About Reading Communities

Welcome to the project website for the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) project, ‘Reading Communities: Connecting the Past and the Present’, based at The Open University. This public impact and engagement project will help to answer questions about reading habits by investigating readers in the past and demonstrating their relevance to us today. 'Reading Communities' is a follow-on project from the UK Reading Experience Database (RED). RED is an open access database, and the largest resource recording the experiences of readers of its kind anywhere.

Running from December 2015 to November 2016, 'Reading Communities' is a 12 month AHRC project, led by Dr Shafquat Towheed, with Dr Edmund King, and Dr Maya Parmar, who are all based in The Open University’s English Department, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS).

We encourage you to join us at our events, share in the activities and bring with you your favourite books, diaries, and letters.

The project team will stage a series of themed events around the UK. Event activities will include hands-on workshop sessions, round table discussions with members of reading groups, public lectures by acknowledged experts in the history of reading, oral history interviews, and literary readings.

Events will be timed to coincide with reading-related events and anniversaries throughout the year and all events are open to the public and are free to attend. 

In April the team visited Belfast, partnering with the OU in Northern Ireland and Verbal Arts. NvTv, a community TV station, visited us during our day of interactive events, producing a film. Their local news programme ‘Focal Point’, broadcast on Friday 15 April at 7.00pm, included a feature on our event:

Reading Communities Workshop

(Reading Communities Workshop from Northern Visions NvTv on Vimeo.)

Throughout 2016 we will collaborate with a number of different organisations around the country, and we invite you to join us for our activities. If you have an interest in reading habits and preferences in the past you will enjoy the 'Reading Communities' programme. You may be a member of a reading group, take an active interest in reading as an informed social activity, or have wondered whether other readers from the past and the present have responded to your favourite book in the same way as you. If the project sounds of interest, do take a look at our programme of events, and get in touch with the project team. 

Reading Communities: Connecting the Past and the Present, an Arts and Humanities Research Council funded project

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Liverpool: Reading and Self Improvement

We visited Liverpool earlier this year conducting a range of public, free talks, reading groups and workshops. Take a look at our short film from our two-day event:

Is there such a thing as a Northern Irish reader?

During our road show of events in 2016, we visited Belfast. There we ran a day of open-access workshops and reading circles, in partnership with The Verbal. For a taster of our events, take a look at our short film:

Contact us

If you are interested in the project, have any questions, or would like to get involved with our events and/or oral history collections, please do not hesitate to contact us at readingcommunities@gmail.com. We'll be in touch as soon as we can.

Get in touch with the project on