Bluecoat Reading Group, Liverpool City Centre
For me, reading groups provide a release from the stress of professional life and the intensity of commercial necessity. What’s more they are really good fun: exhilarating, challenging, inspiring on many levels.
I’d forgotten the sheer pleasure of listening to someone reading aloud and I’m pretty sure I that I had never read literature or poetry aloud in adult company before. There’s something about the slowness of it, the way it makes you focus – it demands patience and concentration. Initially I struggled reading some of the more challenging texts and poetry – I felt a little bit out of my comfort zone – but the non-judgmental, friendly and welcoming group carried me over this early phase.
I now read poetry – I don’t always understand it, but enjoy the challenge of trying to do so. I sometimes read poetry to my wife too (often poems from Monday and Wednesday groups) – a concept we both would have found faintly comical not many months ago. I also read a much wider range of books and am prepared to push myself.
There is a real sense of community and friendship in the two groups I attend. But what is really interesting to me is that the participants know little or nothing about each other and perhaps find that sense of anonymity gives comfort and confidence. There is absolute and genuine mutual respect within the groups – and that is something I don’t always see in my day-to-day agenda driven job. Individuals tend to say what they think and what they mean. It gives me a real buzz to see someone having a crack at reading a Victorian novel when they struggle with the language and meaning – and the exciting thing is to see someone get so much from the overall experience whether or not they can grasp the vocabulary.
Focusing on reading has a lasting benefit that extends beyond the group: at 6.30pm on a Wednesday I can be at screaming pitch with pressure, by 6.45pm totally absorbed in Dante and and by 8.30pm fully relaxed and ready to face anything. Through reading I have now found a perfect new dimension to my work/home life balance; an interest that fits easily into my busy schedule. The routine is crucial: when stressed I can always look forward to the next group. I’ve only missed one session all year – work appointments get moved or cancelled but I see the reading group as non-negotiable date in the diary. They’re are a safe-haven. No phone calls. No hassles. No interruptions.
I just love it.
Managing Director, Alexander MacGregor Ltd, Liverpool