International Centre for Shared Reading gets green light for development in Liverpool

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 

Calderstones Mansion House wins Heritage Lottery Fund support

The Reader has received initial support* from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for the Calderstones Mansion House project. The overall project plans to renovate the Mansion House and launch as an International Centre for Shared Reading in 2016.

Development funding of £115,200 has been awarded to help The Reader  develop their plans for a £1.8 million capital application. For this first stage funding The Reader have created the role of Heritage Stories Maker, whose focus will largely be on exploring the history of Calderstones Park and creating community projects aimed at allowing various groups to learn about the history of the grounds.

The biggest of these projects The Big Dig will take place over the summer in association with National Museums Liverpool. Named after the Neolithic stones discovered in the 18th Century, Calderstones Park will be accessed for the first time by the public for historical excavations. The date for the big dig and how community members can take part will be released over the coming weeks on The Reader website through The Big Dig blog. Further plans include the creation of a heritage room within the mansion bringing to life the building’s own specific history for visitors to discover.

The building is currently home to 9 weekly shared reading groups and both The Reader Café and Gallery with the Coach House soon to become The Reader’s Head Office. Built in 1828 for Joseph Need Walker, a lead shot manufacturer. In 1875 the house and estate were acquired by Charles McIver, founder of Cunard Line, for £52,000. In more recent years the Mansion has largely been used for offices belonging to Liverpool City Council.

There will also be opportunities for members of the community to help raise funds for further elements of the mansion redevelopment, including a community development committee which will oversee and help with fundraising efforts. This initial grant allows The Reader to start the first steps on a much longer journey of development in creating the worlds first International Centre for Shared Reading.

“We’re really excited about the possibilities this first stage grant offers Calderstones Mansion House and the potential further funding and development will have on this beautiful building. We have plans to create a very special International Centre for Reading and Wellbeing here and this funding allows us to start realising those plans.”

Jane Davis, founder and director, The Reader

*A first-round pass means the project meets HLF criteria for funding and HLF believes the project has potential to deliver high-quality benefits and value for Lottery money. The application was in competition with other supportable projects, so a first-round pass is an endorsement of outline proposals. Having been awarded a first-round pass, the project now has up to two years to submit fully developed proposals to compete for a firm award.

On occasion, an applicant with a first-round pass will also be awarded development funding towards the development of their scheme.

The Reader Preferred Bidder for Calderstones Mansion House

Liverpool-based social business, The Reader, has today been awarded ‘preferred bidder’ status for Calderstones Mansion House by Liverpool City Council.

The Reader, will transform Calderstones Mansion House, Coach House and Stable Yard into an International Centre for Reading and Wellbeing at Calderstones, working with three key local partners, Mersey Care NHS, Plus Dane Group and the University of Liverpool’s CRILS (Centre for Research into Reading, Information and Linguistic Systems).

Jane Davis, founder and director of The Reader, said:

“Our vision for Calderstones is a community for everyone, with reading at its heart. We will ask people what they want and need and then connect them with it.  We think that at Calderstones we have the perfect location to make this a regeneration success story for our city.

The restored buildings will create a beautiful facility for local people, yet at the same time connect us to international visitors.

At Calderstones we will all connect.”

The Reader shares Liverpool City Council’s vision of Liverpool being ‘equal, well and green’ by 2020. Their proposal respects the heritage of the beautiful Grade II status buildings, the character of the surrounding Calderstones Park and the views of local people, whilst creating a sustainable social enterprise that will change people’s lives. With reading firmly at its heart, The Reader will:

  • Hugely improve the offer to park users with a superb bistro, conference, events and training facilities, gardens, gallery and shop;
  • Establish an international hub for shared reading practice, training and academic research;
  • Support local community groups and community entrepreneurs through the provision of meeting rooms, activities and workshop studios;
  • Reach some of the most vulnerable people in our society, creating aspiration and opportunities for personal development;
  • Create jobs and provide volunteering, mentoring, apprenticeship and employment opportunities to service users and local graduates;
  • Consult the local community on their views and ideas.

Liverpool Councillor Malcolm Kennedy, cabinet member for Regeneration, said:

“I’m delighted that we have appointed The Reader to take over the Mansion House. They are a strong organisation with an excellent track record of growing their charity year-on-year.

There was a good deal of interest in the building, and we considered all the proposals carefully. We chose The Reader because we were impressed by what was a very strong bid. They have some fantastic ideas which we believe will not only bring the building back into use in a meaningful way but will help protect its future.”

The Reader has an excellent track record in creating new products and managing projects. Since 2008, the social business has more than doubled its income, increased staff numbers by over 200% and increased its Shared Reading group activity by nearly 300%.

The Reader now enters a six month planning period with its partners and consultants, Cass Associates (architects) and Pulse Regeneration. They expect to take up residency at Calderstones this coming August, whilst retaining their current base in West Everton. Development of the full International Centre for Shared Reading will be phased and expected to complete in December 2015.