RAPID (Rural Area Partnership in Derry) has been a partner with the Reading Rooms since 2014. Formed in 1994, RAPID has delivered a variety of rural development programmes over the years, many of these in partnership with the local Council and other statutory/community organisations. This approach has proved very successful.
The Rural Area Partnership in Derry consists of representatives from community organisations, statutory authorities, the private sector and special interest groups and its primary objective is: “To halt the social and economic decline of the rural communities within the Derry City & Strabane District Council Area and to enable these communities in partnership with all interested parties to devise locally led strategies to facilitate sustainable social, economic and cultural development.”
The Reading Rooms engages with RAPID under their HAND (Healthy Ageing Network in Derry) programme and we have delivered to older people in Claudy and two groups in Newbuildings and more recently in Eglinton and Park. This programme was funded Lloyds Foundation NI programme.
There is a very lively older group based out in Eglinton Community Centre. They enjoy coming together and participating in a range of activities. When the idea of hosting a series of Reading Rooms in Eglinton was presented to the group there was a bit hesitancy amongst some of the members about their participation. “I didn’t think it would be my cup of tea” whilst others felt they “didn’t know what to expect”.
As with many older people today reading can conjure up memories of school which may have been difficult or have memories of hating poetry at school. “It was drummed into us rather than to be enjoyed” said one member.
However, any fears or hesitancy were soon allayed with the first session with the “wonderful” volunteer reader Kathy. Feelings soon turned to being “pleasantly surprised” and “enjoying being read to” and in particularly “listening to Kathy’s lovely voice”. They really enjoyed the combinations of stories and poems and welcomed that there was no right or wrong idea or opinions relating to these. Within the combinations the group felt the Seamus Heaney selection was so well timed as it came just before their visit to Home Place, the new centre celebrating the life and works of Heaney. They enjoyed the conversations they had together, how they learnt from each other and shared their own stories and histories. In Learmount Community Centre, the group really welcomed the fact that this was an “excellent programme delivered locally”. Their reader was Jayne, a volunteer whom we had trained through the RAPID HAND programme. Again there were feelings of reservation; “I was hoping it would not be too highbrow” said a member adding that she need not have worried as she noted she has “really enjoyed every minute of it”. Another member added that Jayne was a “fantastic reader “. Members feel that they have benefited in a range of ways; “from the literature and the conversations” as well as “meeting new friends and enjoying being together.”
The groups have now completed their last sessions with one request; “more please.”