perhaps, do some training with The Reader to bring this powerful group experience to more people.”

Shared Reading groups are free, usually happen every week and are open for people to drop in. They are already running in places like care homes, sheltered housing and a local café, in partnership with OpenAge.

A spokesperson from People’s Postcode Lottery said: “Our players are delighted to help bring Shared Reading to more people across the capital. London can be a very fast place to live, so we hope people will try a group, and then think about leading one, as Shared Reading gives everyone involved an hour or so each week to just be together away from the hustle and bustle.”

One Reader Leader volunteer in West London said: “Working with the Reader has been one of the most life-affirming experiences I have had.”

“When I first went to the group, I got short term enjoyment from it,” added one Shared Read group member, “but the longer I have attended, I have felt it to be a cumulative pleasure."

Volunteers receive a fully funded, three-day training course and ongoing support from The Reader, including community events and day trips.

To get involved, fill out the online form at or email for more information about local groups.

With huge thanks to players of People’s Postcode Lottery and King’s College London, along with local partners including St Mungo’s, Kensington and Chelsea Older Residents’ Forum, Age UK, Westway Trust, Community Champions, Notting Hill Genesis, Octavia Foundation, Open Age, Kensington & Chelsea, Hammersmith & Fulham and Westminster library services, Community Living Well, K&C MIND, Imperial College, Latymer Christian Centre, Dalgarno Trust, Fulham Good Neighbours, John Lewis Westfield, Clement James Centre, Masbro Centre, Numbian Life, Richmond Fellowship, St. Cuthbert’s Centre.

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