Laurence Payot talks about her relationship to libraries when it comes to
creating public events and performances ...
Can you tell us a bit about your work?
a cross-disciplinary artist, I use sculpture, spoken words, and new
technologies, always with the aim to connect people and increase a sense of
How did you first come to work with
2012, I was working with Bedford Creative Arts in Dunstable to create and embed
a new tradition celebrating the local wind. So we got in touch with Dunstable
Library and I joined existing groups to start meeting local people. We then
organised drop-in sessions to design costumes, create a giant kite, collect
wishes for the wind, and we also created a large temporary display in the foyer
to let people know how to take part.
December, I worked closely with Formby Library when commissioned to create a
new work for The National Trust and Sefton Libraries. We were celebrating 50
years of The National Trust looking after Formby Point, so it felt relevant to
explore ideas of personal experiences of the site through memories, both real
and imagined, past and future. We created an installation in the library for
visitors to contribute with their stories, and punctuated that with a series of
drop-in poetry workshops. We also wanted to invite people to become part of a
final performance at our final celebratory event on the Winter Solstice, and we
found them all through local groups who meet in the library, such as the home
schooling group and the reading group. Thanks to the library support, the event
was oversubscribed with over 350 people coming together at dusk, listening to
personal stories and chanting together.
How do you gain from delivering these
activities within a library setting?
can be hard to engage with people in a public space, but in a library, people
are more relaxed, they take the time to pause and reflect. I met some amazing
people who became key participants in my projects through informal chat, or by
unexpectedly engaging with passers-by during workshops.
"It can be hard to engage with people in a public space, but in a library, people are more relaxed, they take the time to pause and reflect"
library staff are also a precious source of knowledge. They know the community
and are able to point to the right people or guide you to the right local
groups (“Mrs so and so wrote a book of poems and memories 50 years ago... I’ll
ask Mr so and so if he still has a copy…”). Library staff members also often
have individual skills that might directly feed into the project.
up with a library is a great way to generate participation and engage with a
wider audience, through temporary displays, promotion and word of mouth.
How would you like to work with libraries
in the future?
always looking for new places and people to be inspired by. Usually, an idea
for a project will start with a discussion, an initial site visit… it sparks a
thought and then it grows from there, reshaping as it is developed in
collaboration with the local community.
could work much more closely with libraries from the start, this would allow us
to create events that become more grounded as new traditions. We could do that
by creating permanent digital displays that could engage library users without
the need for extra staff support throughout the year, or create physical
displays of props or artworks created during specific events, which could
transform each year...
"If I could work much more closely with libraries from the start, this would allow us to create events that become more grounded as new traditions"
key part of my projects is often the collection of personal stories, so I’d
like to explore the idea of archiving, find new and innovative ways to archive
the present, for the future…
matter if the commission is directly linked with a library or not, I know that
when I embark on a project somewhere unknown to me, I will always seek out the
local library as a way of finding out about a place and its people.
Laurence Payot can be contacted via her website http://www.laurencepayot.com/contact/.