Reading Friends volunteer, Dermot, spent some of his time in lockdown reflecting on his Reading Friends journey. Dermot was one of the first volunteers in Northern Ireland to take up the Reading Friends opportunity in late 2018. Until lockdown, he ran a weekly session at Older People North West in Derry/Londonderry.

What did the group read?

In the spirit of Reading Friends, Dermot established some democratic reading choices with his group. However they were more than happy to rely on his own extensive library and knowledge. Dermot made selections from short stories, magazines, local writing, old newspapers, poetry, quotations and the stories behind nicknames. He also discovered a wealth of children’s street rhymes from the 1920s and 1930s. He used these at an intergenerational session with children from the local primary school to great effect.

How did Dermot make Reading Friends inclusive?

Dermot was conscious that members of his group had issues with sight and hearing loss. If he shared copies of reading material, he made sure to copy in large print. His group met in a fairly tight circle of comfortable chairs and Dermot pitched his voice a little higher and louder than usual. These are just two examples of how Reading Friends can accommodate everybody.

What did Dermot find out about the people in his group?

Reminiscence played a part in Dermot’s sessions with group members recalling the characters and events that Dermot read about. Two members of the group related significant events in their lives and in the life of the community and were subsequently published in a local magazine Waterside Voices:

Story about participant, Olive

Olive was born and raised in the Springfield area of Derry/Londonderry. Olive was a child in May 1932 when she heard that a plane had landed in a field on McCallion’s farm nearby. Amelia Earhart was the pilot, the first woman to fly the Atlantic solo; she was heading for France, but came down in Derry/Londonderry. Planes were not a common sight then, and hundreds of people gathered to see the ‘Friendship’, including Olive and her grandfather.

Story about participant, Hilary, and her son

Hilary’s son, Richard, had cycled across Africa to raise money for BBC Children in Need and to mark his 40th birthday. In 1997, Hilary and Richard were invited to meet then Secretary of State, Dr Mo Mowlam, at a garden party at Hillsborough Castle. They were disappointed to find that she had been recalled to Westminster, but were determined to enjoy their day. Imagine their surprise when the guests of honour were announced – Her Majesty the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh.

Project update from Older People North West

Older People North West is a day centre in Derry/Londonderry, Northern Ireland. It has remained open as normal for Meals on Wheels which has scaled up to meet increased demand.   They now run two vans and, in addition to meals, they have delivered add-ons such as magazines, puzzles and seeds for people to grow their own winter vegetables.

They are working hard on making changes to their building in order to re-open and welcome friends back.

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