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Written by Francesca Dolan, 26th October 2021

Gravity is a new festival hosted by The Reader that blends literature with wellbeing. Through workshops, headline talks, panel discussions and Shared Reading groups, together we will address the difficulties that have plagued us throughout the Covid-19 era.

Taking its theme from writer, Jeanette Winterson, who wrote: ‘Inside books there is a perfect space and it is that space which allows the reader to deal with the normal problems of gravity’, Gravity will provide opportunities for discovery and encourage reflection.

The festival will take place from 5-7 November with a blend of online & in person events, the latter taking place at the Mansion House in Liverpool’s picturesque Calderstones Park.

Come and join us!

Here are our top 10 not-to-be-missed Gravity events…

1. 'Ways to Care' - Friday 5 November, 5pm
Online | 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, 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.

2. Bandaged Moments - Friday 5 November, 7pm
In person | £5

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’. 


3. An Evening with Jimmy McGovern, talking time with Erwin James and Kate Bramhall

Online tickets available | £5

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. 


4. (M)otherhood with Pragya Agarwal
- Saturday 6 November, 5pm
In person & online | £5

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.


5. 'Ways to be Alone'
- Saturday 6 November, 5pm
Online | 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.

6. Lockdown Days
- Sunday 7 November, 5pm
In person & online | £5

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.




7. 'Ways to Cope' - Sunday 7 November, 12noon
Online | 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.


8. Homer's Guide to Being Alive Now - Saturday 6 November, 3pm
In person & online | £3

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.




9. Panel Discussion: Caring and Reading, during Covid-19 - Sunday 7 November, 11am
In person & online | £3

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.




10. Not Always a Happy Ending: Maxine Peake reads from Hamlet and Happy Days - Sunday 7 November, 3pm
In person & online | £5

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.


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