THERE’S no better way to relax than curling up with a good book ... no matter where you might be.
To promote this idea, Newcastle University has been taking reading to the streets – everywhere from St James’ Park, to the Grainger Market, to Northern Stage.
The university handed out copies of 2010 Booker-prize nominated novel The Long Song, by Andrea Levy, to get people in Newcastle to lose themselves in literature and open their minds to reading.
It is part of a programme of events organised by Newcastle University’s Newcastle Centre for the Literary Arts (NCLA) which culminates in a visit from the novelist next month.
Among the venues to which NCLA brought literature were pitch side at St James’ Park with deputy head groundsman Andrew Tully; in the cab of a building site crane with student engineer Annie Laffan; in a Grainger Market florists with Tracy Little; on a fruit and veg stall with Lyn Holmes; in a restaurant kitchen with chef Aziz Miraoui, and at the top of Grey’s Monument with Russian fashion student Darya France.
Andrew, 34, from Dunston, Gateshead, said: “Reading is important, as you can grasp knowledge from books and learn more about life.”
The father-of-two, who has worked at St James’ Park for the past ten years, added: “Encouraging youngsters to read is really crucial. I‘m finding this out firsthand, as my daughter is learning how to read and is bringing home different books from school. This is making me think I should be reading more myself.”
Lyn, 50, from Cullercoats, works with her husband Jimmy on the family fruit and veg stall in Northumberland Street, Newcastle.
She admits she prefers to read magazines but said: “It’s good to read books, as you can learn a lot. I think it gives you a great deal of patience, by reading from page to page.”
Tracy, 45, of Fenham in Newcastle, has worked for the past 12 years at Katherine’s Florists in the Grainger Market. Tracy likes to read everything from wartime stories to horror. She said: “I think it’s relaxing to read a good book but, I believe it stimulates the brain.”
Chef Aziz, 44, lives in Killingworth with his wife and children, Aisha, 10, and Amina, one. He works as a chef at McKenna’s restaurant at Northern Stage. He said: “Reading is very good, as it opens your mind to knowledge and allows you to learn interesting things.
“I believe it is an important and valuable role as a parent, to read stories to your children – as it encourages them to pick up a book and read for themselves.”
NCLA has teamed up with the Man Booker Prize Foundation, one of the world’s most prestigious literary prizes, to try and get people – students in particular – interested in reading and talking about books.
It hopes to engage people with literature across the university campus and further afield with the exciting goal of encouraging those people to make reading part of their daily life. Born out of this literary pursuit is the One Book reading challenge that has seen a massive 3,000 books distributed across Newcastle University’s campus.
Events start on October 6 at venues including Newcastle City Library, Waterstones and the Newcastle Literature and Philosophical Society.
Andrea Levy will visit Northern Stage on October 25, when she will talk about her novel The Long Song in conversation with Newcastle University’s Professor in Creative Writing, Jackie Kay. Jackie’s own recent memoir, Red Dust Dawn, recently won the 2011 Scottish Book of the Year.
Jackie said: “The Man Booker events are a huge success and totally inspiring, especially seeing students from all different disciplines, not just English, meeting together over one book. There is something magically particular and at the same time universal about the concept of the event that attracts huge numbers of people.
“We’re all very much looking forward to getting our teeth into The Long Song to hearing how it came about, and to trying to discover the inspirations and ideas behind it. It is a unique opportunity for people from across the whole North East community, from students to lovers of literature – to meet Andrea, a brilliant and talented writer, and find out more about the creative process.”
For information, email Juliana Mensah on firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 0191 222 7619.