Heroes kick off Reading Groups programme
17 August 2006
The Department of English is extending its programme of Lifelong Learning activities from September with a series of Reading Groups.
It will be running three groups within the University – for first-year medical students, for trainee counsellors and for local alumni – and three external groups. The external reading groups will be run in association with Bristol Libraries and will meet in the libraries at Hartcliffe, Knowle and Henbury. Each group will be run by a postgraduate student from the English Department, who will advise on choosing books and who will lead the discussion.
As part of its commitment to Lifelong Learning, the department also hosts what it hopes will become an annual fixture in the University’s public events calendar – a Readers’ Day. The second Readers’ Day, entitled Heroes and Visions, took place in June. More than 70 local residents took part in the day-long programme of discussions, readings and workshops. Four practising writers – the historian Tim Cole, the novelists Tessa Hadley and Andrew Taylor, and the children’s writer Diana Wynne Jones – talked about their work, first in a panel discussion, and then in individual discussion groups that allowed participants to meet the writer of their choice in a more intimate context. Discussions focused on particular texts, and everyone attending the day received a free book. Each discussion group was chaired by one of the department’s Lifelong Learning tutors.
Professor David Hopkins of the Department of English attended the panel discussion. ‘I have seldom encountered such a free and uninhibited flow of discussion, comment, and interaction in such a large-scale gathering’, he said. ‘The writers’ presentations put audience members immediately at their ease, and the group conversation soon ranged widely about such questions as the “truth” of historical writing and the “logic” of fantasy fiction.’
Judging by the comments of other participants, the event was clearly a huge success. ‘Everything was so well organised,’ remarked one, ‘the workshops were pitched at just the right level for each of us, and we thoroughly enjoyed the authors’ panel and discussion.’ ‘Impeccably organised, excellent lunch, and fascinating workshops,’ said another. A third found herself ‘still reeling’ several days later from what she described as a ‘life-changing’ experience.
Tim Cole’s participation in Readers’ Day marked the launch of the Department of Historical Studies’ involvement in Lifelong Learning. The event was organised by Tom Sperlinger, Lifelong Learning Organiser in the new School of Humanities.
The Department of English has also just launched a new short course, Reading English Literature, designed to help local mature students return to study and progress to a part-time degree or higher education certificate.