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COMMUNITY: Lunch hour literature

20th January 2015 • Tower Bridge Blog

COMMUNITY: Lunch hour literature

There aren't that many opportunities during the working week where you can make yourself a cuppa, sit down with a great story, and have a good old chin wag. But this is what we’re encouraging people to do every Thursday, here at Tower Bridge.

Thanks to the help of the award-winning social enterprise, The Reader Organisation, we’ve been able to offer free shared reading sessions every week for the past couple of months. It’s open to everyone and with no pressure to prepare anything beforehand – you just drop in, relax, and read aloud.

Sound a bit too good to be true? It’s not. The Reader Organisation has been setting up these small groups up and down the country as part of their ‘reading revolution’. Forget visions of school ma’ams barking at you for not knowing your alliteration from your allegory - shared reading is all about coming together, reading together, and talking about whatever brilliant story or poem is in front of you.

In the months that we've been up and running, we've read as widely as Roald Dahl to Bertolt Brecht, from Shakespeare to Danny Wallace and beyond. We’ve had office workers drop in on their lunch break, people travelling in from further afield as a treat, as well as Tower Bridge staff who just want a break from their duties. No doubt the shared reading group offers a welcome relief from spreadsheets and ‘pow-wows’ but it’s also surprisingly restorative.

Recent research has shown that attending a weekly shared reading group has a number of benefits including improved health and well-being, reduced stress, and increased positivity about life, which is probably why the Centre for Research into Reading, Literature and Society (CRILS) is keen to examine the impact of groups like ours. Also, thanks to funding from Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, a three-year research project has been established in the south London area, which means more and more shared reading groups will be popping up around you.

So this January instead of having your lunch al-desko, give yourself a decent break – meet new people, read great literature, and give shared reading a go. We meet every Thursday at 12:55pm outside Tower Bridge’s Engine Rooms (next to Potter’s Field/Shad Thames).

And although those deliverables won’t action themselves, it’s useful to remember the words of Mason Cooley: reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.

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