Reading Friends in Oldham has gone from strength to strength since it was set up in 2016. The programme runs in libraries, community centres, and sheltered housing in partnership with a range of local people and communities; we ensure that the project is tailored to the needs of the people taking part.
Our largest group in Oldham is for people with dementia and their carers, with over fifty members attending. Typically, people with dementia are more able to recall things from many years ago than recent memories, and we ensure that activities are based on reminiscence and bring back some of their childhood memories. The sessions give carers time for respite, and allows them to learn new skills in a supportive and fun environment. Through our work, we have met a range of inspiring Reading Friends, including Brian, who attends our sessions at Oldham Library.
Brian is living with dementia; it is difficult for him to communicate, and he is supported in the sessions by his family and his wife Rosemary. Before becoming a Reading Friend, Brian’s life was filled with a love of books and boxing – the former is what led him to us.
Brian was born in Collyhurst in the 1940s. Later in his career, he spent forty years teaching defence as the first policy, just as he learnt from his mentors, Jack Bates, Billy Tansey and Tommy Proffit. Despite leaving school hardly able to read or write, Brian’s desire to share his knowledge of boxing has led him to write eleven books on boxing. In later years, he would share his enthusiasm with his son, and they worked together to write several books.
A true asset to his community, and to us, Brian received an MBE for Services to the Community and on his retirement from boxing in 2011. We asked poet Ian McMillian to compose a short piece about Brian, which can be read here.