#MondayBlogs Spoof adverts to promote reading

dotu on computer

For 12 years I was the literature editor of LeftLion magazine. It was an incredible experience, particularly the editorial meetings where it was compulsory for everyone to smoke and swear. The LeftLion attitude back then was not to take yourself too seriously, prod and poke at anyone who thought they were summat, and to find unique ways of saying stuff that had been said many times before. In local dialect this meant being chelpy.

It’s probably because of this that I’ve enjoyed creating these spoof adverts with help from a very talented English student called Izaak Bosman. A lot of the adverts below appeared in women’s magazines, many from a period in history when the only purpose of a woman was to look pretty, get a man, and do as she was told. You could say that we’re subverting meaning, that these appropriated adverts represent semiotic warfare, but the truth is we just like fannying about on a computer and this is more fun than tweeting me me me me me.

DotU edit 1 jealous

We’ve all been in relationships where it suddenly ends and you have to start sharing out the possessions…which is why I’ve always insisted on keeping my books on my bookshelf so that none of them get pinched. To this day I am still fuming that an ex kept my first edition copy of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin when we went our separate ways. The cover, its place on the bookshelf are so vivid I have nightmares still to this day. So the advert above is for all of those with a broken heart (and a stolen book).

kiss jpeg x 2

You want a man to kiss you? Get the right lipstick! But from our perspective the only thing that will put you both ‘on the same page’ is reading the same book. This advert was also an opportunity to promote Five Leaves Bookshop. At every opportunity Dawn of the Unread has tried to promote and support other organisations.

WelcometotheFutureDOTU (1)

DotU4edit ashamed

what is she reading

We added the ‘what is she reading’ to this one. I can’t remember what ‘she’ should have been doing. It was probably something like ‘But what is she cooking?’

we can read

“We Can Do It!” is one of the most iconic adverts in history. It first appeared as an American wartime propaganda poster produced by J. Howard Miller in 1943 for Westinghouse Electric as an inspirational image to boost worker morale. The little brain on the lapel relates to one of the four tasks we set readers on our App and coincided with the launch.

DotU3 jpeg

If you google ‘woman reading’ you’ll find millions of paintings. I particularly like this one by Charles Edward Hallé (1846–1914), an English painter of history scenes, genre scenes, and portraits. Expect many variations on this in the future…


For better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to READ!

I, (Bride/Groom), take you (Groom/Bride), to be my (wife/husband), to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part. But you MUST read books!

I, (Bride/Groom), take you (Groom/Bride), to be my (wife/husband), to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part…as long as you read!

Anna Ingers-Wakefield is one of our NTU placement students who has joined us on school visits, helped with research and focus groups and generally been happy to dab in wherever needed. But her biggest challenge so far has been convincing her hubby to read…

I first met James at the Reading Flashmob in July last year (I’m the headless one in the green dress, 6 seconds in) and now we’re working together on Dawn of the Unread. I initially went to the Flashmob because I feel very passionately about the closure of bookshops and cuts faced by libraries, and the idea that poor little aged books would be left homeless is something that I couldn’t live with. Not enough people my age and younger read anymore – including my own husband – and this is an issue that I am actively trying to change, an ideology that naturally drew me to James and his cause.

The ‘husband thing’ is something that used to really get under my skin. I tried and tried, but no matter what – that boy just would not pick up a book. He’d dismiss me with a shrug and that was that. Or so he thought. Thanks to the Flashmob and DOTU’s overall message, though, oh-darling-hubby-of-mine picked up a book to join me on that fateful day in front of Cloughy, and has been reading – albeit rather slowly – ever since, starting with the popular trilogy The Hunger Games that I recommended to him.

One element of DOTU is looking at how the digital world can draw people to read physical books – a theme that is consistent throughout the literature we’ve produced so far. This is something that I find rather funny, though, because my father reads a Kindle, and I seem to be stuck in my old ways, unable to pick up anything to read that isn’t a book – even a glossy mag is pushing it (I know, ancient right?). In addition, it also rubs me the wrong way that my father has 12,000 followers on Twitter and I’ve barely broken 100. So not bitter. While I know this should probably be the other way round, in our house things are a bit unconventional, and this is a constant source of bullying at my expense – ‘Oh Anna you’re living in the middle ages; Anna why are you so unpopular’ etc. – by my loving and doting 50-something year old Dad.


In all seriousness, though, books are something that I have grown up with, and my dad encouraged me to start young. Reading enabled me to escape the misery of the real world and is a pastime I still adore to this day. Reading will always be timeless, but nothing can beat the flesh of a real physical book. So if you fancy visiting a library, check out these recommendations.
•    Darren Shan and his Cirque Du Freak series (this was one of the first series’ I really got in to, and one of the first to influence my reading pattern when I was about 11. As a series it’s brilliant – all about gore and vampires but without ever patronising its intended teenage audience. His Lord Loss series is also an addictively good read; one which me and my hubby have both read.
•    Stephen King is an author I personally love and would recommend all of his work. I read Eyes of the Dragon when I was eight or nine which introduced my lifelong passion for the fantasy genre.
•    Naturally the Harry Potter series has to be on my go-to fantasy read list. It really helped the little nerdy me when I was being bullied growing up.

And you can’t go wrong with Manga. One of my personal highlights of the Dawn of the Unread project so far was holding a Manga reading focus group at Djanogly Academy in March. So what are you waiting for, get reading. If my hubby can do it, anyone can…


Turning Reading Around #bbcgetcreative #Nottingham

big wheel

Over the past year Dawn of the Unread has done absolutely everything we can to promote reading. This has included a zombie-themed game of Mastermind for the Festival of Words, a talk at the British Library (see soundcloud link below), free talks at every school in Nottinghamshire, finding placements for 100 NTU students, a very silent protest in the form of a reading Flashmob, supporting NHS patients, and, of course, producing some sumptuous artwork in the form of our comics released on the 8th of each month.

Today we went up in that rattling Big Wheel in Market Square and gave a 12 minute literary tour of Nottingham via the buildings and locations spanning the horizon of our very wet city. We also took up a young Egyptian student called Youssef Gadallah and recorded a broadcast for his radio station Beep. This is broadcast by Nottingham Trent International College. We called our talk ‘Turning Reading Around’ because we’re exploring various ways of engaging readers by providing literature in bytesize chunks and across media platforms with the ultimate aim of directing readers to physical books. If knowledge was the aim of 20th century media, now it’s experience. We’re trying to bring readers into the conversation through the gaming element of our App and by offering numerous paths into the text.

Youssef interviews Paul Fillingham for student radio

Youssef interviews Paul Fillingham for student radio. Yes that is a brain on his helmet…

I’m not one for heights but when it comes to promoting reading I’ll do anything. And yes, this is a challenge; so get in contact if you’d like us to do anything in particular. This latest ‘humiliation’ was in aid of a new initiative by the BBC called Get Creative, a celebration of the world-class arts, culture and creativity that happens every day across the UK. Over the course of the year the BBC will be highlighting various organisations and we desperately want to be featured because we’ve given every waking hour to Dawn of the Unread and we’re starting to get a little knackered and tired of lack of exposure from mainstream media.

Taken from @LakesideArts

Taken from @LakesideArts

The BBC has set up the project because a (conservative) estimate suggests that around ten million of us take part in a form of regular craft and activity each week. It’s a great idea and perfectly fits their remit of widening participation and promoting diversity (which by my definition means arts organisations beyond the snuggly confines of the M25). It’s hoped that the project will lead to a national conversation about the value of culture and creativity.

Geoffrey Trease is featured in Issue 11. Artwork: Steve Larder Words: Alan Gibbons

Geoffrey Trease is featured in Issue 11. Artwork: Steve Larder Words: Alan Gibbons

Dawn of the Unread is an ongoing conversation about the relationship between digital and physical books as well as an inquiry into the role of libraries in the 21st century. Our blog is open to anyone who would like to contribute to these discussions. However it is worth remembering that underpinning any conversation about art or culture is money. Without money staff lose their jobs, professionals are replaced with volunteers, buildings get sold off to supermarkets; the overall quality of ‘art’ suffers.


#Flashmob video and photos

On Saturday 12 July Robert Squirrell, John Mateur and I organised a flashmob reading in Nottingham to celebrate books. This wasn’t intended as a tub thumping rant against library closures, although this is of course part of the debate, rather it was a simple celebration of words, authors, publishers and booksellers. A thank you for the joy they’ve brought us over the years. I’d estimate we had around 400 people turn up, most of whom were congregated around the Cloughie statue.

Photograph: The Lazy Pineapple

Photograph: The Lazy Pineapple

There were varying reactions to our stand-up sit-down. My favourite comment was ‘what are all those dicks doing’. The most frightening was a beefy Forest fan who took exception to the Brian Clough statue getting a make-over courtesy of a knitted woolen jumper. I wanted to say to him that I’ve got 400 people outside Cloughie’s statue to mark the 10th anniversary of his death and released a comic chapter celebrating his life, what have you done? But of course I didn’t. I’d have got battered. The weather was too lovely to get battered.

The mam wot knitted the jumper. Photograph: The Lazy Pineapple

The mam wot knitted the jumper. Photograph: The Lazy Pineapple

The jumper was made by a middle-aged woman from Sherwood. She’s not a footy fan, not a particularly keen reader, just a plain and simple mam who loves knitting. Originally I wanted to involve a local arts group and use the event as a means of promoting their work as Dawn of the Unread survives on such collaborations. But I’m glad I decided to go with an ordinary mam who wanted no publicity and had no ulterior motive other than she loves knitting. I also liked the idea of the soft fabric offsetting Cloughie’s rougher edges, but it’s main purpose was to promote our current chapter Byron Clough. More of this in the next post.

The coolest kid on the day with an arsenal of books in his bag. My hero! Photograph: The Lazy Pineapple

The coolest kid on the day with an arsenal of books in his bag. My hero! Photograph: The Lazy Pineapple

When the clock struck noon we all sat down on the floor and read for around ten minutes. Then got up and dispersed. People passing by were generally very quiet and automatically stopped talking as they approached us. This felt really powerful and it was intriguing how the silence of a group of people could have a direct effect on the immediate environment. It was a strange and empowering sensation.

This family travelled down from Wrexham for the event. Photograph: The Lazy Pineapple

This family travelled down from Wrexham for the event and read to their 3 year-old. Photograph: The Lazy Pineapple

If anyone is thinking of putting together a similar flashmob here’s a few tips.

  • We printed 4,000 double-sided flyers. One side about the event, the other about Dawn of the Unread. The cost between single and double-sided printing is minimal. I use Mortons Print in Lincolnshire who are easily the cheapest.
  • Give flyers to bookshops and ask them to hand out to punters when they buy from your shop. As this was a reading event it made sense for them to bring the books they had just purchased.
  • For a future event I might try the same but go for bookmarks.
  • Twitter is my number one tool for all forms of communication. Through this I was able to contact a diverse range of groups such as: Over 50s; Mumsnet; disability groups etc.
  • You can pay Facebook to promote posts which broadens your reach. But ensure you have enough likes first to have a stronger impact.
  • Think of how your flashmob can appeal to all strands of society. As this month is Ramadan I spoke to some Muslims and said bring down the Koran. Unfortunately none turned up. This was a pity as reading is one of the few things that has the potential to unite all spectrums of society.
  • Use your event to support other people: I was particularly keen for the Women’s Centre in Nottingham to come down after their fantastic WoLan event. I suggested they bring books from their feminist library, which is the first feminist library in Nottingham. What better way to make a political statement about gender inequality than visualising ideas through cover jackets. 2014 is also the Year of Reading so it was necessary to have a strong female presence.
  • Think about the best time to hold a flash mob. We went for 12 noon because it was the most dramatic due to the 12 chimes of the clock.
  • Although we used social media to promote the event, face to face contact is still the most powerful medium.
  • Make it simple and fun. Nobody wants a rule book when they’re giving up their free time. By the same token, ensure someone is on hand to advise people, to walk around explaining what will happen and when. This means you need a small core team of volunteers.
  • Practice if you’re trying something unique. For example, one flashmob reading I’d love to do is where people all start to read from the same book, getting louder and louder as people join in. But that takes a lot of practice and needs to take place in an environment with good acoustics.
  • Don’t do it for the sake of it. Flashmobs work for specific reasons and specific events.