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Libraries and literature: How arts and culture are working collaboratively

  • Date: 3 January 2012
  • Artform: Libraries, Literature
  • Area: South East, South West
person walking inside of library Southsea Library, 2011, Photo courtesy of Southsea Library

Museums and libraries have long been working successfully in partnership with arts organisations and artists in the South East. Together they have recognised that by working collaboratively on projects and programmes, they can provide a richer and more comprehensive experience to audiences and the public.

With over 300 museums and galleries and over 500 libraries in the South East, they are the perfect venues for bringing writers, poets, artists and other arts professionals together with audiences.

As part of a three-part series, we take a look at a few examples of collaboration with museums and libraries in the South East: in October, we looked at theatre and libraries, and later this year, we’ll take a look at galleries and museums. 

Libraries and literature

In the South East, there’s a wealth of collaborative working amongst libraries and literature projects.

John Prebble, Literature Relationship Manager, Arts Council England says, ‘Libraries provide a welcoming home for readers of all ages and a perfect space for events and activity, often working with literature organisations and writers, to bring books and words to life.
‘Working together means they’re providing opportunities for people to come together to share their enjoyment of reading and literature. We’re excited to see further collaboration across the literature and libraries landscape so that there is a lot of activity on offer in the region.’

This March, the Winchester Discovery Centre hosted a three-day poetry weekend. The weekend was organised by the Centre and Angela Hicken, the Literature Development Officer for Hampshire County Council. The centre is a unique cultural space, housing a public library, two galleries and a performance space, run in partnership between Hampshire County Council, Winchester City Council and their museum and libraries services.

Angela says, ‘We felt confident about running the weekend. We’d been building up audiences through workshops and events for a while. We worked with a few of the different partnership organisations before such as Apples and Snakes and Bloodaxe.’

Activities ranged from an interactive children’s performance to celebrity poets ‘stand up night’ and writing workshops in a funky silver caravan. Poets on the bill included Murray Lachlan Young, Elvis McGonagall, Laura Dockrill, David Constantine and Helen Dunmore and Tongue Fu performance poet troupe.

Angela adds: ‘The dates of the poetry weekend coincided with the date of publication of Bloodaxe’s new anthology Being Human. So Neil Astley, Bloodaxe’s Editor, came down and also brought some writers from the anthology to do a reading, which formed a core part of the weekend.’

In Portsmouth, a new community library in Southsea decided to celebrate its opening in July with a three-day festival of activity, including an official opening from writer Kate Mosse. Dom Kippin, Literature Development Officer, Portsmouth City Council helped the library organise the festivities.

He says: ‘Southsea was one of the few libraries that opened this year so we wanted to make a big deal of it. Portsmouth is the home of great writing. Charles Dickens was born here, Sherlock Holmes was conceived here, through to what’s happening today. They wanted to showcase their library, as well as the regular things they would do once open.

‘The Saturday was the children’s day. We had activities like costumes and Wriggle and Rhyme sessions. The Sunday, we made into a local writers day. I invited seven local writers and gave them 20 to 30 minutes to read and gave them a space in the library to run readings and writing activities.

‘In the build up, I sourced messages of support for the opening from writers like Bill Bryson and Nick Hornby – as well as writers with a local connection such as Malcolm Gladwell, Neil Gaiman and Christopher Hitchens.

‘Kate Mosse opened the library along with the Lord Mayor and the Leader of the Council. The library was packed. There were lots of VIPs and the community was there too. We had a poem written by Portsmouth’s Poet Laureate, performance poet KeliAnne B.

‘Overall, the programme was a real diverse showcase of what we have to offer in the city. It was a nice way of saying in three days of what you can expect from the new library.’