On Saturday 3 September we held a tea party to support Mary Grover’s new book, Steel City Readers. We want to raise £12,500 so that the publisher, Liverpool University Press, can make the book free to download online.
Steel City Readers is based on the memories of 65 Sheffielders. We asked them about the books they read for pleasure between 1925 and 1955. (You can read or listen to the interviews in full here.) Mary explores their compulsion to read when there seemed little to be gained, the background – home, school, library – to their reading and the effect of factors like class and gender on their reading choices.
The tea party was a wonderful occasion. Tea, cake and talk about books. What’s not to like?
We heard from Mary, who described how she researched the book, formed the narrative running through it and put her own reading journey into it.
The Sheffield artist Lizz Tuckerman brought along some of the pictures from her exhibition In Praise of Libraries, illustrating the reading journeys of some of our interviewees.
Sheffield poet Eleanor Brown read poems inspired by our interviewees. You can read the poems in Eleanor’s latest collection, White Ink Stains, published by Bloodaxe Books and available from local and online booksellers.
Slaap kindje slaapfrom White Ink, by Eleanor Brown, in White Ink Stains (Bloodaxe Books, 2019).
Sleep baby sleep
Daar buiten loopt een schaup
Outside is a sheep
Een schaap met witte voetjes
A sheep with little white feet
drinkt eijn melk zo zoetjes
who drinks his milk so sweet.
Julia Banks and Shirley Ellins, two of our interviewees, described the pleasure and pride they had gained from their participation in Steel City Readers. Julia talked about her life in the Netherlands, learning Dutch nursery rhymes to help her young children as they went to nursery school. Shirley told how reading helped her discover her passion for history, the subject she taught for many years.
Our special guests were Sheffield’s Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress, Councillors Sioned-Mair Richards and Jackie Satur. The Lord Mayor, who regularly reads to groups of schoolchildren in the Lord Mayor’s Parlour, spoke about what reading meant to her and about her discovery of books like The Little House on the Prairie series, Little Women, school stories, Susan Coolidge’s Katy books and Jean Plaidy’s historical romances, to name but a few.
Many thanks to everyone who worked so hard to make the tea party so enjoyable.
Here is the link to our Just Giving page. We are grateful, especially in these hard times, to everyone who has donated so far, and hope for more donations.