Reading Friends is our new programme, funded by the Big Lottery Fund, which tackles loneliness through the proven power of reading.
For the launch of the programme at the British Film Institute (BFI) on the South Bank on 30 October 2018, we commissioned Right Thing Films to create a film for us to embody all things Reading Friends. We also had the support of leading authors Vaseem Khan, Veronica Henry, Ian McMillan and Ifor ap Glyn, the national poet of Wales. Vaseem, Veronica and Ifor participated in a question-and-answer with Subnum Hariff-Khan, Library and Information Manager at Oldham Libraries.
Ifor commented: "Reading Friends is a way for society to reconnect with itself."
Vaseem said: "Many of us may be the same people served by Reading Friends in 20 to 30 years' time."
Veronica added: "Reading Friends gives your life momentum and a framework... it takes people out of their shells."
Our authors came together to help us share the stories of four of our amazing Reading Friends from across the UK. In Newcastle, Vaseem helped us tell the story of a heart-warming intergenerational friendship that has blossomed between Reading Friend Ann and volunteer Alison.
We were able to travel to the beautiful Colwyn Bay to meet Jane, supported by Ifor. Ifor was kind enough to write a beautiful poem featuring Jane's story, which he wrote in Welsh and translated into English for us.
Oldham saw the arrival of poet and radio presenter Ian, who focused on Brian Hughes's extraordinary story. Formerly a boxer and author in his own right, Brian has been diagnosed with dementia. Reading Friends helps him reconnect with his love of books.
Lastly, Devon-based author Veronica Henry surprised our Reading Friends group in Horsham, West Sussex. Veronica joined the group to read a very special story she had written recalling the wartime evacuation memories of Elsie, one of our Reading Friends.