Reading Allowed* for Autumn …

Our programme for the next Reading Allowed* event – the penultimate of the year – has a varied programme including classic autumnal fare by Walter de La Mare, a short story by Graham Greene and we get bang up to date with some performance poetry by Taylor Mali.

Please e-mail us if you intend to come along, so that we can properly accommodate you all …

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How well do you know your poetic devices?

I’m sure my students are completely fed up with hearing me bang on about ‘subject terminology’ – that special vocabulary, those names for writing tools, which are unique to the subject.  Thing is, they form part of the mark-scheme at both GCSE and A Level: repeated and fluent use of subject terminology is essential to get a top grade!

So, I bet you’re desperate for a fun way to check what you know and what you don’t?

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Our next ‘Reading Allowed’* event …

* pun intended

If you were at last year’s ‘Woman In Black‘ series of events, we hope you won’t need persuading to come to our next outing …

First-timers will find a fun, informal and friendly evening, where we aim to help you rediscover the joys of reading aloud, as well as to scare you just a tiny bit.  There will be free refreshments on offer (please let us know if you are coming, so that we can cater for the right numbers) and the opportunity to buy some books at discounted prices.

CHILDREN:  you are very welcome to bring your parents along, as long as you promise they will behave themselves!

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Jane Austen and the new £10 note


A detail from the new ten-pound note – coming soon, to a cashpoint near you!

Enrichment Week this year focused on ‘British Values‘.  And what could be more enriching (if you pardon the pun), than discussing our currency?

Some of you will be aware that on the 200th Anniversary of her death, the Bank of England unveiled Jane Austen as the new face of the £10 note.

There was some controversy about the quotation from Pride and Prejudice – probably Austen’s best-loved book, and the inspiration for Bridget Jones’ Diary – that appears on the note:

“I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading”

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Crimes Against Shakespeare …

If you know me, you know how much I like – no, am obsessed by – Shakespeare.  I’m such a fan that I’m currently reading one play per month until April 2020!

So, imagine my horror when I saw this (below) on the BBC website.  In fact, to paraphrase the great man himself, it was ‘a mote to trouble the mind’s eye’ …

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Waterstones Children’s Books Prize 2017

kiran millwood hargraveThe latest prize has been awarded to Kiran Millwood Hargraves for an adventure book – The Girl of Ink and Stars – which is in fact her debut novel.


Here’s a synopsis:

“Isabella Riosse is the daughter of a cartographer who lives on the island of Joya; an isle both steeped in mythology and shrouded in mystery. For the last thirty years, a strict Governor has forbidden the island inhabitants from venturing beyond their small township.

Isabella is fascinated with the ancient myths of Joya, which is said to have once floated freely over the seas. Preoccupied with ideas of exploration and inspired by the far-flung places her father once documented, she yearns for adventure.

When her best friend Lupe runs away, disappearing into the forbidden forest, Isabella volunteers to bring her back. With only her knowledge of ancient myths and one of her father’s maps to guide her, Isabella ventures into the perilous world beyond, where monsters lurk and magical rivers run.”


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Ten empowering female characters in children’s books …

Follow this link for an interesting selection of female characters … the comments underneath the article also give further suggestions.

Which ones have you read?  Do you agree with their inclusion?  What’s missing from the list?


Poem of the Week: w/c 03 April

shrek donkeyWith the Easter holidays approaching, I thought I’d find something appropriate.

GK Chesterton is mostly famous for his Father Brown detective stories, the detective being a priest.  This reflects his religious interests, also echoed in the biblical references towards the end of this poem.  It’s long been a favourite of mine, describing the donkey as a strange and almost monstrous creature, but reminding us that ‘every dog has its day’ …

Another work of Chesterton’s worth exploring is the Absurd novel The Man Who Was Thursday.  It features the recruitment of a poet by the police to infiltrate a gang of anarchists, but nothing is as it seems in this spiritually-flavoured thriller.  There are two especially memorable parts of the book:  the first is a superb chase sequence, and the second, one of my favourite quotations about loneliness and friendship – I think it also links to Shrek, actually:


“Through all this ordeal his root horror had been isolation, and there are no words to express the abyss between isolation and having one ally. It may be conceded to the mathematicians that four is twice two. But two is not twice one; two is two thousand times one.”

Here’s the poem – let me know if you enjoy it …

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FREE AUDIO: A Streetcar Named Desire

You can access a BBC production of Tennessee Williams’ important play by clicking this link.  The link is valid until 24 April.

A Streetcar Named Desire (one of our A Level texts) is on the surface a domestic drama – the educated, fading beauty with a shady past, Blanche, runs out of options and comes for an extended stay in the claustrophobic home of her sister, Stella, and Stella’s husband, the working-class brute, Stanley (who was so memorably played by Marlon Brando in his first film role).

But the inevitable conflict that follows isn’t just a family tragedy played out in multi-cultural New Orleans – it’s a battle for the soul and direction of a country, finding its feet after the Second World war.  How much of the past can, should, we let go of in moving forward?  What is the ‘cost’ of progress?

‘Streetcar’ explores these and many other issues.  Once heard or seen, never forgotten …

(And excellent revision for the students studying it, naturally)



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Quote of the Day: Ian McEwan

mcewan_1640441cIf you could make a change to anything you’ve written over the years, what would it be?

From my first book, First Love, Last Rites – remove all the pretentious commas doing the work of full stops and replace with full stops. Also, introduce some sensible paragraphing.

My students take note!

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