I have been very inspired by the Activate conferences over the years and have at long last acted on some of that inspiration. I have started a book/film club. I know this is not an original idea but if you are thinking of running one you may be interested in my experience.
I tried about two years ago but that group became too dominated by women who all went to church and to be honest were pretty uncommitted to the book group, so this time I went all out for friends who have nothing to do with church, faith, Christianity. I chose to ask women about my age, with the criteria that they all live in our town. Some I knew quite well, some I hardly knew at all. I have ended up with a group of 8 women: 2 I knew through work, 2 neighbours,and 3 old friends (only one of whom was a Christian).
We have now met 4 times. We meet on the first Friday of every month and we watch a film one month and read a book for the next, this gives us two months to read the book! ( A bit less pressure and expense as we can manage book sharing a bit).
The first evening we watched ‘The Diving Bell and the Butterfly’ the true story of a man trapped in his own immovable body after a stroke. He can only blink one eye lid and yet he writes his autobiography. Very powerful and great discussion on the value of life versus the quality of life. That first evening was so exciting, not least finding out about the women I hardly knew. One turned out to be a human rights lawyer and watched a lot of Iranian films and another worked in Youth justice. All said they wanted to watch films or read books with issues that were worth discussing. Fantastic! I didn’t even have to say that was what I wanted to do.
The first book was The Outcast by Sadie Jones, excellent and loads to discuss. The second was A Thousand Yellow Suns by Khaled Hussaini, very, very depressing but still a good discussion. In between we watched Totsi, a south African film about a gang leader who accidentally kidnaps a baby and faces difficult choices about what to do next. (lots of tissues needed for that one).
After the first couple of meetings the group decided that rather than a long discussion each time about what to read/watch next, that each person would take a turn in making a recommendation. We are currently reading White Tiger, last year’s Booker Prize winner.
It’s early days but so far I’m really thrilled that it has given me the opportunity to get to know my neighbours (we are about to invite a new neighbour) and create a bit of a community around our home. I’m also pleased that an old friend who came through Alpha several years ago but dropped out not long after, has become one of the most faithful and enthusiastic members. It’s been a great way to renew the connection.
Hospitality is not really my thing so we only do drinks and nibbles and most people bring something but not every month as again this is expensive so I label anything we haven’t opened and keep it from month to month which means people don’t feel obliged to bring a bottle every time.
Some of the films are a bit ‘heavy’ a couple of times we have joked that we’ll do a sing-a-long Mamma Mia, who knows maybe I’ll take Mandy’s advice and go for it!

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  • nanababs

    Hi Sheila. That sounds a great idea, and as I am on the lookout for new things to do with my group “Alone2Gether” I will certainly take a leaf out of your book (no pun intended!!) Thanks for posting !!

  • sheila bridge

    I’ve just read The Book Thief by Markus Zusak and think it would make a great book for discussion if you are looking for ideas. It is a story narrated by Death, which is a fairly shocking concept and put me off reading it for ages because I thought it would be depressing. It is a sad book but it manages to be amazingly uplifting as well. It tells the story of a young girl fostered in Germany through the second world war. She looses her brother before she is fostered and never sees her mum again after that but she learns to read and is taking in by an unconventional couple. Warning! She looses a lot more people along the way but amazingly it still does manage to be positive somehow. It’s a story about the power of words, love, friendship, loyalty and courage in the face of great evil. Although it is set in World War 2 it still raises a very contemporary question: what can one person do when do when the whole world seems to have gone mad? It’s beautifully written.

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