Posts in Opinion

Get yourself addicted

Posted Wednesday 6 September 2017 by Ian Anstice in Opinion


Get yourself addicted

There’s a lot of addictions in this world and most of them are pretty bad for you. I for one eat far too many biscuits that are advisable for a man of my age. But there’s one addiction that I’m proud of and isn’t bad for you. And that’s reading books.

Can you read too many books? I don’t think you can. The worst that can happen to you is that your knowledge increases and you’re suddenly able to spell more words than you could beforehand. Employers will gaze in wonder at your applications and relatives will bow down to your knowledge. Moreover, a good novel – or, hey, any Captain Underpants title –  will allow you to get into the mind of someone in a way that a film or anything else does not. A story gives you the very thoughts of a person in a way that even the best actor finds hard to convey. You see their feelings. In fact, in the hands of a good author, you become the character, at least for a little while. Fancy being a pirate? Or want to understand what it’s like being from a different culture or country? Well, now you can. And, today, when it seems all about “us” and “them”, this ability cannot be over-rated. Empathy is the thing.

Speaking of over-rated, sure, a film has a lot of special effects but that’s nothing compared to a good book. Read and you get full surround-sound 360 degrees vision and the best special effects you can have, because they’re not on your eyeball, they’re in your head. Even virtual reality is only as good as the designer, while there is some sort of strange magic in the book that connects directly to the imagination neurons on the brain.

And that’s a thing, books may be one of our older forms of communication but they’re still one of the best. Time travel is possible in a book. Instantaneous travel anywhere in the universe can go on amongst its pages. Fall in love on a spaceship or discover a new way of thinking over a couple of bits of paper.

So, today, take up a book. You should have one or be able to buy one. Or, if not, borrow one from the library, either by going there or online these days, and grab yourself a moment. Six minutes is enough to reduce your stress (here’s the research) and if you’ve got a kid, ten minutes can change their life (here’s some more).

So, read a book today. And get addicted. In a good way


Protest: Stories of Resistance in the North West

Posted Wednesday 12 July 2017 by Becky Harrison in Opinion

From the Peasants’ Revolt, all the way through to the anti-Iraq War demo in 2003, people from all walks of life in Britain have been marching, picketing and occupying their way to social justice and, while recorded history favours the rich and powerful, it is often the overlooked grassroots movements that incited the dialogue for change.

Peasant's Revolt: It's all over for Wat Tyler

Protest: Stories of Resistance celebrates these marginal histories, bringing together authors and historians (or real witnesses in the case of the recent protests) to explore over 6 centuries of people power through factually-accurate fiction. Many of these protests have their origins in the North West, so as a publisher whose proud home is that very region, we’re delighted to be able to bring these stories to national and international audience.

Sandra Alland’s story, for example, excavates the little-known history of The National League of the Blind, the first union ever based on an identity, rather than a profession. Set in a blind persons’ asylum in Manchester in the early 20th Century - where people were overworked, underpaid, and often abused in the name of “charity” - the story leads up to the monumental National Blind March, which saw people join together in protest from Manchester, Liverpool, Oldham, and even as far as Dublin. A funny and sharp-tongued story, ‘Kick Start’ not only brings to light the unfair conditions for blind people at that time, but also examines the other ways that people were marginalized, as the women were not allowed to march with the men.

The significance of Manchester to the Women’s Suffrage Movement is no secret, but Michelle Green’s story goes behind closed – locked, actually – doors into a prison cell, where women were taken after being arrested for doing whatever means necessary to get the vote. Inspired by the likes of working class Suffragettes like Annie Kenney, ‘There Are Five Ways Out of This Room’ paints a picture of mistreatment, solitude, but inevitably, hope.

Canal StreetManchester’s Gay Village as a symbol of freedom of expression is used to literal effect in Juliet Jacques’ story ‘Never Going Around’, which follows a young student who moves to the city, and in doing so begins to not only embrace his identity, but fight for it as well. 2017 may well mark the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalization of being gay in the UK, but the infamous Section 28 act, which banned schools and local councils from the “promotion” of homosexuality is still in very recent memory, only being dropped in the early 2000s. This story shows the enduring spirit of the LGBT community in the North West, and reminds us how far we’ve come, and how far we also need to go.

The Big Issue described Protest as providing a ‘glimmer of hope and inspiration’ in today’s political climate, and we hope that the stories in the anthology further serve to inspire and unify the people of the North West. We’d recommend this to readers who like political or historical fiction, short stories, or non-fiction and memoir, as well as anyone with a taste for revolution.


Becky Harrison is the Engagement Manager of Comma Press, overseeing marketing and publicity campaigns, as well as managing the National Creative Writing Graduate Fair, the annual event for aspiring writers which will return to MMU in November.

Review of the year...

Posted Tuesday 10 January 2017 by Melanie Graaf in Events, Opinion

Bolton librarian Melanie Graaf looks back at some of the author events in 2016...

As we leave 2016 behind us and go onwards into 2017, we can reflect on some of the debut authors that have visited our town and have subsequently become bestsellers.

Debut writers from previous years have included Paula Hawkins with Girl on the Train, now an international success both as book and film. SJ Watson also came to Bolton Library to promote his first novel Before I Go to Sleep, which later became a bestselling book and film.

Last year we had a number of fabulous debut authors. In January, Gulwali Passarlay spoke about his book The Lightless sky: An Afghan refugee boy’s journey of escape to a new life. This was a very moving event, particularly as Gulwali had lived and gone to school in Bolton, and there were many familiar faces in the audience. A comment from an attendee -“A very important talk –inspirational, celebrating what is good about living in Bolton.”

For World Book Day in March we had a very special evening with Liverpool writer John Donoghue. John’s book The Death’s Head Chess Club was not only an amazing and poignant read; his presentation on researching for the book was thought provoking and this was reflected in the feedback we received –“Very enjoyable speaker –totally on edge of seat listening to talk –learned such a lot.”

In April we hosted a crime double bill with authors Renee Knight, promoting her novel Disclaimer and Fiona Barton talking about The Widow.  The event was much enjoyed by those who attended – “Fantastic event; thank you very much!” "Great to see such brilliant writers in Bolton.” Both writers went on to become bestsellers with film or TV rights being snapped up and both books have continued to fly off the library shelves.

Canadian writer Shari Lapena visited us in July, promoting her well written, dark psychological thriller The Couple Next Door. One of our customers who came to the event said “Very well organised. It was a good idea to have someone to ask the author questions, as well as letting the author do so. As a lifetime Bolton resident, I really appreciate this and other services provided by the library service".

In addition to our 2016 debut authors we can’t complete our end of year events round up without mentioning our crime royalty event with international bestselling author Michael Connelly in October. This superstar author is hugely popular with library users and we had a wonderful turn-out with fabulous reviews - “Fantastic. Can’t believe such a world renowned author came to Bolton.”

Look out for our next author events in 2017 – crime writer Joseph Knox - Sirens (January) romance writer Cathy Bramley - White Lies and Wishes (February) and medieval thriller writer Karen Maitland–The Plague Charmer ( March).

Learning from each other in Warrington

Posted Tuesday 7 June 2016 by Chris Everett in Events, Opinion

Group Playing Jacks

Learning from each other in Warrington – launching our intergenerational group.

As part of Mental Health Awareness Week we set up our first inter-generational group at Padgate Livewire Library. We were all a little nervous before. Would anybody come? How would they get on? What would they talk about?

Week 1: We needn’t have worried.They definitely sat in their own spaces at first, but as they chatted they naturally moved closer together in the room and became completely at ease. What would they talk about – we couldn’t stop them!! They covered everything from the pressures on young people to fit in and how loneliness can affect older people to the Eurovision Song Contest and the E.U. vote. They had so much in common despite their very different lifestyles. They agreed to learn from each other and meet up every 2 weeks. Highlights were when Kayleigh saw the non-smart phones the older people were using she couldn’t help herself ‘How can you survive without a phone.’! The young people went home first, and the first comment after they had gone was ‘Aren’t they lovely’! It couldn’t have gone any better.

Week 2: O.K. was last week a fluke? No it wasn’t – this week saw the young people learning how to knit and it was hilarious! Poor Charlotte couldn’t get the hang of it and had big holes in her garment. They all gave it a good go and had a great laugh along the way. These activities are also great for giving a platform for people of all ages to talk together. We are now so hopeful that this is going to be a really successful project which will impart learning and new skills to all and will break down barriers.

What’s next? The young people have talked about learning life skills like money management and leaning to waltz for the school prom. The older people would like to learn more about smart phones and how to set up Skype. The young people joked that he would love to set them off on Call of Duty – well you never know!!!!

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.

Keep up to date

Follow Us

  • flickr
  • twitter
  • facebook
  • twitter

We use cookies to help us provide you with a better service, but do not track anything that can be used to personally identify you.

If you prefer us not to set these cookies, please visit our Cookie Settings page or continue browsing our site to accept them.