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Imagine! Festival 2021 - Reading in the Pandemic

Tuesday, March 23, 2021 - 17:00 to 18:00
Book your free ticket here:

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed everything. Confined to our homes, we have turned to books and reading for reassurance, contemplation or escape. Join The Open University for this free, online, and interactive event where you will have the opportunity to reflect on your reading and share it with the READ-IT project.


This event includes:

  • A mini-lecture by Dr Shafquat Towheed, on ‘Reading during the Pandemic’ (10 mins)
  • A conversation with Bibliotherapist Ella Berthoud and novelist Heather Richardson, offering pandemic reading recommendations (25 minutes)
  • An interactive question and answer session with Dr Maya Parmar, showcasing our physical and digital postcards so you can share your reading stories (20 mins)

There’s also a free podcast by Prof Josie Billington about reading for wellbeing during the pandemic, which will be made available after the event. This free event is suitable for all audiences age 14+, registration is via Eventbrite, and the event will be hosted on Zoom. Please come along and join us! You can request postcard packs to be sent to you, or access our digital postcards here.



About the speakers:

Shafquat Towheed is Senior Lecturer in English in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS), The Open University. He directs the UK Reading Experience Database, 1450-1945, and the History of Books and Reading (HOBAR) Research Collaboration. He is the UK Principal Investigator for the ‘Reading Europe Advanced Data Investigation Tool’ (READ-IT, 2018-2021) project, which uses digital tools to investigate the cultural heritage of reading in Europe. He is the author, editor or co-editor of nine books and has researched and written extensively on the history of reading practices. He also likes sharing images of books and reading on his Instagram.

Maya Parmar is a Postdoctoral Research Associate in English Literature, in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS), at The Open University. Her research explores strategies of cultural representation, memory making, and the politics of belonging amongst the South Asian diaspora. She has published widely in journals, and has recently published her monograph Reading Cultural Representations of the Double Diaspora: Britain, East Africa, Gujarat (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2019). Maya has an interest in engaging with audiences beyond the academy and has worked on a number of projects with public participation.

Ella Berthoud is a bibliotherapist with a strong expertise in the field of wellbeing and reading. She too has a strong digital presence: an active social media persona, web presence and blog. Working with The School of Life, she has developed the idea of prescribing literature to heal. Find out more about her live bibliotherapy sessions on Instagram and Facebook.

Heather Richardson is a senior lecturer in Creative Writing at The Open University. She has published two novels: Magdeburg (2010, Lagan Press) and Doubting Thomas (2017, Vagabond Voices). Her poetry and short fiction have appeared in journals in the UK, Ireland and Australia.

Upcoming events

Mar 23

Imagine! Festival 2021 - Reading in the Pandemic

Tuesday, March 23, 2021 - 17:00 to 18:00


Contact: Book your free ticket here:

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If you are attending events in our Belfast office and have specific access requirements not detailed in this statement,
or simply wish to confirm accessibility arrangements please contact Reception in advance of the event: 

call 0044 (0) 28 9024 5025