Posts by Guest blog writer

Books and libraries sing to me

Posted Wednesday 25 April 2018 by Guest blog writer in Author blogs, Opinion

"That Poetry Bloke" Craig Bradley got in touch and so we naturally asked him to write something about reading and libraries. Here's what he said...

I have always been a reader. I can't remember learning how to read. Those little lines, loops and squiggles, that we call words, just made sense to me. Deep inside. They just clicked. I was very lucky.Numbers didn't though. Far from it. Despite my mum paying for extra maths lessons, I was well into my teens before timetables and long division sang to me. Even now their song is a bit out of tune. But books, they sang to me from the start. And they are still singing.

"books, they sang to me from the start. And they are still singing."

Craig BradleySo you can imagine what i thought of my local library. It was on the council estate where we lived. From the outside it was a gloomy drab, ugly, concrete building at the end of a row of run-down shops.  But when my Nan took my sisters and me inside, it was like walking into another world. A crazy, beautiful, slightly bonkers, endlessly fascinating world of ideas, imagination, language and stories.

They were books everywhere. We had a few at home- granddads encyclopedias and such - but nothing like this. This was on another scale. They were rows and rows and shelves and shelves of the things. Therer were so many books that they were piled up on the windowsills and tables.To me, it was like every book in the world was in this room. And the best thing was i could take one home. In fact, the lady who gave me my little pink "Childrens Borrower" library ticket said I could take up to seven books home. Now! Today! Seven actual books! I could read one a day for the next week. 

"That little grubby concrete building was a real, living and breathing Aladdin's cave"

Craig Bradley BrusselsAnd that's what i did. I read and read. I wasn't fussy - made up stories, true stories, old stories, new stories- you name it, i'd read it. Libraries opened up a whole new world to me. It was magic. No other word for it. That little grubby concrete building was a real, living and breathing Aladdin's cave, (Aladdin being one of the very stories i read by the way). By giving me access to loads of books, it gave me access to loads more people and the stories that they told, about their lives and the world that they lived in. I couldn't tell the time or do my timetables but I could read stories and, in doing so, became aware of another world beyond the council estate I lived in. I also read about other people who couldn't tell the time and felt like i wasn't on my own. Libraries did that and i thank them for it.

And you know what, they still do.

Craig Bradley is freelance writer, poet ad performer and has spread his love of reading through class and library visits. His website is here.

The Power of Words: St Helens Libraries and Holocaust Memorial Day

Posted Tuesday 6 February 2018 by Guest blog writer in Latest Libraries News

Most library services have an exhibition or a talk or two to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day but St Helens went several steps further this year. In this piece, Amanda Brown takes us through their impressive events ...

"Each January, St Helens Library Service commemorates Holocaust Memorial Day. This year’s theme ‘The Power of Words’ prompted us to create displays featuring related book stock, and also influenced a range of activities which were delivered across our libraries.

David Scott

David Scott HMDTo launch the Holocaust commemorations, Manchester poet David Scott, also known as ‘Argh Kid’, visited Parr Library to deliver poetry workshops to both primary and secondary pupils. David led two workshops that involved a re-understanding of what poetry is, by showing pupils different examples of poetry in a modern day landscape. This was then followed by the analysis of Holocaust poems, discussing imagery, language sound and rhythm.

Class visits

The theme ‘The Power of Words’ inspired a class visit offer to local schools, based on the powerful memoir ‘Diary of a Young Girl’ by Anne Frank. Over 350 Year 6 pupils visited their local library to learn about the Nazi attempt to annihilate all of Europe’s Jews using propaganda and persecution. The first part of the session focused on how it felt to be a Jewish child and be denied basic human rights such as riding a bicycle, owning a pet or swimming in a public swimming pool. The children considered their own lives today and the activities they like to enjoy, and how they would feel if they were told they were not allowed to take part in them.

HMD class visitThe second part of the visit focused on the life of Anne Frank. Library staff talked about Anne’s life after she went into hiding with her family, read out an excerpt of the book ‘Diary of a young girl’ and the children were encouraged to read aloud a selection of powerful and inspiring quotes written by Anne Frank herself.

Library staff ended the visit by explaining the importance of Holocaust Memorial Day, to remember the millions of people who had been murdered in the Holocaust and subsequent genocides. The clear message learned from the visit was to end hatred and learn lessons from the past when people were treated badly, to prevent it from happening again. The visit concluded with the lighting of a candle and a minute’s silent reflection.

Small Cinema

HMD Woman in GoldSt Helens Library Service provides regular screenings of films as part of the touring cinema project ‘Small Cinema’. To mark Holocaust Memorial Day, Newton le Willows Library presented a screening of ‘Woman in Gold’ starring Helen Mirren, which tells the extraordinary true story of Maria Altmann as she attempts to reclaim family possessions that were seized by the Nazis during World War 2. The film was well received by the attending audience.

Rescues of the Holocaust Exhibition

Rescues of the Holocaust HMDSt Helens Library Service has been extremely fortunate in acquiring exhibitions from a number of organisations to support Holocaust Memorial Day over the last six years. This year was no exception and ‘Rescues of the Holocaust’ focused on the fascinating stories of Bertha Bracey, Wilfred Israel, Ida and Louise Cook and Raoul Wallenburg who undertook remarkable rescue efforts to save lives imperilled by the Nazi regime. The exhibition was loaned from The Weiner Library and was displayed firstly in Rainhill Library and then Haydock Library. To launch the exhibition, staff in each library organised a candle lighting event attending by members of the public. Local musician Julia Cadman performed a unique choral composition at the event, based on the Primo Levi poem, ‘If this is a Man’

Civic Ceremony

HMD civic ceremonyFinally, the library service helped to organise the civic Holocaust Memorial Day ceremony, held at the Town Hall on Friday 26th January. Children from both primary and secondary schools were invited to perform songs, poems and readings, inviting attendees to reflect and consider The Power of Words, and how they impact on us and those around us. This formal commemoration, attended by dignitaries such as The Lord-Lieutenant of Merseyside, The Mayor & Mayoress, St Helens Council Leader, MPs, local councillors, representatives of organisations and members of the public, was a poignant and emotional ceremony but also gave a sense of hope to audience members from the local community.

St Helens Library Service is proud to support Holocaust Memorial Day by delivering events and activities to remember people who have died in the Holocaust and subsequent genocides. St Helens Library Service will continue to challenge hatred, embrace diversity and work within our community to create a safer better future."

HMD choir

Book reviews from Attic Window Cellar Door

Posted Monday 5 February 2018 by Guest blog writer in Book Bloggers

Between social media, the public libraries movement, book shops, big publishers and a sharp rise in the number of small, independent niche publishers – books are everywhere, from posters of the latest must-read bestsellers in tube stations, to telephone boxes in remote rural areas turned into book exchanges. Publishers throw book launch parties to show off their authors (sign up to your favourite publishers’ newsletters and follow them on social media to hear about these events) and libraries are becoming hives of activity, hosting anything from mini plays and author Q&As, book readings to children’s story-time afternoons, and book discussion groups.

Attic Window authorAs a lifelong book lover, in the midst of this groundswell I became one of the hundreds, and maybe thousands of readers who stared a book blog. I started my blog (Attic Window, Cellar Door), because posting to a blog is a nice way to keep track of and give a bit more thought to the books I'm reading, and blogs are a good way to recommend books to other people with similar bookish tastes, and I get some great recommendations from other people’s blogs in return. Social Media is also fabulous for competitions and giveaways of books – follow bloggers, book shops, and publishers to spot these.

Some really good books I've read lately that have recently been released or are due to be released very soon are:

Frankenstein in Baghdad by Iraqi author Ahmed Saadawi – ordinary people living in a war zone. It has some arrestingly bitter-sweet moments among a backdrop of Gothic horror. Surreal with a compelling story, this is magic realism in the heart of contemporary war-torn Iraq.

In Our Mad and Furious City will be out in early May this year. It's contemporary fiction by debut author Guy Gunaratne, recounting 24 hours on a London housing estate. It's very up close and personal, and the writing is edge-of-the-seat tense from start to finish.

A really brilliant ghost story if you like something a bit more cosy and spine-tingling, is The Coffin Path by Katherine Clements, which is set on the Yorkshire Moors and is very atmospheric.

A book that's only just been released, and which is one of my favourites of the moment is The Woman in the Window by AJ Finn – a slow-building murder mystery thriller that evokes everything that is great about Hitchcock. It's very dark and claustrophobic noir but also very cosy, and I really recommend it to any murder mystery fans or black-and-white movie buffs.

The Earlie King and the Kid in Yellow by Danny Denton, which is another of my current favourites, is a perfect piece of Irish dystopian fiction set in a near-future Ireland where an eerie rain never stops falling. It's a dark and earthy tale, and written in the very best tradition of off-kilter Irish story telling.

And a book coming in May that I can't wait to get my hands on is a contemporary retelling, in the Hogarth Shakespeare series, of MacBeth by Jo Nesbo."

Sahera Patel is not a celebrity, she's a Muslim

Posted Wednesday 31 January 2018 by Guest blog writer in Author blogs

""Sahera Patel – author".  I still have to pinch myself when I hear those words. 

My passion for writing was re-awakened when my brother-in-law asked to look at my university dissertation. Words which I had penned in the last century and words which seemed to be far beyond the capabilities of a busy mother and full-time teacher.  It was this stark reminder of the once academic me that motivated me to search once again for purposeful thoughts that translated in to entertaining and inspirational wordsSahera Patel book cover.

"I’m not a celebrity I am a Muslim" was the first product of this new motivation.  An autobiography, it seeks to dispel the many misconceptions in Islam caused by the confusion between culture and religion.  Through topics such as domestic abuse, cancer and marriage, I attempt to reveal the reality of a loving faith in comparison to the far harsher expectations of a culture carried over from India and Pakistan.  It is a journey of faith, but more than this, it reveals the very human journey of life and how we all seek to find solace wherever we can find it.

Sahera Patel on a diagonalMy recently published book is called Unveiling Arabia.  It reveals the many experiences I had whilst living and teaching in Saudi Arabia.  Any expected political agendas would have to be put to bed by the reader, as my writing reveals the reality of Saudi, not the one presented by the media.  Glamorous, confident women, the freedom to enjoy sun set dinners in breath-taking locations and hilarious interactions with the locals are all comical anecdotes worth exploring.  The book does have a sprinkling of politics, as lack of democracy in Saudi cannot be denied and was certainly one of the most infuriating aspects of living there, however, outweighing this frustration was the spirituality of Mecca, the forming of life-long friendships, embracing new, challenging experiences and confronting one’s own pre-conceived perceptions. 

Sahera Patel unveiling arabiaMy passion in life is my faith, and it is with this passion that I have launched a public speaking venture regarding the understanding of Islam, targeted at high schools, colleges and any other organisations that wish to learn about the everyday Muslim.  From basic beliefs to social misconceptions, I attempt to educate my audiences through my personal journey, providing intimate, enlightening sessions where political correctness is left outside the door.

I have also indulged in a little poetry as a stop gap in anticipation for the next life experience.  Hopefully, it will be an inspiring one, earning itself the right to be transformed in to another book."

Sahera will be appearing in Bolton on 19th February.

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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