The Reading Rooms: Beyond the Walls project was selected for a Challenge Fund award by YAP in 2016, and the panel has decided to continue funding the project, whose participants are young people experiencing a range of problems including mental health issues. Applications are now open for the remaining funds.


Spirit of 2012 Chair Alan Coppin is in Northern Ireland this week. ‘I am delighted that one of my first visits as Spirit’s new Chair is to Northern Ireland to learn at first hand of the excellent projects we are supporting,’ he said.

‘I am especially pleased to use this visit to announce the continuation of our funding of the Verbal Arts Centre, granting £100,000 to extend the Reading Rooms project for a further two years. This Centre was established 25 years ago to celebrate the art of storytelling and provide members of the community in Derry/Londonderry with the space, skills and resources to tell their stories through the written and spoken word.’

Reading Rooms: Beyond the Walls has worked with 50 young ex-offenders during its first year, bringing them together in a reading group in order to grow their social networks and use literature as a means of discussing important topics.

‘This is a crucial programme that provides positive interventions through literary arts to people’s health and wellbeing,’ said YAP Chair Michaela. ‘All too often, those involved in the criminal justice system struggle to get the support they need for rehabilitation on their release from prison. In year one of Reading Rooms, we are already seeing very exciting progress being made.’

Some of those taking part have undertaken training and mentoring in order to become qualified Reading Room facilitators themselves, and will shortly go on to run weekly sessions in the wider community, spanning different generations and demographic groups.

‘We are really pleased with the impact of this programme and look forward to seeing even greater impact made through the extension of our funding for a further two years,’ said Alan.