The Reader at Calderstones goes bonkers for Shakespeare

Our opening season of exciting events and activities kicked off on Saturday as we welcomed outdoor touring theatre, The Handlebards, to the Meadow at Calderstones Park. 

Fern and Star photography

Our opening season of exciting events and activities kicked off on Saturday as we welcomed outdoor touring theatre, The Handlebards, to the Meadow at Calderstones Park. 

Despite a stormy outlook and heavy showers, the show did indeed go on and it was just as well as hundreds of intrepid revellers – some from as far afield as Scarborough and Sheffield – donned their waterproofs and settled in to enjoy an evening of Shakespeare as we’d never seen it before.

Thankfully, the weather came on side and apart from a pre-interval shower, and some atmospheric gusts of wind whipping up the trees, we were treated to an unforgettable performance of Much Ado About Nothing that had young and old in fits of laughter. 

Actors Mark Collier, Robin Harris, Ross Ford and William Ross-Fawcett – aka The Handlebards – had us all hooked as they skilfully switched characters and entertained us with song, dance, slapstick and of course, their trademark bonkers style.

The cast was ably supported by two plucky audience members who were drafted in throughout the evening. 

Kris, from Liverpool, threw himself into a variety of supporting roles – from partygoer to Friar Francis. Originally from Germany, Kris later admitted that while he hadn’t followed all the dialogue, he’d been only too happy to get up and join in the with the capers.

The other star of the show was Faith, from Toxteth, a volunteer from the British Red Cross SNAP (Strategic Network Asylum Programme), whose patience, as she was repeatedly called back to the stage, was a highlight of the performance.

Speaking about her impromptu moment of fame after the show, Faith said: “I had no idea that I’d end up being part of the performance tonight but I really enjoyed it! I like Shakespeare anyway but I absolutely loved The Handlebards and the unique style they brought to the performance was just fantastic – what a great evening!”

The Handlebards’ Mark Collier, who enthralled us all with his Claudio and Beatrice, as well as his ability to eat bananas one after the other, said “We’ve had such fun performing here tonight – it’s great to be in such a big, open space despite the uncertain weather!

“It was lovely to look out and see people of all ages enjoying the show. We’re pleased to have had such a great first show and we look forward to returning again soon.”

To keep up-to-date with details of future events at The Reader at Calderstones, be sure to check our website regularly and follow @Calderstones on social.

Follow the HandleBards on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.

Make yourself at home

Join us for a special housewarming weekend as we re-open the doors to the Calderstones Mansion House

Saturday 14th – Sunday 15th September

8.30am – 8.00pm

Come along to celebrate a new chapter in the life of the Grade II listed Calderstones Mansion House as we throw open the doors for a special housewarming that promises something for everyone!

Home of The Reader, the Calderstones Mansion House

10 reasons to come in and explore:

  1. Take a tour to hear about the people and the stories behind the Mansion – from its original owner, and its connections to a world-famous shipping line, to its place in the hearts of the ordinary people of Liverpool – many of whom still remember it fondly today.
  2. Be among the first to see the ancient Calder Stones that give the park and local area their name, restored and resplendent in a new purpose-built exhibition centre that tells their 5,000-year-old story.
  3. Join in a family storytelling session and get crafty at our imaginative story centre, the Storybarn.
  4. Drop into ‘Round the Clock Dickens’ as we attempt to read the whole of Dickens’ historical novel A Tale of Two Cities from start to finish across 2 days.
  5. Turn a literary quote into an origami bird and leave your mark on the Mansion with our special celebratory installation.
  6. Find out what Shared Reading is all about by joining in a taster session, inspired by one of our programme themes. Shared Reading is for everyone, there’s no pressure to read, just drop in and give it a try – you might even make a new friend!
  7. Get refreshed in the new Café in the Mansion or pop over to the Ice Cream Parlour in the Courtyard for a scoop of your favourite flavour.
  8. Imagine what life was like as one of the Neolithic ancestors who built the Calder Stones by joining in a special reading of the children’s classic Stig of the Dump.
  9. Enjoy some of the foods from your favourite books in our literary-inspired menu.
  10. Unwind your body and your mind in a yoga taster in the Mansion’s new yoga studio.

All activities are free and open to all.

Project Update and FAQs: June 2019


The Reader Mansion House is finally starting to look like a finished building and we can’t wait to offer a warm welcome to everyone who comes in to explore when the doors open later this Summer. Highlights from the last few months include:

  • The installation of a huge new sliding glass wall in the Garden Theatre, which will allow for use of the space as was originally intended when it was built in the 1940s, or as a large internal room.
  • The stonework steps and ramp, that will make the main entrance accessible and welcoming to visitors, have been laid.
  • The Reader Café seating area, on the South East side of the building is looking beautiful. When creating this area, we were excited to uncover the original cast iron fence posts that had been hidden from view.
  • The enclosure for the Calder Stones is now almost complete, with its living roof flourishing. This month the interactive elements of The Calderstones Story heritage attraction will be installed.
  • The first floor and basement are very nearly finished – lights are on, carpets are down.

If you’re interested in getting involved, we’re still looking for volunteers who want to help make the Mansion House a home – click here for details of the roles available.

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