In the Gallery: A Life in Colour by Michael Barooah


‘A  life in colour ’ photography by Michael Barooah

Supported by Imagine Independence and NHS Mersey Care Trust

Monday 19 – Thursday 22 December

The Reader Gallery, The Coach House ,Calderstones L18 3BJ

Open 10am – 5pm

Imagine Independence is a mental health charity taking a positive approach to mental health and working to promote opportunities for people to live a full and independent life.

Alongside NHS Mersey Care Trust they present a second photography exhibition by Michael Barooah, exploring the  several themes that have been of interest to him over the last few years involving colours, textures, communication, abandoned subjects, city life.

Scrubbed up well: Hero dog Jet gets a spring clean


Near this spot
Are deposited the Remains
Of one
Who possessed Beauty
Without Vanity,
Strength without Insolence,
Courage without Ferocity,
And all the Virtues of Man
Without his Vices.

–          Lord Byron

On Thursday morning past, the July 14, a visitor to the Sensory Garden at Calderstones would have been greeted with an unusual sight. Sixteen Year 5 pupils from Childwall C of E Primary School had been invited down by The Reader to help preserve a special monument.

The monument to Jet of Iada, a life-saving rescue dog, has been standing in Calderstones Park since the 1940s and over a wet and muddy winter the monument was not looking its best.

Jet was a local canine born on 21 July 1942 who became a national hero for saving 150 lives during the Blitz and who was awarded the PDSA Dickin Medal (recognised worldwide as ‘the animals’ Victoria Cross’) and the RSPCA’s Medallion of Valour. The PDSA Dickin Medal is the highest award any animal can receive whilst serving in military conflict.

Jet led the Civil Defence VE Day parade through London and he later saved more lives during a mine collapse in Cumbria in 1947. When he died he was buried in Calderstones Park where he used to be walked, and a stone monument was erected in his memory.

It was a beautiful morning and, being in the walled gardens, the monument became a bit of a sun trap.  Buckets of warm water, soap, scouring pads, cloths and brushes where prepared and soon work began.

Jet Before and After
A before and after shot of the children’s hard work

The children were eager to get started and soon the monument was awash with suds, puddles and pupils.  If ever there was needed proof that many hands make light work then this was it.

A special treat for the children was to meet Jet’s former owner, 93 year old Lilias Ward who grew up with the Alsatian in Garth Drive, Allerton.

A reporter from the Liverpool Echo also visited to get some lovely shots of the monument, the children and Mrs Ward.

The children and The Reader were joined by the Friends of Harthill and Calderstones Park to promote the local history of Calderstones Park to schools in the area in conjunction with The Storybarn by offering chances to visit the park and get ‘hands on’ with its history.

Jet was a very brave and special dog, as the children at Childwall Primary have been discovering in their lessons. It’s fantastic that as well as visiting Jet’s memorial to celebrate him as a national hero, they got to meet Mrs Ward and share her fond memories of a dog that was more than just a pet.

As You Like It at Calderstones Mansion


Returning to Calderstones after the huge success of last summer’s production, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, award-winning MATE Productions, in partnership with the Shakespeare North Trust & RSC Open Stage, will mark Shakespeare’s 400th birthday with a production of As You Like It.

 Journey deep into the Forest of Arden for this hilarious and magical outdoor promenade performance, as cross-dressing heroines and triumphant heroes learn how to embrace their imaginations, let go of their fears and surrender to romance.

MATE Productions is a Knowsley based community arts organisation that work in film, theatre, dance, storytelling and music to engage communities and young people across Merseyside, staging high quality productions in various theatres, arts and community venues and festivals. This has extended into greats halls, museums, docklands, pubs, and gardens such as our own lovely patch here at Calderstones.

You might have heard the Shakespeare North Trust mentioned in the news recently. They’re been granted planning permission and funding to build a £19 million commemorative theatre in the heart of Prescot’s historic town centre which boasted, over four hundred years ago, the only purpose-built playhouse outside London. The new theatre will have at it’s core an International University College, the first of it’s kind in the world focusing on Shakespearean performance practice.

Shakespeare North aims to make Knowsley once again a place where actors, writers, artists, students and young people will be able to study and practise the plays of Shakespeare; place which will attract scholars, students and visitors from all over the world.

 With live musicians and singers, stunning design and a talented local cast, this production promises an abundance of magic and fun for all the family.

Calderstones Mansion House gardens, Calderstones Park, L18 3JB
Saturday 11th June – 2pm & 6.30pm
Please bring a folding garden seat or a blanket to sit on. 

Tickets are available to purchase in person from Calderstones Mansion House (Monday-Friday 9am – 5pm)

Alternatively you can purchase tickets online here.
For more information telephone: 0151 426 4979 / 07833204058


Time to talk Toilets.

Toilet jpeg

Toilets might not seem like the most exciting topic for some light reading on a Friday afternoon but stay with us – it’s important. Because toilets are important, especially in a publicly used space like Calderstones and recently we’ve had feedback that the toilets here have been getting into a less than ideal state.

Firstly, we want to assure everyone that we’re working really hard to deal with the toilets here. They’re cleaned every morning and we are now looking at how we can work with our cleaners to change their hours to keep the toilets in better shape. However, what we have inherited are some really really old toilets. The toilets themselves might look fairly modern but taking a look at the systems behind them shows something that pre-dates 1894 – take a look at the advert below from that year hailing the drainage system! Liverpool Mercury etc (Liverpool, England), Thursday, June 14, 1894; Issue 14492.

Liverpool Mercury etc (Liverpool England) Thursday June 14 1894  Issue 14492

What this means is they’re prone to blockages and when we get those blockages George, our dedicated Building Coordinator goes and spends a long time sorting them out. One toilet is particularly tricky and in order to stop people using it George has scaled the walls of the toilet and locked it from the inside. However what we’ve then had are people that also scaled the toilet to re-open it and then unsuspecting members of the public are greeted with is a very unusable – out of use but now open toilet. Nobody wants to come for a lovely day out in the park and be faced with that. When this happens however our committed cleaners work to get the toilets back into action, and George ascends the cubicle again but it doesn’t last forever and what we’ve seen alongside this are a couple of repeat issues that arise when people put a lot of non-toilet related objects down there. Most people are really respectful of public loos but when this happens and people pop bottles, pants or on one occasion a shoe down…..we soon get the problems that have been raised. We’ve also had to put out the toilets after having been set on fire one summer evening too.

For the meantime we’re going to try to stop the mess happening and look at how we can work with our cleaners to get this sorted but long-term we’re going to create a much better solution. More loos!

That’s right the really exciting toilet news comes when we re-open after our redevelopment (if you haven’t heard that brill news read the announcement here) and massively increase the overall toilet provision inside the house whilst having some more modern toilets outside (no more old drain problems for George). Loads of loos!  When the building is closed for refurbishment, we’ll be closing the toilets too. Don’t worry you won’t have to search for the nearest tree – we’ll be getting in some lovely portable, modern flushing toilets.

What we really want to do right now is let people know we’re listening, we’ve heard you. We’ve seen the toilet situation when it gets bad and we’re doing our best to fix it. Do keep letting us know if there are problems. If people don’t tell us – we can’t sort them. If you’d like to take a look at the plans for the redevelopment and toilet provision these are available on the council planning website.

We’re not sure how we stop people putting their shoes down the toilets but we’re working on that too.

The Reader Team.

Knit and Natter News #3

From Katie Gwilt, PQASSO Intern at The Reader and Knit and Natterer

Hello again happy crafters!

Craft Fair leafletIt’s only a couple more days until the Craft Fair takes over the Mansion House. This Saturday, 16th April from 10am – 4pm, we welcome a whole host of stalls, including the Knit and Natter Group who donate all of the proceeds from their stall straight back to The Reader.

Everyone has been super busy crafting a whole host of goodies for the stall, a colourful mixture of knitted, crocheted and sewn items in all different shapes and sizes. Some beautiful jumpers and cardigans for children made by Sally with different patterns and designs, finger puppets by Jenni, knitted pompom bookmarks by me, two quirky dessert inspired headbands by Sue and many more beautiful handmade gifts to browse including hats, bunting, a monkey, a banana (maybe for the monkey!) and two beautiful cushions. Have a peek below:

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One of my best friends came up to visit me from London recently and I brought her along to the Knit and Natter group (of course!).

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I started a small craft group a few years ago with my three best friends and we would meet every week to craft and catch up, rotating meeting at each others houses. In all the time I have known her Suzanne hasn’t ever tried knitting.

This was my chance to finally teach her and I seized it! By the end of the two hour session she had made a great start on her first scarf. She learned to cast on, knit, purl and repair mistakes as well. I sent her home with a set of needles and some wool and I’m happy to say she has kept up her knitting back in London.


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Sadly we have had to say a fond farewell to group member Rosie. She was a much loved member of the group but has moved back over to Texas, America.

The group organised a farewell card which we all signed. They also had a rose that we could write on and sign as if we were all Lords and Ladies to impress her American friends! I think I signed it as Cat Lady Katie.

We wish her the best of luck and really hope she keeps her promise to start a Knit and Natter group in Texas which we can all come and visit!

Knit and Natter meets every Tuesday in the Calderstones Mansion House from 10.30am-12.30pm led by our illustrious leader Sue. Come along and join us, any experience level is welcome . We also have crochet specialists and sewing enthusiasts who regularly attend. Just drop an email to

What next for the Calderstones?

A message from our Heritage Stories Maker Richard MacDonald on upcoming developments at Calderstones:

Last Friday I had the pleasure of showing BBC Radio Merseyside DJ Sean Styles around The Calderstones.

Sean has long been a champion of Liverpool’s hidden heritage and having heard about The Reader’s plans to move the stones he was keen to get the details and learn more about their importance in Liverpool’s history. Sean said he’d seen the stones many years ago but had never been up close so it was a real treat to allow him access to the greenhouse to appreciate them up close.

You can hear the full interview with Richard, starting at 1 hour and 9 minutes in, here.

Knit and Natter News #2

From Katie Gwilt, PQASSO Intern at The Reader and Knit and Natterer

The Knit and Natterers are gearing up for the Calderstones Craft Fair, which is coming up very soon! Make sure you put the date below in your diary…

Craft Fair leaflet

Here at Knit and Natter we have been busy making lots of woollen friends to place in and around The Storybarn in Calderstones Park. We gathered up our new furry friends to take over recently to be united with the ones previously homed there. A mixture of animals, monsters, birds, insects, of many different colours and sizes, were all placed lovingly in their new home. We hope that all the visitors to The Storybarn discover at least one new friend to keep them company while they explore the wonders within. You might even spot some in the Ice Cream Parlour if you are lucky enough to experience the delicious ice cream or my personal favourite, the warm waffles with ice cream and sauce (yum).

The wonderful Knit and Natter created creatures, now living at The Storybarn!
The wonderful Knit and Natter created creatures, now living at The Storybarn!

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The lovely June came along and brought her finally finished brightly-knitted tea cosy which you can see her modelling below as a hat! It’s been a bit of an in joke with the Knit and Natterers. June was one of our very early members and started knitting the tea cosy at her first session. It was due to be a wedding present for a family member, but two years later it is going to have to be an anniversary present instead. She has been busy making lots of other goodies in the meantime and I am sure that her family will love their new tea cosy and appreciate the time it has taken to make.

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Jenni is another of our knitters. She has an amazing gift of being able to look at toys and say “I could make that” – off she goes, without a pattern, and makes her own version using her own rules. Recently she made this little creature based on one of the beasties from the popular game Minecraft. I’ve not played it, but mention it to anyone under the age of 18 and they will know it well. It’s a little like a computer game version of Lego where you build worlds using blocks and it’s been really popular. I am sure the eventual recipient will adore this little green knit.

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Finally we celebrated the birthday of our Knitting Ninja! Anthony has been coming to Knit and Natter and has a taste for the finer wools in life. He teases us bringing in items he has bought and claiming them as his own creation, much like this balaclava. He does knit as well though and always keeps us in stock with tasty biscuits and gifts. He has started bringing lovely handcreams in recent weeks to keep our knitting and crochet worn hands nice and smooth which is a lovely treat much enjoyed by the group. Happy birthday to our Anthony!

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We are a fast growing group and new members are always welcome.  If you are interested in getting involved with us and making Tuesday the highlight of your week, please contact and come along and join the fun! No previous knitting or crochet experience is required, just bring some needles and wool and we can help you get started and soon I promise you will be hooked. Knit and Natter meets on Tuesdays at the Mansion House from 10:30am-12:30pm.

Getting to The Bottom of The Calderstones

From Richard MacDonald, Heritage Stories Maker at The Reader

Sometimes you literally don’t know what’s beneath your feet.  When it comes to moving a prehistoric monument information like that is vital.

Pic 1 - 8th Mar

The stones (click here to find out more about them and their history) are to be lifted and taken away for conservation before returning to the park as a centrepiece of a multi-million restoration of Calderstones Mansion supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund. You can read more about that here.

We know the Calderstones were placed in the greenhouse (otherwise known as the vestibule) of the old Botanic Gardens at Calderstones Park in 1964.

Pic 2 - 8th Mar

We know (from photos, like the one below) they were lifted using ropes and a crane on the back of a flatbed truck.

Pic 3 - 8th Mar

However; we don’t know how they were placed in the ground.

Were they in any sort of protective casing?

Were they placed straight into the ground, or in concrete?

If so, were they just placed into the wet concrete or did they have specific purpose designed cradles or bases built?

All these questions need answers before anyone can even begin to work out the logistics of moving the stones.

To find some of the answers on Thursday 3rd February a team of volunteers led by archaeologists from the Museum of Liverpool carried out some exploratory work to see if we could find how the Calderstones were sited in the ground.

Pic 4 - 8th Mar

Wheelbarrows, buckets, shovels, trowels, scoops and brushes were all ready to be deployed as a strong team of volunteers appeared to help with the task.

Breath was baited as the first spade entered the ground in the middle of the Calderstones circle. The blade slid through the pea-gravel, first an inch, then 6-inches and soon the entire blade had sunk into the ground.

Quickly a small hole about a foot deep and a foot wide was dug. No sign of concrete… yet.

Someone suggested we may have wasted our time if there was no concrete. But a gentle pull of the gravel around the base of stone E showed that just a few inches beneath the surface – bingo! Concrete.

Pic 5 - 8th Mar

Work began in earnest and over the next two hours from beneath the dry half-century old gravel and through the ensuing clouds of dust that were thrown up by eager trowels and brushes, one by one the concrete bases appeared. One… Two…. Three… Four… … …

Pic 6 - 8th Mar

Four. Only four. A foot of digging down and only four of the stones appeared to have bases.

What does this mean? Do stones D & C have no bases? Are they simple placed into the soil?

How will this affect moving them? Will they need extra security and packaging?

Will we ever get to the bottom of The Calderstones…?

…You’ll have to stay with us over the next few months to find out if we get any closer to discovering the secrets of the stones.