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Reading Friends

The gift of friendship

Written by Andrea O'Donnell
05 February 2019

We launched Reading Friends in Derry/Londonderry during Christmas 2018. We’re chatting to Reading Friends volunteer Dermot Kelly, and Reading Friends participant Violet about their experiences taking part.

Tackling loneliness through reading

Dermot Kelly, was the first Reading Friends Volunteer to launch the programme in Northern Ireland. In the first session for Reading Friends in Derry, Dermot read a poignant O. Henry Story, ‘The Gift of the Magi’. The story follows a young married couple who don’t have enough money to buy each other Christmas gifts. Dermot, who will be 86 next month, lives alone since his wife died three years ago. He is vocally passionate about local history and lore and loves bringing tales to life in our Reading Friends sessions.

Now in the New Year, Dermot is enjoying leading the Reading Friends group through a variety of reading material, including local writers such as Frank O’Connor, an Irish author of humorous short stories. For many of our Reading Friends being among peers has led to dynamic conversations about the reading material chosen, and just as ‘in vino veritas’, a lively discussion ensued around the joys and perils of drink.

Making new friends

One person who enjoys Dermot’s readings is Violet, a 78 year old woman and a Reading Friends attendee from the Waterside area of the city. Like Dermot, and many in the group, Violet was widowed two years ago. She values the stimulation and company of programmes like Reading Friends and the infinite places where conversations can go as a result of a story or poem in the hands of a lively group.

Reading Friends participant, Violet

‘I enjoy it 100%. Dermot is very good. He explains everything so I am learning lots about different characters and different places. I can imagine it all in my head. And he is a very educated man. It’s great to chat with the different people who come to the group and hear about their experiences.’
Reading Friend, Violet

Get involved

Find out more about Reading Friends in Derry/Londonderry, and Verbal our partner organisation in Northern Ireland.

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