Delivered in partnership with public libraries, local communities and voluntary organisations, the project aims to empower, engage and connect older people and people with dementia and Carers by starting conversations through reading. Reading Friends is co-produced with older people and delivered through volunteers.
From September 2018 – September 2019, Literature Wales is working in partnership with Conwy Library Service and Age Connect in Conwy and Swansea Bay University Health Board (SBUHB) in Swansea to pilot two approaches to delivering the Reading Friends Project. Working in highly varied settings, Reading Friends Conwy is a collaboration between libraries and care homes throughout the county, providing a service in rural community settings, in particular farming communities with Welsh as the first language. Reading Friends Swansea draws on Swansea University students, SBUHB staff and volunteers to deliver social reading on Wards at Singleton Hospital, Swansea, working with Swansea Central Library and Discovery as key partners.
The project launched in London on Tuesday 30 October 2018 with a screening of Yarn, Natter, Blether a Right Thing Films production featuring National Poet of Wales Ifor ap Glyn reciting a newly commissioned poem, ‘Dechrau’r daith’. The poem was written in response to conversations with Reading Friends Participants in Conwy. Literature Wales and its partners will launch the Reading Friends scheme in Wales in 2019.
As part of Literature Wales’ commitment to wellbeing in the arts, Reading Friends Wales makes the case for literature and creative reading as a contributor to positive physical and mental health. To read the research behind the claims, Demos published their commissioned report ‘A Society of Readers’ in October 2018, and can be found here.