The Reading Room

A close up of a line of people reading a book at a table.

Every day, strangers sit in supposed silence – pages turn, chairs scrape, whispers bounce around the room – reading to themselves in the glorious Wolfson Reading Room in Manchester’s Central Library.  Somehow it feels like we’re trying but failing to be quiet – instead sharing the sibilant sounds of a common search for knowledge, responding to the exhortation written around the room’s dome: 

“And with all thy getting, get understanding…”

The Reading Room broke that silence – the private became public, a quiet act of transgression in that space.  A one-off performance by 28 readers about the art and act of reading.  It attempted the impossible task of trying to remember every book we’ve ever read.  A performance to be leaned into and sat next to, constructed from fragments of writing that were somehow precious to their reader.  Texts read quietly out loud from printed words on pages that changed us – poems, extracts from novels, a computer manual, an LP cover, the text of a public speech, a manifesto….