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The Reader visits Buckingham Palace

Written by Lily Kehoe, 24th May 2024

Helen Willows is a GP working both in Shropshire and in the Scottish Highlands and Islands. She is Trustee and experienced Reader Leader supporting a group of around twenty volunteer Reader Leaders across Shropshire and into Wales and Cheshire.

‘Did you call me, Katie?’, I WhatsApped Katie Clarke, Director of Literature at The Reader. ‘I’m in a very loud taverna on Crete….’
It transpired that Katie had called because there was an urgent invitation to a Royal Garden Party at Buckingham Palace for the Creative Industries in three weeks time. Would I like to go? (Yes!)
And thus Jemma Guerrier, Managing Director, and I met in the sunshine at the gates of Buckingham Palace on May 15, 2024, clutching our pink invitations and a piece of identification.
I love The Reader and was so proud to be chosen to represent the 100s of volunteers who are so integral to its work.
As the national anthem played, and the King and Queen came into view, I kept repeating the phrase ‘we bring people together and books to life’.
It was an unexpected surprise, when the crowds were parted and we found ourselves on the front row. And then, even more a surprise, when the King walked directly over to us for a natter! We weren't expecting to have the chance to tell him about Shared Reading but goodness, did we grasp the opportunity!
Emboldened by the conversation, I walked briskly over to the other side of the garden where the Queen was meeting people and again found myself on the front row for a hand shake. The phrase 'we bring people together and books to life' seemed to interest the Queen and led to a short further discussion culminating, on my part, with an excited ‘I think it’s just your sort of thing!’ and, so far as I remember, a ‘so do I, I’ll visit you when I’m next in Liverpool’ from the Queen.
Jemma and I danced a short victory dance on the palace lawns, had another cup of tea and wandered off to explore the beautiful gardens.

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