This week, as part of the Creative Challenges work in a London hotel, we looked at the world around us – how we’d talk about it with visitors from another planet, and how we see the art around us.

We’ve been working with reading charity The Reader on our work in hotels. Natalie Kaas Pontoppidan, the Learning and Quality Leader from The Reader writes:

Together with Cardboard Citizens, With One Voice and St Mungos, The Reader is providing creative offers for homeless people temporarily housed in hotels during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Reader is a national charity that wants to bring about a Reading Revolution, so that everyone can experience and enjoy great literature. We bring people together each week to share and discuss great novels, short stories and poems. We call this Shared Reading, and we are currently offering Shared Reading sessions over the phone to guests in London hotels. Six people have signed up to the offer and they have been paired with Reader staff members. I, being one of them, ring my reading buddy after Monday afternoon, and after a quick catch up on how our week has been, we begin reading a poem together. We both have a go at reading it aloud before speaking about initial feelings or thoughts related to the piece. Recently, we read ‘The Lake of Innisfree’ by WB Yeats (read it below), and we had such a meaningful conversation about feeling a sudden urge to go to a peaceful place and how we sometimes have to find it in our minds rather than physically. It felt helpful to think that peace is always there ‘in the deep heart’s core’. And that is exactly what Shared Reading is about. It’s a live experience of great literature, which helps us to understand our individual and collective inner lives better. For that reason, I am always looking forward to Monday’s call with my reading buddy, and I think he does too.

Here is what he says about the sessions:

‘I count down the seconds to next week’s call. All the sessions are lovely. What I like is that I learn new words and new visions to life. And new authors too. It’s the way you read and the way you are with me. You’re patient. I am very honest with you.’



Mehdi Panahi


504 AD

I lie still and let my mind and body wake up. Gently allowing the memories of the last few weeks to catch up like a twitter feed: orienting myself. I’m not always immediately sure why I feel so delicate when I wake up. I need a little time to disseminate reality, understand the story so far, judge my mood, measure my levels of optimism, energy and vitality. I don’t have much. Some days it’s like creeping through a hazy fog, other days, it hits me like a meteor.

The funeral was good. Just me, mom, dad and some native Americans: dad’s grammy was from the Lakota tribe. He came up with this idea to do an “eco-burial” – aqua-cremation using Alkaline Hydrolysis – and lay the remains on the Rosebud Reservation. Whatever, mom and I chose some of her favourite jewelry and wrapped it in a colourful sweater with the bones. We drove to South Dakota where one of the elders explained about “Walking On” in the “After Life” to meet Wakan Tanka, and attain final rest. I guess it helps to think about it like that. To be outside, sitting on the ground, listening to a story under a big tree. Then we buried the bones and covered them over. No fuss, no crying, just saying goodbye.

School held a memorial the same day. I don’t wanna go to school, it would be weird without Aare. She was really “involved” and all her people know me. I don’t want to be at the epicenter of  sympathy. I need space, and time to figure out how I walk on, in this life, without her. I don’t even wanna get out of bed, but I’m starting to smell funky, so I get up and head to the shower. 

I’ve lost muscle tone from my shoulders and thighs. My posture is beginning to sag. Not ready to let the fog clear, I let the mirror steam up, the hazier the better. Stepping under the shower I close my eyes. Water cascades over my face, down my shoulders, filtering through my mind, washing away the grime. I reach for the shower gel, some fancy thing mom picked up at the health store. Charcoal, oatmeal and cherry; caustic, creamy and sour. The scent cuts through the mucus in my sinus and hits the spot in the frontal lobe. This is going to be a long shower.

The Lake Isle of Innisfree - William Butler Yeats

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.