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This year’s RLF Reading Round begins across the UK

Illustration by Fran Pulido of woman by window thinking what to write with book birds flying past window.
  • 30 October, 2023

As well as offering grants to professional writers, we also help our Royal Literary Fund writers by giving them the opportunity to set up reading groups across the UK, called Reading Rounds.

This month, our new cohort of writers launched their local groups, so they will be looking for book-loving members of their local communities to join them in lively literary discussion.

“It’s an amazing scheme,” Katharine McMahon, our Head of Outreach, explains:

“Reading Round is literally where a group of people gather round a table with a professional writer, and the writer brings a short story and a poem and shares them with the group by reading them aloud and then encouraging conversation about the writing.”

This autumn, we’re launching twenty groups across the country led by our RLF Writing Fellows and, for the first time, with writers from our new cultural and literary division, WritersMosaic.

No one has to do any homework since the writer provides the text on the day. Julian Birkett, who runs a Reading Round in North London, says, “People are immensely willing to listen to other people, and I think that’s a result of reading the story from scratch together – everyone is open to new interpretation and new ideas.”

The group meets for thirty weeks and, as a result, often form strong bonds with each other.

Illustrated group of people sat around a table discussing a piece of writing by Fran Pulido

“The most rewarding part is to do with love,” says Katharine. “It’s to do with building a group of people’s understanding of literature – it’s an extraordinary experience, watching people develop.”

In fact, the RLF has been running Reading Round for ten years now; some of the readers have continued to meet long after the end of their year of Reading Round!

“I’ve so loved being part of Reading Round and the friendships and thoughtful discussions that have come out of our time together – it’s been one of the highlights of my week.” – Reading Round participant

Of course, many people can and do read on their own, but as Katharine says, it’s about reading as a group, discussing how the writing makes people feel, and looking at how a writer has crafted a story or poem. Juliet Gilkes Romero, who runs a Reading Round in South London, agrees: “We’re not teachers – we’re literary guides.”

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