Regeneration: New Life Stirring at The Mansion House

South windows, spring 2012
Calderstones Mansion House, south windows, Spring 2012

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On Friday 12th and Saturday 13th of April, The Reader Organisation opened the doors of the Mansion House (in Liverpool’s Calderstones Park) to the public for the first time in forty years. We had more than 1200 visitors, from new babies to nonageniarians, and many pushchairs, wheelchairs, bikes and scooters, 20-odd dogs, including the unaccompanied chocolate labrador who bounded in at top speed,  did a fast and chaos-causing circuit of all the open rooms on the ground floor – hall, drawing room, the kids camp creative, the garden stage and then back out the front door, without stopping to make eye contact with anyone. That dog was concentrating. When I told Brian (Nellibobs), about the labby, he said, ‘That  was an angel come to bless the place.’  Thorough, fast, a little crazy, utterly concentrated, and very chocolatey…yes, sounds like a Reader angel…

We want to talk to  everyone who is interested in our plan to develop an International Centre for Reading and Wellbeing here at Calderstones, and these two open days  are the opening stage of our consultation process.

Everyone was delighted to have the building open, and it was  lovely to meet people who said, I have been walking past this building for 30 years… or who  had held their wedding receptions here thirty, forty, fifty and more years ago – people brought photos and wedding albums, and one lady brought the receipt for her do – cost over £30! We asked everyone to write down memories of the building, and filled two big noticeboards…One man’s great great grandfather was Head Coachman here. We’ll publish all these memories once transcribed. And nearby, we filled a wall with wishes bunting – asking our visitors what would you like to see happen here?

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We took more than £800 on our book and cake stalls, and Chris Catterall (TROs Business Brain) asked me to record for posterity The Reader’s first shop (some of us have been wanting to open a shop for a long long time.) So here it is:

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People were waiting on the step when we opened at 10.00am on Friday  and they kept coming – here are people entering  late on Saturday afternoon – that’s the front door to the right of the picture. Below are scenes from Camp Creative where the stories kept going all day. Notice the mysterious picture on the mantlepiece…

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On the Garden stage people remembered seeing pierrots and clowns, talent shows and brass bands and performing dogs… and people volunteered their skills and talents – in retail, business analysis, flower arranging, adult education, cooking, drama. And paranormal investigations!  (The Mansion was owned by the McIver family who founded the famous Cunard Line, so we’re bound to have a few interesting ghost stories…)2013-04-12 14.22.17

2013-04-12 12.07.21One of our future readers slept through the whole thing… and many old friends travelled from Wirral to see us and recall the early days of Get Into Reading – here’s Brenda with her daughter and grandson…

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Late on Saturday, I was delighted to meet three old friends from the 1970’s feminist commune days – Sue, Naomi and Nina. We lived together with other women and our children at No.2 Sunnyside, a lovely 1840’s house on the perimeter of Princes Park. It’s very similar to the Mansion House in style, though a bit smaller. The Reader Organisation owes a lot to  things I learned as the youngest member of Lysistrata, which gave me the chance to become a do-er.  Strange sense of  some sort of  completion, to walk around the yet-to-be-made thing that is the Mansion House with these women who had so much influence on my 20 year old self.  ‘Say  not the struggle naught availeth’, as Liverpool-born poet  Arthur Hugh Clough wrote.

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At finally, at the end of Friday, we’d created so much heat and dust that we set the fire alarm off, just after the public had gone. Shivering on the  assembly point, we were led in a very Readerly Harlem shake by our own resident dancer, the delightfully flexible Criminal Justice Projects Manager, Amanda Brown. It ain’t over, as they say…

5 thoughts on “Regeneration: New Life Stirring at The Mansion House

  1. 6vicky7 April 14, 2013 / 2:05 pm

    inspirational – what a wonderful resource and way to launch it

  2. lynn April 15, 2013 / 10:10 am

    Wow!!!! Amazing, well done everyone, the video of everyone dancing just made me cry with laughter / love x

  3. Sue Brannan May 1, 2013 / 11:57 am

    Wow , Look forward to more and sorry I missed the event at Caldersones, it looked like everyone had FUN!

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