The Reader, a national charitable social enterprise have this week signed a lease with Liverpool City Council for Calderstones Mansion House giving them residency for 125 years. The organisation, an award-winning charitable social enterprise works across the UK to connect people with great literature and with each other. They are dedicated to making it possible for people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities to enjoy and actively engage with literature on a deep and personal level.
Councillor Malcolm Kennedy, Liverpool city council cabinet member for regeneration, said
“This is a major step forward for the Reader’s plans for the Mansion House. It will enable them to press on with their exciting proposals to develop the building. We wanted the Mansion House to be taken over by an organisation that would bring it back into use in very positive manner and would protect its future. The work that the Reader are doing alongside us and the local community will ensure that happens. We are confident that by granting them this lease it will help the Reader go forward and make their proposals a reality to the enormous benefit of the city.”
The Reader have been working from within the building for 18 months after securing preferable bidder status in 2013. They have been welcoming visitors in their thousands including their readers alongside members of the community to events within the house such as their children’s literature festival, heritage tours and weekly shared reading groups.
They have also opened a thriving social enterprise café, re-opened both the garden theatre alongside the gallery, welcoming a variety of passionate local artists. However the signing of a lease means that they can now move ahead with their plans to develop the Mansion into an International Centre for Shared Reading, a home for readers.
The first phase of the development will include working with members of the community to raise funds for vital mansion refurbishment, as well as working together to make sure local voices who feel a connection with the building are heard in the process. The project will need to acquire funding of £4 Million and has already secured a first stage Heritage Lottery Fund grant alongside a Social Investment Business feasibility grant.
The Reader are thrilled to have reached this stage and continue to develop the prospects for the Mansion House, Stables and surrounding buildings. Current future plans include the possibility of a bistro, accommodation for literary residencies, and the restoration of the much loved garden theatre. The Mansion House will continue to be open to the public whilst it undergoes future changes, not only with its shared reading groups but with rentable offices, catered events spaces and regular seasonal events.
‘This is a key milestone in the development of The Reader at Calderstones. We are very pleased that Liverpool City Council have confidence in our vision for the Mansion House and have backed it with a 125 year lease. Whilst the building will undergo a significant refurbishment over the coming years – we are very much open for business – you can attend shared reading groups, visit the café and gallery, rent event and office spaces – please come and visit the house!’
Dr Jane Davis, founder and director, The Reader