Verbal's Reading Rooms scoop DCAL Awards

The Verbal Arts Centre is celebrating with a huge sense of pride today after its Reading Rooms’ programme scooped two prestigious Learning and Innovation Awards announced by Culture, Arts and Leisure Minister Carál Ní Chuilín.

Picture for blog story Verbal's Reading Rooms scoop DCAL Awards

The Verbal Arts Centre was announced winner of the Community Impact Award for positive impact of a programme/project involving a community or community group, and overall winner of Best Learning Project which effectively promoted equality or tackled poverty or social exclusion.

Reading Rooms is a mobile shared reading programme that gives participants a voice, reduces isolation and anxiety, and promotes well-being. Using a reading aloud and shared reading setting, the programme encourages participants to share personal experiences from their past, sparking memories, stimulating new thoughts and provoking conversation related to the short story and poems selected in advance and tailored to the needs of the group by the project’s Literary Guide.

The Verbal Arts Centre has around 40 Reading Rooms’ projects across Northern Ireland, including Derry and Belfast, in a range of community, public and health care settings.

James Kerr, Verbal’s Chief Executive, said: “We are delighted at winning ‘Community Impact Award’ as part of the DCAL Claire Awards 2015 and also the Overall Best Project Award. Reading Rooms creates a love of reading and a genuine opportunity for meaningful engagement between individuals and communities. The sessions create a space for thoughts and experiences to be shared and personal and social connections to be made.”

Explaining that the Reading Rooms uses a mix of classic literature and modern/contemporary work, Mr Kerr said: “This allows participants to become acquainted with celebrated authors from home and abroad and discuss the themes that emerge from the sessions relating them to their own life and experience. 

“At the heart of the Reading rooms is our volunteers without whom we could not deliver the programme. They contribute to Reading Rooms in so many ways building strong communities and enduring friendships.”

Congratulating the winners, who were announced across five award categories by Joanna McConway, DCAL’s Head of North West & Creative Communities at a ceremony held in The Playhouse this morning, the Minister Carál Ní Chuilín said: “The organisations and people who have been recognised today clearly demonstrate the important role and contribution of culture, arts and leisure in helping people realise their potential.

“The Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure remains committed to proactively changing the patterns of social disadvantage that have existed historically.  Together we need to do something very different and take new approaches to overcome systemic barriers to promote equality of opportunity.

“As Minister, it is my job to harness the full potential of culture, arts and leisure to deliver social change.  Events like this can not only raise awareness, but also open crucial dialogue to stimulate new partnerships and expand the value of our cultural base.

“Today recognises the impact of our work, the effects of which are felt daily within our communities.  It is always good to recognise these achievements and that is what today is all about.

“Finally I would like to commend all the winners, and in particular I would like to congratulate the overall winner, Verbal Arts Centre, who delivered the Reading Rooms project.  This innovative project helped its participants improve their health and social well-being.”

The Learning and Innovation Awards are known as ‘Claire’s Awards’ after Claire Morgan, a former DCAL Strategic Learning Coordinator who tragically died in post and at a young age.

Further information is available from the Verbal Arts Centre, Stable Lane and Mall Wall, Bishop Street Within, Derry~Londonderry BT48 6PU. Tel. 02871 266946.


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