Planning a Reading Room event

Part gallery, part library, and part events space, the Reading Room is an experimental, interactive place where visitors can come to look, read, touch, think, create, write, talk and share.

Originally part of the Wellcome Library, this double-height room once housed Henry Wellcome’s statuary collection before becoming the Reading Room. Now the upper gallery is a non-quiet working space for library users, while the Reading Room below is open access and free for all.

Reading Room events are ‘pop-up’ and advertised in-house on the day. Your event should be participatory and last up to one hour, with you learning as much from your audience as they do from you. Bear in mind that you will have to attract and gather your own audience, which could be small in number, and sustain their interest against a background of individuals dipping in and out of other activity in the room.

Here are some tips to help you plan a successful event:


Find out who your audience are, and be clear about what you are asking of them and why. Ask yourself if what you plan is appropriate within the context of the Reading Room - a creative public space that promotes dialogue engaging with ideas at the intersection between art and science.

Visit the Reading Room before planning your activity. This will allow you to understand the experimental, participatory ethos of the space and experience what the audience will encounter there. Make connections between your subject matter and the displays, because many visitors will have come to see these and chance upon your live intervention.

Plan how you will engage your audience and give them space to contribute, should they wish to. Make use of the expertise in the room to enhance your event, but don’t force anyone to contribute. When facilitating discussion, be prepared to field different points of view and consider access needs.

Plan a quick set-up. Your activity should be easy to assemble with the public in the space and must comply with our health and safety guidelines. You must not use any wet materials, glue or large electrical equipment. Please ask us in advance for other guidelines about materials used, and ask the Events Officer if you have any access needs.


Politeness and appropriate language need to underpin all activity. The Reading Room is a public space aimed at people aged 14 and above, of all persuasions and sensibilities. Be aware that younger children may accompany their parents or carers. No graphic imagery should be used without prior consent from the Events Officer.

Obtain permission before any photography or audio recording, and be clear about how the pictures will be used. Remember that some participants may feel constrained by a camera. No professional photography or audio recording should be undertaken without the prior agreement of Wellcome Collection staff. Filming is not allowed in the space.

Advertising your event. If you plan to promote your event, please ensure that any publicity material, web listings etc., refer to the event with the following line:

This is an Open Platform event, hosted by the Reading Room at Wellcome Collection.

The use of the Wellcome Collection logo is not permitted on any publicity material that you create.

No food or drink. But you can sustain your conversations in Wellcome Café or Wellcome Kitchen!


Ask your audience questions and use their responses to inform your next step. Be flexible and enjoy the experience!