I had the sheer pleasure last week of talking to David
Ridehalgh of Burnley Library about the Burnley Literary
Festival and other things like disembodied flying witches, of which more
Unusually for a small town with such a wide ethnic mix,
Burnley has a thriving literary festival which has been going on for three
years. If you drive into the town at the moment, as I did, you’ll see signs for
the festival, which is fantastic. The local radio station is also up for
publicising it and so everyone in the town is at least aware of it, giving it a
reach normally beyond that of a library service. And this shows in attendance.
Events get 30 or 40 people coming to them, which is brilliant, with such
visitors often not being library users to begin with.
And there’s a need to attract non-library users. There are
real pockets of poverty and poor literacy in the town. Those two so often go
together. A lot of people just don’t go to cultural events, especially if they
have to travel, and so the festival brings the events to the people, as things
should be. The events are free as a way of reducing barriers – experience shows
that locals are often put off by charged events – and are open to all. The
library works closely with local schools and has regular class visits, with the
idea being that “if you work together, you can achieve more”.
Stemming from an idea from Burnley Council, the library service
jumped at the festival as a way of boosting library usage, and have been keen
partners from the start. There is funding from Arts Council England and also
from the local Stocks
Massey bequest. This means that the library events are free, with
Lancashire offering the building and staffing as its contribution in kind. As
is common with free events, there is some non-attendance but a good 80% do come
to the library when they say they will. Oh, and what a building, it’s gorgeous,
with an impressive pillared façade leading into wood-lined rooms with an awful
lot of stained glass.
"... there’s a need to attract non-library users. There are real pockets of poverty and poor literacy in the town. Those two so often go together."
David sees the point of the festival, and other events put
on, as ways of providing – and this is important – high quality events
to local people. This encourages them to come back as well as attracting people
from outside of the area. The events also need to be fairly individual and not
mirroring something happening just miles away. Moreover, the library has learnt
to taylor events for the local audience. What works elsewhere does not
necessarily work locally.
An example of this is the
Light Parade. The Library is involved in doing craft workshops beforehand,
creating lit props like umbrellas shaped as jellyfish and encouraging the
lanterns to be created locally rather than shipping them in. And, wow, what a
result. 1500 attended the last parade.
"1500 attended the last parade"
Cater the event to your audience. The same does not work
everywhere. Learn My Way works well here., not so much in more affluent
areas. Unemployed needs email address. Vital for universal credit.
And now, finally, for the flying witches. David has a
background in graphic design and this shows. There have been some lovely displays,
with the one that (literally) stood out for me being a witch flying in the area
as a result of a projector (only £70 apparently - see in "the technical bit" below) shining on a gauze cloth. It
was the most impressive display I’ve seen in a library and is an idea
that’should be adopted more.
So, Burnley Library is working hard to be an important part
of the local community. All of the local community. And it does that by working
with partners and the public to put on individual and high quality events.
"Burnley Library is working hard to be an important part of the local community. All of the local community. And it does that by working with partners and the public to put on individual and high quality events"
The technical bit
The projector usef is an Excelvan 3D
DVB-T Theatre projector. It is an LED projector – the picture quality is better
– and is capable of projecting 3D movies/images and can also be used for
Virtual Reality. It was available on eBay for around £70-£80
but they can be pricey from places like PC World. They also allow for HDMI input
too which means you don’t have to use a PC/Laptop. I have attached a video of
what it looks like this year.
The website where the
'illusions' were purchased from is here - https://atmosfx.com/.
There are some absolutely amazing scenes on there and they can all be purchased
via download reasonably. YouTube have a good collection of
videos and effects and there are quite a few cheap DVDs or Blu-Rays that have
holiday scenes on… it appears to be a growing market. Netflix also do have a
few 'atmospheric' shows called moving wallpapers, there are tropical,
underwater and winter scenes that do work really well when projected. The
Christmas one is especially good and I think I may be using it this year.