This post is by Tony Prince, convenor of the Sheffield’s Shakespeare community reading group.
A small group of students launched the Sheffield’s Shakespeare community reading group on Thursday 8th May this year, after distributing advertisements around the city centre and surrounding areas. We wanted to bring a diverse range of people together from in and around Sheffield to read the plays of Shakespeare together.
Over the last three months we have read five early plays by Shakespeare: the Henry VI tetralogy, Richard III and The Comedy of Errors. The group has grown from a modest 5 for the first few weeks to regularly having 8-10 participants, and sometimes 12 or more, showing that there is certainly a demand for, and interest in, group readings of Shakespeare in our city. In fact 26 people have attended the group at least once, most of those on several occasions, and there are 30 people on our mailing list, as some people can’t make it to the group but want to keep in touch with what we are doing. We are looking to continue to grow and network, and are now on Twitter and in the process of creating our own website.
The group is informal, with only basic ground rules that everyone is happy to follow. As well as reading, we have time to chat, drink tea and even enjoy a tasty snack or meal from Eten Café, which is the city centre location where we meet. The readings are lively, engaging and fun. People can choose how much or how little reading they do, and are welcome to come to listen as well. The group is demographically diverse, and has an open door, ‘drop-in’ ethic, so anyone is welcome to attend.
Personally, Sheffield’s Shakespeare is the highlight of my week. I find the process of inhabiting characters’ worlds and sharing in their agonies, fortunes, problems and ecstasies means that I discover things about myself and other people that I hadn’t noticed before. It’s strange but true that taking on the role of a fictional dramatic character structures an experience of being and feeling that is curiously familiar and personally meaningful. It is also true that sharing these verbalised perspectives in a group is entertaining and rewarding for all.
More information about Sheffield’s Shakespeare
Interview on radio Sheffield about Sheffield’s Shakespeare