The joy of reading brings people together in Hull

A project evoking memories and instigating discussion is bringing people together through reading in Hull.

Reading Rooms was launched in Londonderry in 2013 during the first UK City of Culture and is now being run in Hull as part of its year in the spotlight.

The project began in Hull in the spring and has so far connected with different groups of people throughout the city.

At a session at Central Library, a group that meets fortnightly read and listened to Radio Gannet by Shena Mackay, a short story about two sisters who lead very different lives.

The sessions are led by a trained facilitator and invite people to take part in the reading or just listen to stories before being invited to talk about the text and share personal memories and experiences that may be evoked by the literature.

Alex Alec-Smith is a trained Reading Rooms facilitator and Hull 2017 volunteer.

She said: “I think everybody likes stories. If you are watching television or listening to the radio you are getting a story, but this is going back to the basics and the origin of a story – even a television show is written.”

She said one of the brilliant things about Reading Rooms is how accessible it is.

“There is a lady in one of my groups who is blind and we did a thing with smells because we had an Autumn theme.

“I was reading a story about Cyprus Trees and we brought in some Cyprus oil and everybody had a little sniff. The blind lady is very quick, has a very good sense of smell, and before it had got near her she made a comment about it – you don’t need to read to come to a Reading Room”.

Stephen Locham has been attending Reading Rooms regularly and saidit had encouraged his passion for reading and writing his own poetry.

He said: “I’ve enjoyed all these sessions and I enjoy reading at home as well.

“It’s been good reading in a group because we can read, listen to the story, then have a chat afterwards which has given us confidence to learn more about a story.”

“I enjoy the reading and the conversations afterwards when we talk about it all – I like to have a chinwag.”

He said Reading Rooms is friendly and welcoming and gives you the chance to meet new people.

Michelle Alford, Director of Hull Library Service, said: “Reading Rooms is a bold concept that challenges the most vulnerable people to step out of their comfort zone and explore ideas and feelings through the writing of others.

“In doing so they are able to experience the new, unusual and exciting with expert support to help them to manage their response and build their confidence.”

Reading Rooms are free to attend and there are sessions every week at the following locations.

Tuesdays 2.15 – 3.15pm at Ings Library, Savoy Road, Hull HU8 0TY
Wednesdays 1.30 -2.30pm at Hull Central Library, Albion Street, Hull HU1 3TF
Wednesdays 6.15 – 7.15pm at Hull Central Library
Thursdays 2.30 – 3.30pm at Avenues Library, Chanterlands Avenue, Hull HU5 3TS

Martin Green, Director of Hull 2017, said: “It’s been fantastic to be able to take such a powerful project from Londonderry and have it in Hull as part of UK City of Culture 2017.”

“Storytelling brings joy to people all over the world and we have told some incredible stories in Hull this year.

“From Epicycle in West Park that told the story of a strange new world through breath-taking acrobatics, to Hull, Portrait of a City currently on display at Humber Street gallery, we have brought countless stories to life this year – none more so than the story of this incredible city.”

For more information or to book a place contact Reading Rooms on 01482 614286 or email [email protected]