Time to Read Blog

Burning with energy: Burnley Library

Posted Monday 12 November 2018 by Ian Anstice in Opinion, Training

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 later ...

Burnley Literary Festival

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.

Burnley FestAnd 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.

Witching videoAnd 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.

The Great North West Read!

Posted Tuesday 6 November 2018 by Ian Anstice in Latest Libraries News

The Great North West Read encourages everyone to read and discuss the same book during the month of November. 22 library services throughout the North West, from Cumbria to Chester, including all of Greater Manchester and Merseyside are involved.

This year, we are delighted to have the atmospheric, page-turning and utterly brilliant "The Craftsman" as the book to discuss.

Sharon Bolton herself will be coming to the North West to talk about the book during the month so check out this list of events to make sure you get the chance to see her.

Sharon Bolton"Libraries in the north west played a huge part in my love of stories as I was growing up, and I couldn't be more pleased that The Craftsman has been selected as the first Great North West Read."  Sharon Bolton

If this has got you thinking about what other books there may be out there with a northwest link then, excellent, we have just the books for you. Have a look at our Great North West reads webpage for suggestions (download it here). And if all the talk of witchcraft in the book has got you thinking then try these Great Magical Reads (or download it).

"The Craftsman" would be great book to discuss in groups. Your local library service may be able to assist with a special "The Craftsman" reading group collection, or in reserving books, or you can obtain your copies. Either way, this reading group guide will help with background information, trivia, suggested questions and pictures.

"A biblical profundity that was unlike anything else" Lizzi Hawkins on the Narnia series

Posted Monday 5 November 2018 by Writing Squad in Writing Squad Reviews

We think we know Narnia. Lots of talking animals and something to do with a sailing ship with a cool name. But that's the Hollywood version. The original series is way darker and meaningful than that, even for an atheist. Here, Lizzi Hawkins from The Writing Squad, explains why ...

Aslan"Of all the questions surrounding reading and writing, one that I find most difficult to answer is when I’m asked what my favourite book is – there are too many good books, and it seems almost impossible to settle on one. So perhaps it’s fair that instead of choosing one book for this piece, I’ve managed, purely accidentally, to choose seven. We’ve all probably seen, or maybe read, ‘The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe’, but there’s so much more to the Narnia series than that single story, excellent as it is. Last summer, I reread the entire series, made up of seven short books, of which ‘The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe’ is, in fact, the second, and was reminded how formative these stories had been for me. Sometimes myths, sometimes more like fairy tales, often just excellent adventures, these stories are a beautiful exercise in world-building.

Magicians Nephew CS Lewis NarniaMy favourites (at the moment at least) are ‘The Magician’s Nephew’, the very first story, where we see the creation of Narnia, and learn how the magical wardrobe came to be, and ‘The Silver Chair’, where we re-enter Narnia at a much darker time in its future to rescue a lost prince. These two, along with ‘The Horse and his Boy’, one of the more frightening books, set in the desert south of Narnia, and ‘The Last Battle’, the final story, are the ones that inevitably never make it to the big screen, but which remain really special to me, for their captivating storylines, and their moving, often unexpected morals. They are the heavier books of the series, carrying a biblical profundity that was unlike anything else I read as a child.

Silver Chair Narnia LewisReading them again as an older person, the religious connotations are much more clear to me – I understand now that C.S. Lewis wrote the collection of stories with the intention of introducing children to Christianity in a more appealing format. Despite being an atheist though, I relish the presence of these biblical undertones – they open the door for Lewis to mine some of the most ancient and powerful tropes in storytelling: death and resurrection, sacrifice, pilgrimage, return from the wilderness, the battle between good and evil, sometimes for an individual, sometimes for the whole of his magical world. I’d recommend these tales to anyone, not just children, and not just Christians, because you can find everything in them – a fleshed out fantasy universe to rival the best science-fiction, powerful stories of love and revelation, delicate explanations of faith, and most importantly storylines that refuse to let you go. I challenge anyone not to be captivated by them."

Lizzi HawkinsLizzi Hawkins is a poet from West Yorkshire.  She shares her time between her hometown of Leeds, and the University of Cambridge, where she is studying for a degree in Engineering. She has performed in venues across the north, most recently with Carol Ann Duffy and Imtiaz Dharker at Ilkley Literature Festival.

Lizzi Hawking Osteology Book CoverLizzi’s poems are published or upcoming in The Rialto, The North, The Cadaverine, The Compass Magazine and several anthologies. She is a winner of the 2017 Poetry Business New Poets Prize and has been Commended in the Foyle Young Poets’ Award. Her pamphlet Osteology is available from Smith Doorstop.

The library is a sensory time bomb: Patricia Dixon on her visits

Posted Wednesday 31 October 2018 by Patricia Dixon in Author blogs, Events

Libraries have played an important part in the lives of many of us. Here, crime-writer Patricia Dixon reflects on her memories of them.

"On November 6th, I will take part in Tameside Libraries Mini Crime-Fest and whilst I prepare for the event, my thoughts have travelled back in time to somewhere that holds a very special place in my heart.

Droylsden LibraryA ghost from the future, hiding in the shadows, I observe my five year-old self, holding the hand of my father as we visit Droylsden Library for the first time. It became a Saturday morning ritual, the eager five minute walk from home that always felt like five miles once I was loaded up with books. 

Now I am as a teenager, sitting at the polished wooden desk with my friends. The library served a dual purpose, a warm and a quiet place to do our homework and, if we were lucky, we might also meet boys.

Patricia Dixon library bookNext I am a fashion student, an odd looking girl with spiky-hair wearing home-made clothes, Dr Marten boots and far too much make-up, a pile of reference books aid the search for inspiration. My friend and I have a crazy plan to run away to London so scour the heavy telephone directories, hoping to find the address of Bob Geldof or at least his phone number.

Time has shifted and in this scene I have changed so much, a young mother with two small children, listening to story time.

The library is a sensory time bomb, the scent of books, the hum of voices, and the smooth lines of an art deco building with its square glass windows that stood the test of time. My ghostly self wishes the librarians still had the book stamp. I longed to have a go and can still hear the sound as it prints the date in ink. I smile, remembering how I often begged my mother to take back a late book and pay the 2p fine; such was the shame of forgetfulness.

The circle is almost complete so I return to the present, wondering if my five year old self, the teenager or the student would believe that one day their books would stand on the shelves of the local library. The name on the spine is different now, but inside their words litter the pages, in print, forever. And maybe two more ghostly visitors will pop by, my parents, who will see their daughter’s books on display and if they do, I hope it makes them proud".

Patricia DixonPatricia Dixon is speaking at Stalybridge Library on Tuesday 6 November 1.30pm to 3. She is the author of crime books "Over My Shoulder" and "They Don't Know" as well as a series of fiction based in France.

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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