We just love reading at Blackpool Social Club, so it was a privilege to be invited to the launch of our town’s literacy strategy, which took place last Thursday in the spectacular Spanish Hall in the Winter Gardens.

Frank Norris MBE was the first speaker in his capacity as Chair of the Blackpool Education Improvement Board.  Frank is keen on embracing new technology and stressed that reading ebooks and using tablets was still reading, and to be encouraged not criticised.  He also talked about the impact of literature on his personal development, including when he raided a copy of The Collector by John Fowles from his brother’s bedroom and became hooked on reading.

Anne-Marie Canning MBE was attending to give the benefit of her experience as Chair of the Bradford Opportunity Area, which had received similar funding to Blackpool to promote social mobility.  She is also CEO of the Brilliant Club which helps less advantaged students to gain access to prestigious universities and succeed when they get there.  Anne-Marie looked back on the building of a pelican crossing enabling her to visit her local Doncaster branch library regularly, where she got through all the junior fiction and the adult books had to be approved for her to continue her reading journey.  A teacher called Mrs. Ward had encouraged her to go to University, inspirational teachers were a theme running through the evening.

Local author Dan Worsley made sure that nobody was still eating before reading a passage on the joys of snot.  More seriously he encouraged people to follow their dreams, talking through how he had initially embarked on a teaching career, rather than writing but eventually followed his heart with some success.

Finally, the author and broadcaster Lemn Sissay OBE talked about his experience as a young person in children’s homes.  He recalled being brought to Blackpool with other children in care in a fleet of taxis that brought great attention to their difference.

He recalled how kids with homes who didn’t behave were threatened with the children’s home as though those who were living in them had done something wrong and deserved it.  He said that you judge education by how it treats those most needing its help, the ‘data killers’.  He alluded to how many key figures in literature and cinema were orphans and foster children because they have to be exceptional to succeed in the face of great adversity.

The event concluded with words from Paul Turner and Kate Staley of Blackpool Council setting out the literacy strategy and the campaign to get all adults and children in Blackpool to read for pleasure for 30 minutes each day.  Everyone who attended this inspiring evening was then invited to sign the pledge supporting the campaign.

More details of the reading challenge and how you can get involved can be found on the Blackpool Council website.

You can also share your reading journey on social media by taking a picture of what you are reading and uploading it with the hashtag #Blackpool30.

Images Courtesy of Claire Griffiths for Blackpool Social Club.


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