‘Spirit of 2012’ comes to Reading Rooms

Spirit of 2012 is an independent trust, funding projects that empower people to get out, be involved and feel better. Established with a £47m endowment from the Big Lottery Fund, they work to recreate the spirit that radiated from the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games by investing in events as catalysts for change for people and communities across the UK.

Reading Rooms has teamed up with Spirit of 2012 to deliver a year’s programme across Northern Ireland to young people within the Criminal Justice System.

Spirit of 2012 fund partners across the entire UK that provide opportunities in sports, physical activity, arts and culture, volunteering and social action. The projects improve the wellbeing of individuals, communities and society as a whole, increasing participation in a range of activities: sport and physical activity; culture and the arts; social action; volunteering. This participation leads people to develop and realise their potential, work productively and creatively, and build relationships. The trust aims to improve barriers to participation, creating new opportunities and empowering people to get out, be involved and feel better.

Aoife Logue of Reading Rooms Outreach: “There was an initial funding application made off the back of the Reading Rooms programme we did with Northern Ireland Prison Service. Verbal Arts Centre identified a gap in working with young people in the community, who had either left prison, or have been through or currently going through the criminal justice system, perhaps referred to the Probation Board or the Youth Justice System for reparative justice.

“Verbal applied to Spirit of 2012, to work with young people and ex-offenders, 18-30, male and female. It’s a year programme, getting together groups of seven or eight, fifty-six young people altogether. We also offer one-on-one sessions, because as you can imagine, perhaps with the nature of their crime, a person might not be eligible to sit in a group, or just may not have the confidence to do so.

“We’ve used Somerset Maugham‘s short story Mr. Know-All with a group, about a man in a ship cabin who the narrator gets very annoyed with, as well as Benjamin Zephaniah‘s poem ‘People Need People’. When we asked what it was they would take away from the pieces, the group talked about friends, how people treat others, and being used, and being able to say no.

“At the moment, I’ve started working with young people in the Probation Service, who are one of our main partners, and very excited about the programme. If the young people go through a prison sentence, they may come back into the community, or placed in a different area being completely isolated, having lost contact with friends and family. The programme is therefore aimed to break down those barriers, and to get them integrated into something, and into the shared reading experience.

“The programme would be for twenty weeks, at one hour a week, which creates a lot of structure and discipline for the participants. Of everyone who goes through the programme, ten are chosen to receive the accredited shared reading training, for them to take reading groups themselves alongside a highly experienced volunteer. Additionally, there will have the opportunity to volunteer outside of the programme, not just taking the groups to their own peers, but with other groups as well.”

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