Posts by Laurence Payot

"I met some amazing people": Artist Laurence Payot on working with libraries

Posted Wednesday 19 December 2018 by Laurence Payot in Opinion

Artist 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?

I am a cross-disciplinary artist, I use sculpture, spoken words, and new technologies, always with the aim to connect people and increase a sense of belonging.

Laurence Payot girlHow did you first come to work with libraries?

In 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.

Laurence Payot writing circlesLast 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?

Laurence Payot chap reading circleIt 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"

The 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.

Teaming 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?

Laurence PayotI am 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.

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. 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...

Laurence payot big crowd in woods"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"

A 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…

No 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/.

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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