I was delighted to be invited to the opening of a community library within the Cedarwood Trust on the Meadow Well Estate today. “Vera” author, Ann Cleeves, was there to open the library. The best-selling thriller writer was cutting crime tape instead of a ribbon on the new areas dedicated to providing people with the joy of reading on the estate.
Cedarwood Trust looks to battle poverty and inequality in North Shields and the North East in general. Meadow Well was, of course, known for a series of riots that took place there during September 1991.
Reading for Wellbeing
Today, I chatted to Ann Cleeves about the Reading for Wellbeing project which I saw being conceived before my very eyes at a Public Health conference in Sunderland three years ago just before lockdown hit. After pitching her project at the conference, Ann was inundated with offers of help from attending delegates. Despite the pandemic, the planning for this project did not stop, with meetings being conducted via Zoom.
This project was launched to help people improved their health through reading. Social prescribing link workers, as well as other health and social care professionals can refer people who may benefit from the project. This may include those suffering from depression, anxiety, stress or social isolation. Ann has previously said that reading and writing fiction was personally a great help to her when her husband was experiencing mental health problems.
Ann discussed how this project has gone from strength to strength with great interest from many other countries who want to use the successful Reading for Wellbeing formula.
The new library
Project leader Cherri Bray said:
“This new library will be run by the community, for the community. We want to get children on the estate into reading: sometimes with parents in the area books are not the first port of call for how they entertain their children, as we enter the digital age so much is now done on screens. We want to be able to give people who perhaps wouldn’t normally be able to afford books access to literature, right on their doorstep. We hope this will encourage a love of reading and also help with literacy in the area, which in turn can have a real positive impact on other parts of people’s lives. We are delighted a celebrated author of Ann’s calibre has shown her support to the Cedarwood Trust and is backing what we are trying to do”.
I also chatted to Wayne Dobson, CEO of the centre who told me that his love of books started from his childhood in Middlesbrough where reading helped him to learn about so many things in life. He said there is nothing better than holding a real book and getting stuck into it as a form of escapism. He also hopes this new venture will help in its bid to give people from poorer background access to books they might otherwise not be able to afford. The books for the community library are being provided by North Tyneside Libraries and will be swapped every few weeks to give local residents access to a wide range of titles.
I received a really warm welcome from some of the local residents who use the Cedarwood Trust told me all about the group activities they enjoy at the Cedarwood Trust from singing groups to bingo.
Upon leaving this event, we were all given a free book to take home with us called Nightingale Point by Luan Goldie – So I can’t wait to get into this tonight!