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Poetry and knitting goes down a storm

  • Date: 7 June 2012
  • Area: North
Man with arm in the air

Poet, Lemn Sissay, performing in Oldham Library. Credit: Brian Slater

Tell Us Another One is a community literature project taking place in local libraries in Greater Manchester. Delivered by Cartwheel Arts, it involves creative writing, performance, publishing and broadcasting and has been supported with an award of £60,000 through our National Lottery funded Grants for the arts scheme. 

It's 24 May 2012, the finale of the Scribble Festival run by Cartwheel Arts. North West born poet Lemn Sissay, 2012 Olympics Poet and author of the Preston Guild 2012 anthem, is on the starting blocks. Lemn is quick to demonstrate his high-impact performance skills to a cheering crowd.

No, it isn't the Olympic village, but Oldham Library, and it's highly engaging. One knitter in the audience, transfixed by Lemn's performance - her cable pattern appearing too complex not to require attention now and then - called out: 'You're a good actor!' And later when Lemn presented one of his longer, intriguing poems, the knitter said, 'You have a strange imagination!' Both things were true. 

The early evening slot enabled many of the emerging writers who had taken part in the creative writing workshops to perform their work in the spotlight too. One woman sang her poem in Urdu, to much applause. The culmination of workshops in libraries around Greater Manchester, led by northern writers including Helen Clare, Shamshad Khan, Steve Garside, Anjum Malik and Tony Walsh among others, involved a range of spaces in Oldham Library on the day, such as the airy contemporary art gallery upstairs and the cafe with fennel and lettuce growing in pots outside.  

Another dimension to the Tell Us Another One project run by Cartwheel Arts was the provision of free digital training in several locations across Bury, Middleton, Oldham and Rochdale. Emily Pitts delivered an Introduction to Social Media, John Siddique explored the Web for Writers and Vik looked into Digital Audio Editing. 

Many people who took part in the project are being interviewed for the evaluation by a roving reporter, which will support further development. 

Alison Boyle, Arts Council England's Relationship Manager, Literature in the North West, said: 'What's impressive about this kind of creative programming in libraries is that it's run to a very high standard, uses libraries as venues, funds the work of respected regional writers, and there is huge encouragement and support for emerging artists. 

'It's also a great example of what can be achieved when organisations pool funding, resources and expertise, in this case Arts Council England through our Grants for the arts scheme, the Big Lottery Fund, Bury, Oldham and Rochdale councils and their library staff. Cartwheel Arts were able to run a richer programme than would have been possible if these organisations had been working alone. The free workshop event during the day and free buses from other locations to Oldham offered the communities and the professional writers involved an opportunity to diversify their perspectives.'