Try Reading Blog

Making the sandwich: putting on successful author events

Posted Wednesday 13 December 2017 by Ian Anstice in Events, Training

Public libraries are superb places to host author events. There’s thousands of them, for a start, with a wide geographical spread. They often have large amounts of floor space when compared to book shops. But, in this age of increasing competition for people’s time and limited staff resources, how does a public library ensure that writer visits can be as successful as possible? That’s the question Time To Read posed. The answers that came back all pointed to the conclusion that simply offering an author, except if they’re really famous, is not enough.

Making the SandwichIn fact, what came through loud and clear is that the library needs to think of how to package the event. Perhaps the best way to explain this is by analogy. Think of it like trying to sell a sandwich, where the author is the main filling and the library is the bread. Well, that may not be enough to get people to buy the sandwich, especially as there are many other fantastic lunch options out there. So it may be better to add in some refreshments as extra fillings  and  -  to improve the packaging, as it were -  theme the event. Oh, and make sure you don’t serve it at the wrong time of day. Perhaps add some music in there as background too. And, voila, you get a really nice sandwich . Or author event.

This guide is intended to share the best practice out there and to share the hard-won experience of experts so you don’t have to learn on the fly. But it’s not intended as prescriptive. To take the food analogy still further, choose what you want from the buffet of ideas and perhaps come back later to try something more adventurous. Oh, and let us know your ideas too so we can improve for next time.

Download the "Making the sandwich" guide here.

Fead and Read: libraries providing food and activities to children in holidays

Posted Monday 4 December 2017 by Ian Anstice in Training

Examples of Feed and Read schemes in the North West

Child foodThis is where children use the library over a school holiday period, with food being provided. This is often, but not always, in partnership with another agency.


Lunches for children provided by Urban Outreach over the summer .  This programme was extended to several branches this year. The lunches will be available every day over the 6 week summer holiday, with libraries opened up if it’s a day they are closed usually. Schools are emailed closest to the libraries to let them know and libraries promote the sessions in outreach sessions for other activities.  The sessions are open to all. if any child is hungry over the summer and would like a lunch they just need to visit the library.  Libraries are also going to supply an activity of some kind at each session, such as storytimes.


Warrington are running this project over the Summer with Active Warrington. They have local funding and or widening their successful Fit and Fed programme. The main parts of the project are:

  • Children recruited will be from a ward with deprivation issues, with children from 5 up joining a programme of sports and reading activities. They will also be provided with meals and instructed about healthy eating

  • Young leaders will volunteer to help at the sessions and will gain a food hygiene qualification as part of the project. We are also hoping to recruit Reading Hackers especially to help with Summer Reading Challenge.

  • It takes place 4 days a week. Libraries will be involved for 2 days.

  • See below for the sort of activities we will be doing on a Tuesday. On Friday the children will be taken on an away day to Stockton Heath which will include a visit to the library in the morning with the chance to join in with Summer Reading Challenge and to the park in the afternoon. Many children will not previously have often travelled that far outside their immediate location.

  • Active Warrington will provide staff, recruit participants, cover transport and book venues.

Possible activities – could all be tied in to healthy eating or good mental well-being. We have tended to work with older children with this as you will see by some of the examples, but can adapt it for younger ones.

  • Create a digital book review – usually we do a Vine (now obsolete I believe!) or animation

  • Rugby Reading Champions sessions – based around favourite reads of Wolves players. Book and rugby quiz, match the player to the right book. Possible stadium tour, training session attendance, match day attendance, visit by role model player

  • Join up to Summer Reading Challenge and give them associated rewards.

  • Listen to Hip Hop Shakespeare and create their own poem (this is not boring I promise. We listen to Akala and talk about how Shakespeare and Hip Hop are both poetry.  Would need to adapt to for a younger audience so would probably listen to someone like Craig Bradley

  • Create emoji stories or guess the emoji book. They can either create a story using only emojis or create a review of a story using only emojis and see if the others can guess the book.

  • Create a comic – we have a template we can use,  they can create it by putting photos together or they can draw it

  • Create a photo story – a six word story illustrated by 6 photos. Can make a healthy eating story –  eg we had 1 which was no booze, no fags, be healthy with a photo for each word. 

  • Twitter or text story – we can give the beginning of a twitter or text story that they can finish.

Review of our Friday group sessions here


In Manchester, Read and Feed was piloted/trialled throughout the school holidays in July-August 2017, with a full high-profile implementation in summer 2018. This approach will enable us to ensure high-quality delivery.   

As Fallowfield is a community library, volunteers will be available to support the scheme.  When the scheme is run in 2018 in other libraries, we will engage volunteers to support the scheme. We have worked with GM FareShare for the first time.  They supplied food for free (with a nominal administration charge) and additional sandwiches were purchased from a local supplier. We held reading / craft activities, to increase engagement with the Summer Reading Challenge.  The scheme is not designed to reach very high numbers, but target those that need it, and increase the amount of people starting and completing the Summer Reading Challenge. 

On the very first day of the Read and Feed scheme, one Mum arrived with 3 children and explained to Elaine and myself that her 11 year son was autistic and would be unable to join in any activities like painting and gluing and would find it difficult to interact with others. At first he wouldn’t make eye contact with us but with encouragement he joined in with all the activities and over time he would chat to us about books and games he liked. We told him how we could reserve books from other libraries which he did and managed to complete the reading challenge. He especially enjoyed the iPad sessions where we did Stop motion with Lego. There were some challenging moments when he got upset but we managed to gently talk him through them. Towards the end of the scheme his Mum said how thrilled she was with how he had joined in and built up a relationship with us and hoped it would help him when he started High School.

St Helens

St Helens has taken part in the very first Food in Schools Holidays project this year. We were given a budget from Public Health to provide food at our events. We decided to use our existing events around the Summer Reading Challenge and earmark some of them for food. We had:

Children had to book onto these sessions and at the end they received a snack bag containing a bottle of water, cereal bar, chocolate, fruit and a packet of Pom Bear crisps. We took details of allergies at the time of booking but there was only two instances of allergies being recorded out of hundreds of places booked.

The scheme was a great success and very well received and Public Health are now preparing a report advising that the strategy should be adopted permanently and all holiday periods should have funding allocated to provide food at events


The idea came in 2016 from local councillor John Blundell. Here’s an article he wrote on where the inspiration came from:

This year, the scheme was rolled out to 6 libraries across 4 townships: Belfield and Balderstone (Rochdale Township), Smallbridge (Pennine Township), Darnhill (Heywood Township) and Junction and Langley (Middleton Township).  The libraries chosen are in areas with a high number of children eligible for free school meals.  Funding has been provided by the Townships.

The aims of the project this year are broadly similar – primarily to provide a healthy lunch for children who might otherwise go without – but also to encourage take up of the Summer Reading Challenge – all children who attend automatically become library members and are enrolled in the challenge - and engage them in reading/craft and related activities.  This year, we are extending the appeal of the scheme by working with Link4Life (Rochdale Boroughwide Cultural Trust, provider of arts, sport and heritage services in the Rochdale borough) who had independently secured funding through charity Street Games to provide their own Fit and Fed programme, led by Link4Life sports coaches. 

By pooling resources, and sourcing food cheaply from Fare Share  , we are able to offer 30 places for “Fit, Feed and Read” at each venue.  Leaflets (see attached) are going out to targeted schools in the participating libraries’ catchment areas and parents are asked to complete the registration form and return it to their chosen library.  Extending the scheme this year has presented quite a lot of challenges, not least having to open up part-time libraries out of hours and buy in extra staff (from ROSA – Rochdale and Oldham Supply Agency) but we’ll see how it goes.  Each session (11am – 2.30pm) will involve at least an hour of reading/related activities/craft and at least an hour of sports/games/fitness as well as the lunch aspect.

See also these examples from the USA:

The Cutting Edge: Leslie Cavendish and the Beatles

Posted Thursday 9 November 2017 by Ian Anstice in Opinion

Leslie Cavendish with scissors

Leslie, thanks very much for agreeing to send in these replies. Why did you write this book?

The reason i decided to write the book now was because I lived through an important time in history "The sixties" where everything was changing which included music/fashion/hair and all the important social changes that was happening at that time.

I was also lucky to have been involved with Vidal Sassoon with his geometric haircuts and The Beatles who experimented with all different styles of music. Dont forget I was a big Beatles fan so to me It was like winning the Beatles Lottery.

I was taught at Vidal Sassoon that the best way to be with clients was to keep quiet and listen and not ask to many questions, so when I met Jane Asher and Paul McCartney I just got on with my work and never bothered them with autographs and asking for locks of hair and Beatles questions etc.

I have kept quiet for a long time and I felt now was the time to let people know what an amazing journey I was on through that period of change and also my magical time with "The Fab Four",so I have now put it all down in my book "The Cutting Edge".

How did you get the book published?

Leslie Cavendish - Cutting EdgeI had the story to tell as I have a good memory and many press cuttings letting me know that I wasn't dreaming it.. I found the publisher "Alma Books" after I had contacted many publishing houses who all said it was a good story but.....I met Lorenzo who is a book agent (Book on Tree), he read the synopsis and decided that it was a story that had to be told as it was different to any he had read about life with the Beatles and the culture of the sixties.He then got in touch with Alma books and they thought that it would make a good read and they believed in it and so it was published on August 21st 2017

How have you promoted the book?

I have been doing many events and also newspaper/radio and TV to promote the book, including Whitechapel library, Oldham Library, The Book Club Shoreditch, The Club at The Ivy(London), a TV documentary at the Sassoon academy, Gulf Radio, Talk Radio, Litchfield Festival, German Beatles convention, the Daily Express and a few other news publications, and I have been asked to go to New York in March for the Fest for Beatles to do a Q/A and book promotion as the book will be published in March 2018 in the USA.

So, go on then, whose hair have you cut?

I have cut The Dave Clark 5,The Who,The Bee Gees,Tony Curtis, James Taylor, Bob Weir, Peter Cook, Jane Asher and many Apple recording artists,Linda McCartney,Suzanna Leigh,James Hunt, Lance Percival, Sir Stirling Moss and their wives and girlfriends, Robert Stigwood and many DJs from the BBC, Emperor Rosco, Stuart Henry, Ashton Gardiner and Terry Stamp and brother Chris, and not forgetting the Apple staff.

How did you meet the Beatles?

Jane Asher was a client of mine and one Saturday morning after cutting her hair she asked if i was doing anything this afternoon because if not could I go around to their house and cut the boyfriend's hair. George Harrison and Leslie Cavendish

I new her boyfriend was Paul McCartney so of course I said yes and after her saying thats good she said "what time is convenient for you" so I said about 6pm (I had gone to football to see QPR v Swindon: we won 3-1) and she said that time is fine,I asked where do you live and she said 7 Cavendish Ave (next to my second favorite sporting place, Lords cricket ground) ,I said thats really strange because thats my surname.Jane said to me "well maybe it was meant " and it was.

Tell us a Beatles anecdote

I was asked to do an interview for Disc magazine and the journalist was also a client of mine.So we went to the Picasso cafe in the Kings Rd and she asked me about the texture of the Beatles hair, I hadn't realized that she was up to something and because I thought i was Jack the Lad (street wise) I just went along with it.

What about Pauls hair she said. His hair is in good condition and he has also a good head of hair. George--very good hair and its quite thick. Ringo-his hair is also thick and good to work with.. John -His hair is ok mmmmmmmmmmmmm. She picked up on that said if any of the Beatles in years to come was going to lose their hair i suppose it would be John?

I hesitated and said "Well if you say it like that I suppose that could happen" Then we just carried on for a bit and then the interview was over. A few days later I get a call from Derek Taylor(Beatles press officer) at 11pm at night and as I picked it up I knew something was wrong as he wouldn't call at that time unless its important.

"What have you said to the press" I replied I don't know what you mean.So why are they saying that Beatles hairdresser Leslie Cavendish says that Lennon is going bald?

In the morning I bought the papers and yes there it was "Beatles Hairdresser says John Lennon is going bald", I knew when I went to work that morning Lennon was going to call me and after about one hour the phone rang and it was John.

As I answered it i could tell it was his voice because he said in that John Liverpool accent "Leslie", With that, I just said I'm sorry about this but they took it out of context and I blabbered on just saying i didn't say it. Lennon then interrupted my pathetic apology and said "Dont tell me about the f-----g press taking things out of context look what they did to me saying that I said The Beatles are bigger than Jesus Christ", With that he stopped and said am I really going f-----g bald? again I said no. He replied "well, you better come over now just in case it starts to fall out"

I then went over to Saville Row and met him and trimmed the ends of his hair. He could have been really uptight with me but he wasnt and it showed he had a sense of humour.


My book,The Cutting Edge: The Story of the Beatles’ Hairdresser Who Defined an Era, was published in August 2017. Please use this link below if you'd like to buy a copy.

Earning your Awards: Stockport Children’s Book Awards 2017

Posted Tuesday 31 October 2017 by Rachel Broster

One often sees award ceremonies in the news but how often does one think about all the effort that goes into them? Or consider that it's sometimes the culmination of months and months of work. This guest blog post by Rachel Broster gives an insight into everything involved.

It takes a whole year of planning and preparation to build up to our fantastic awards ceremony in the autumn.  First, we enlist some willing volunteers to read the books we have been squirrelling away all year. Them from this we create a long list which will be whittled down to a shortlist.

Stockport CogheartRunning alongside the longlisting and shortlisting, we promote the Book Award packages to Stockport schools, encouraging them to participate in to the process. This year we had great take up with eight primary and two High schools buying in. They get to help choose the winning books, have dedicated sessions with a local artist to create art work related to the books and tickets to the Awards ceremony where they can meet the winning authors.

So the calendar is:

- Spring term. The schools receive the books, relevant to their age groups, along with a pack of voting forms, blurb about the books and a form for them to nominate their Reader of the Year.

- May and June. We are planning the activity days and arranging for the artist workshops in schools.

- July: This is the activity day. We were rather ambitious this year, with over 30 children taking part (eek!). By 10am, Marple Library was alive with the sound of children discussing the shortlisted books and we had done the first vote to see which title is the favourite (will it be the same at the end of the day?). The children talked about what they liked and what they didn’t like about each of the books. After lunch, each group did a little performance, acting out a bit from one of the shortlisted books.

Stockport Activity DayAt lunch time, the children ate their packed lunch and rehearsed their performances. After the performance. we gave Oscars all round! Votes were re-cast, with the recults very interestingly not being the same as when we started!  The activity day has helped the children to see the books in a different light.

Karen Allerton (the artist)  brought in all the fabulous art work done by the schools, and the onerous task beings of deciding whose work will be the winning author’s prize.

Stockport medals- October: Presentation Night. All the votes have been counted and re-counted. The winning authors are on their way. Our fantastic compare Craig Bradley, That Poetry Bloke, is briefed and is busy delivering school workshops during the day. All our VIP guests including the Mayor of Stockport have been invited. By 7pm, the venue is ready, the authors and distinguished guests have arrived and there are over 300 children, parents and teachers buzzing with excitement.

We showed our fantastic video of the activity days and the children talking about their favourite books. Then children were invited on stage to read the nominations and announce the winners. The winners were:

The winning Stockport Awards authorsEmma Yarlett – "Nibbles the Book Monster" for best picture book

Jo Cotterill – "A Library of Lemons" for best read for juniors

Stewart Foster – "The Bubble Boy" for best teen read

Authors got on stage, collected their prizes and made speeches..

The book sale and book signing with the authors rounded off the evening. What an amazing night. By 9pm, everything was finished and tidied away and we all went off home to bed ready to start it all again tomorrow for 2018.

And yes, that picture below is that of the Mayor "dabbing" with the children!

Dabbing with the Stockport Mayor

North West Libraries

Librarians in the North West have pioneered partnership working to encourage new readers into libraries. Time To Read is a partnership of librarians engaged in reader development activity in public library authorities in the North West Region. 22 public library authorities in the region currently support Time To Read.

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