Life has taught me you can turn the bad into good use
Peter Elson meets Dr Jane Davis, founder and director of The Reader Organisation
CALDERSTONES Park retains some piquant memories for Dr Jane Davis which fate has now turned on their head 40 years later.
Perched in a cherry tree, aged 16, and dragging on a cigarette, she vividly recalls her then headmaster at Quarry Bank School, calling up to her: “Jane, I think you’ll find there’s a by-law against this.”
In August, that former rebellious truant, once set on a course of self-destruction through drink and drugs, will receive the keys to Calderstones Mansion House, one of Liverpool’s great former merchant homes.
It will become the international centre for her astonishingly successful charitable social enterprise, The Reader Organisation.
“Back in my teens up the cherry tree, I was wildly out of control, a right b****r,” chuckled this remarkable woman.
The Reader Organisation’s aim is to connect people with great literature by discovering the works’ inner meaning and universal truths to make sense of their own lives.
Under Dr Davis’ guidance, this has become such potent group therapy that their work is largely funded by National Health Service contracts.
“There’s a marvellous quotation from Bernard Malmud who, while reading a story, had the ‘crazy sensation’ it was about himself,” Dr Davis.
“Literature can help people in the thick of life going through really big life changes. Reading shows how others deal with those experiences.
“Very early on, a dinner lady in Birkenhead, who’d suffered from cancer, told me that instead of going to her GP when feeling low, she now came to come to our sessions.
“She said ‘I don’t want to be a cancer survivor, I want to be a reader’ and was the first of so many people to express this.”