G Spots! A Reading Project With A Difference

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G Spots! A Reading Project With A Difference

I love to read, but until now I have always thought of it as somewhat of an individual pursuit – not so thanks to a new project that has just launched in Belfast.

The Reading Rooms is an innovative shared reading project, which helps its participants improve their health and social well-being. It is the brainchild of Derry’s Verbal Arts Centre, and after a successful run in the North West, as part of the City of Culture programme, it has now been invited to Belfast.

Trained volunteers are hosting free shared reading sessions across the city in community groups; youth centres men’s and women’s groups, schools groups, Alzheimer’s groups and even prisons. The volunteers will bring specifically selected short stories and poems to the groups and read them aloud in a fun and interactive way.

It is hoped that the conversations that arise from the interaction gives the participants an opportunity to relate it back to their own lives and experiences.

I know on paper it might be hard to visualise the benefits of this type of project, but I attended the inaugural Belfast Reading Rooms in the Lord Mayor’s Parlour in the City Hall and was very impressed with the results.


There was a mix of men and women from Derry and North Belfast sitting together around the rather grand table with a passage of literature from Chekov called, The Lottery Ticket. Our reading facilitator, Marnie Kennedy gave a passionate reading of the piece and stopped at different points to have a chat about the meaning behind the words. Some of the group gave their opinion on what they thought they meant, with different opinions coming from other sides of the table. We read on and stopped another few times until pretty much everyone around the table had the chance to speak up. Lots of different viewpoints came out of the 45 minute session, but it was after, when I spoke to some of the participants that the real joy of the Reading Rooms shone through.

One of the ladies from North Belfast told me that she had been retired for a while and the group she attended in the Duncairn Centre was a great source of purpose and friendship. It gives her a place to go every Monday, even if it was only for an hour or so. The lively bunch of ladies from Derry enjoyed the friendships they have made from their Reading Rooms group and were proud that the initiative has ‘gone East’ to Belfast.

Marnie told me that she has men and women in her groups from 30-80 years old and it is not to be seen as a ‘book club’, so not to disadvantage anyone based on their reading ability. It is more an opportunity to share life experiences with other people through the use of literature. Until I saw it in action, I don’t think I would have appreciated the ability of a passage of literature to inspire debate and discussion.
The Reading Rooms are taking place in the Duncairn Centre in North Belfast, Linen Hall Library and Eason Belfast, with more to follow.

With the impending hustle and bustle of the festive season, maybe this is the perfect chance for you/your mum/dad/granny/granddad to take a bit of ‘me’ time, read something from Roald Dahl to Seamus Heaney and make some new friends to boot.


Post Author: Belfast Times

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