Tag Archives: libraries

The Muse by Jessie Burton is the 2018 Cityread book

The Muse by Jessie Burton (Pan Macmillan) has been chosen as the book for Cityread London 2018. The title will be the centre of a month-long celebration of reading in the capital, starting on 30 April and running throughout May.  Cityread is a huge city-wide book group which aims to help Londoners explore and celebrate their city through its stories.

The Muse cover

The Muse opens in London 1967, where we meet Odelle Bastien, recently arrived from Trinidad and trying to make her way in a new country.  A new job at the Skelton Institute of Art brings a mysterious painting, and even more enigmatic colleague, into her life.  We are then transported to Spain, 1936, and meet Olive Schloss, and we begin to discover how the painting came into being, against the turbulent backdrop of Spain on the eve of civil war.

Taking Burton’s depictions of 1960s London and 1930s Spain as a starting point, a programme of events exploring The Muse’s themes of arrival, the creative process, art history and family secrets will take place in Brent Libraries (and indeed across London!) throughout May.  Highlights will include:

  • A life drawing art workshop on Tuesday 8 May
  • A Spanish cookery class on Thursday 10 May
  • A history talk about the Moors of Spain on Wednesday 16 May
  • An art history talk, Guernica and beyond, looking at the art of the Spanish Civil War on Tuesday 22 May

We will also be holding a competition for the best book review of The Muse with some exciting themed prizes!

For full details of our events look out for our special brochures, keep an eye on our online events lists or email libraries@brent.gov.uk

Jessie Burton

“I’m truly delighted that The Muse will be London’s Cityread for 2018. It’s a novel that celebrates the diversity, humour and spirit of Londoners – both those who were born here and those welcomed in to make it their home. It’s an honour to support our city’s libraries and to be reminded of their incomparable value, and I can’t wait for new readers to find my story of Odelle and Olive, and make it their own.”

Jessie Burton


Further details of all Cityread London activity can be found at the website:

www.cityread.london and at Facebook/CityreadLondon


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Filed under #LovetoRead, books, Brent Libraries, Cityread London, Event, Historical novel, Libraries, Modern Fiction, reading

See the Life Through Their Eyes – 13 YA Novels about Mental Health

Do you know someone that has a mental health condition? Would you like to know more about how hard are they struggling with their conditions? Would you like to find stories full of love, hate, sadness, happiness, tears, laughter, lost, pain, joy? Are you able to show empathy and patience towards all the people who need “someone to talk to”? We are not doctors, but we can be a friend, or a shoulder for someone that desperately needs it.

If the answer is YES, than have a look at the list bellow with books that shine a light on experiencing mental health difficulties. Young adult novels are powerful potions that can blow up the bridges between I’m fine and I’m not fine, and this stories remind us that above everything, we are Humans.































































































By Georgiana

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Over the weekend on November 5-6, libraries all over Britain took part in a twitter hash tag called #LoveToRead, which involved workers and customers to take a picture of themselves and upload it onto Twitter. As the event was organised by the BBC, they put on various events across the country, one being a talk about books with singer Cerys Matthews on BBC 6 Music and another being various BBC television personalities taking part in the event, well mainly the news team. The BBC website also had interviews with famous authors about what books shaped them over the years. Of course, Brent Libraries took part in the event and you can see a selection on the @BrentCulture twitter.



Kieran from Willesden Green Library’s favourite book is Christopher Hitchens ‘Diary of a Young Contrarian’ The book by the noted Vanity Fair writer and essayist explains his views in greater detail and details his life and politics.

Kieran from the Library at Willesden Green’s favourite book is Christopher Hitchens ‘Diary of a Young Contrarian’
The book by the noted Vanity Fair writer and essayist explains his views in greater detail and details his life and politics.

Adina, also from Willesden Green Library, chose Youth without Youth by Mircea Belidem, which was made into a film directed by Francis Ford Coppola starring Tim Roth

Adina, also from Willesden Green Library, chose Youth without Youth by Mircea Belidem, which was made into a film directed by Francis Ford Coppola starring Tim Roth



And finally (as we don’t want this to be all about selfies) Development Officer Kate chose two Charles Dickens classics that are not A Christmas Carol and Great Expectations; Nicholas Nickelby and A Tale of Two Cities

And finally (as we don’t want this to be all about selfies) Development Officer Kate chose two Charles Dickens classics that are not A Christmas Carol and Great Expectations; Nicholas Nickelby and A Tale of Two Cities


Well done to everyone in Brent who took part in the event during the weekend, it was a pleasure seeing the amazing variety of tastes and books on display there. The weekend shown that the library is a magical place in which anything can happen if you let your imagination wonder in it and choose a book that will make it flourish. The library is the only place (besides the internet, of course) where you do not have to pay for knowledge. Unlike the internet, in the library you can touch the knowledge, and no the iPad does not count!

I did not take part myself in the event due to intense selfie phobia but I do have a number of books that I would have liked to pose with if not for my various ailments. First is the Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon. It is famous in two ways: one for winning the Pulitzer Prize and secondly for being Seth Cohen’s favourite book in the O.C. The book centres on the two protagonists in the title over 16 years of their lives in pre and post war America. The book tackles a wide range of subjects from war, religion, immigration and sexual identity. Plus it’s about comics. Comics are fun.

The second is a book I discovered in highschool and would have loved to study but it’s of French origin and my French is bad. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas is a story about one man seeking revenge for the deeds his friends did to him years ago. He gets sent down and then discovers gold. Jackpot. Guess what happens next?

I must end it there but now I ask you: Did you take part in #LoveToRead? Do you have a book you love to pose with?



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Wildlife in the library?!

Autumn has arrived in full force which means falling leaves, bonfires, Halloween and the growing fascination with everything pumpkin spiced. But one little animal is as much autumn as the other things mentioned and is the topic of this blog. They are cute, spikey and some go fast! Out if ideas?

Well it is none other than the humble hedgehog! This bundle of spikes is a quaint autumn sight but numbers have been declining over the years. Here are a few tips to keep them safe and warm in the coming months:

  • Check any bonfires you set up to see if there is a hedgehog sleeping there underneath. Bonfire piles attract hedgehogs because it is warm and away from danger but many get killed each year due to the bonfire so before you celebrate, always check your bonfire pile!
  • Contrary to popular belief, hedgehogs do not like milk as they are lactose intolerant. That means their bodies cannot process the enzymes that are in milk and it makes them very sick indeed. Instead, give them water and any cooked meat you have lying around as it goes down a treat with the ‘hogs. Even better, if you keep pets that require them yourself, live mealworms are perfect as they are similar to what hedgehogs eat in the wild.
  • You can always try building your own ‘hedgehog house’ out of leaves, sticks, moss and anything else that you can find in the garden. They must be well hidden as hedgehogs have quite a few predators lurking about ready to pounce. You can also include a blanket but it is preferred if you have any natural insulation, like feathers.


Some even keep hedgehogs as pets but it is not recommended that you pick one up from the streets. There are many licensed breeders online or better yet check if your local animal shelter or hedgehog re-homer have any looking for a home if you want to commit to having one as a pet. If not those tips will have a rabble of little hogs coming to you. Hedgehogs do not like us as much as we like them but they are fun to watch from afar.

Our Libraries have many books on hedgehogs, from fiction books in the Children’s section to hedgehog care and animal books in the Non Fiction section. One of the more popular hedgehog books is The Hodgeheg, By Dick King-Smith which is about a young hedgehog who decides to become a road safety hero to his family and other hedgehogs.

Brent Libraries are also having a Green Cities Arts and Crafts session this October and the theme is you guessed it, hedgehogs! Children can make their own paper hedgie out of paper and dried leaves. A tip is to bring your own dried leaves from your garden at home. You can colour your hedgehog’s ‘leaf spikes’ in all the colours of the autumn leaves. The next session in time of writing is at the Library at Willesden Green, Saturday 22nd October at 2.30m,-4pm.

By Solmaz

Make your own hedgehog as our craft event!

Make your own hedgehog as our craft event!

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Filed under books, Brent Libraries, Children's Fiction, creativity, Libraries

Four Children’s books for Black History Month

The month of October means chilly autumn winds, Halloween costumes and pumpkin spice lattes but another important event also takes place on the tenth month of each year. Black History Month celebrates the rich diversity and culture of many Black British people and all throughout the month there will be events all around the capital. Here at Brent libraries we embrace this all over our departments but none more so than our Children’s libraries. Here are five books for children that feature and teach all about Black culture.


  1. Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffmanamazing-grace

10 year old Grace is a bubbly girl with a lot of ambitions for what she wants to be when she is older, but for now she really wants to be
Peter Pan for the school play. When she is put down by her classmates who say that she cannot play Peter Pan because she is a girl and that she is black, Grace is very upset. Grace finds solace in her grandmother who tells her about all the great things that Black people have done in history. With that new found confidence Grace shines as Peter Pan now she feels she can do anything. This book is great for teaching kids that there is no limit to what you can achieve, no matter who you are.


2. Through My Window by Tony Bradmanthrough-my-window

This vibrant book celebrates its 30th anniversary this year and it is worthy of that distinction for a very good reason that it
celebrates the diversity of London. The story is about a little girl called Jo who sees all the people and sights around her estate from the milkman, postman and her neighbour Mrs Ali who shares with Jo and her dad sweets from her country. This book teaches young children about all the varieties of people and sights that are all around us and how sharing is good.

3.  I love my Hair! By Natasha Anastasia Tarpleyi-love-my-hair

Hair comes in many different textures, lengths and colours but when you are a child it can be hard to feel good about your hair, especially when it is not the ‘same’ as ‘others’. This book is all about celebrating Afro-Caribbean hair told in a lovely array of watercolours. It shows techniques of caring for Afro-Caribbean hair in which they can relate to. It also teaches young black children to be proud of their hair and heritage. This book is very useful and is a very nice addition to your child’s bookshelf.

4. Handa’s Hen by Eileen Brownhandas-hen

Handa’s Hen is a counting book about a girl called Handa from a Kenyan tribe. One day she goes out to feed her grandmother’s hen and finds out that she has disappeared. We then follow Handa and her best friend Akeyo to find the hen, learning numbers across the way. They come across sunbirds and lizards in their journey to find the missing hen. This beautiful book teaches kids about counting and how other cultures live and be together.



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Boy Nobody, Allen Zadoff


Allen Zadoff has written an unbelievable book. Honestly, it’s one of the best novels I have ever read. It dazzles in every aspect and never ceases to surprise.


So we start the book in the mind of our protagonist, this is a first person book. We don’t even know the protagonist’s name. The story starts off when “Boy Nobody” is friends with a kid called Jack. Jack invites “Boy Nobody to his house where his father is and that’s when we start to realise who “Boy Nobody” actually is, he’s an assassin. From the very first pages we sense that our protagonist is something special: “Jack’s dad wanders by with a beer in his hand. Chen Wu is his name. His friends call him John. He’s the CEO of a high-tech firm along Route 128. Lots of government contracts.” Our protagonist notices every little detail. Eventually he injects a poison into Mr Wu which kills him, “Boy Nobody” escapes, arousing no suspicion. That’s only the start of the book though.

Shadow Boy

Bit by bit we start to learn more about our protagonist. He gets new assignments every time he finishes one, his superiors are called Mother and Father and he still has memories of how it started. A few chapters in he’s sent on a new assignment, to kill the mayor of New York by befriending his daughter. I won’t describe what happens after that because then I would spoil your read.


What is so good about this book is how we discover more and more about our character as the story goes on. The author makes us believe that his mind works like a robot who’s constantly calculating but more importantly has no emotion at all. But as the story goes on we learn that’s not true. Our protagonist starts to feel emotion as doubt creeps in. The author completely submerges us into his brain; we know all his thoughts and dilemmas. What I also enjoyed very much was the attention to detail. I’ll give you an example: “She’s maybe fifteen, long brown hair, too much gloss on her lips. She has a backpack slung across one shoulder. The strap pulls her shirt tight, the swell of her breast pressing against fabric”, this is all in the mind of our protagonist.



Allen Zadoff



This is a fantastic read, with plenty of surprises, I guarantee if you like action, thrillers and even romance books you’ll thoroughly enjoy this one, it’s a cracker!

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Filed under books, Brent Libraries, Children's Fiction, Modern Fiction, Mystery, reading, Teen fiction, young reviewers

Books and Mental Health: The Shock of the Fall

“Mental illness turns people inwards […] It keeps up forever trapped by the pain of our own minds, in the same way that the pain of a broken leg or a cut thumb will grab your attention, holding it so tightly that your good leg or your good thumb seem to cease to exist.” – Nathan Filer, The Shock of the Fall

I really feel that this book tried as much as possible, within the confines of the written word, to take us into the mind of someone struggling to deal with the introspective nature of a mental illness. The reality that no one else can see these struggles can make a person feel they are going mad before the symptoms have begun manifesting themselves physically outside of their heads.

“I can only describe reality as I know it. I’m doing my best, and promise to keep trying.” – Nathan Filer, The Shock of the Fall

The Shock of the Fall is refreshing for not having a schizophrenic protagonist who spends the entire novel talking to himself and clutching his head in a dark corner of a room. I think Filer’s done a great job of giving more substance to something which can too often be viewed under one umbrella – not all mental health sufferers look the same, and not everyone deals with these issues the same way. In this book, Matt, despite his illness and outbursts, shows in his witty and often sarcastic observations of his life, that he is not defined by his mental health.

“Inside my head is a jigsaw made of trillions and trillions and trillions of atoms. It might take a while.” – Nathan Filer, The Shock of the Fall

This week is mental health awareness week, and relationships is the focus of the campaign this year – which I think is very important. Having been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) a few years ago, I have had to re-learn how to interact with people, to rewire and divert my thought processes so that I am not always assuming the worst and feeling terrible because of it. BPD is so wide and so vast, but to me, it means that on top of navigating a minefield of symptoms, I am always looking out for signs of rejection as a defence mechanism – whether in micro-expressions or brief changes in body language. This makes relationships difficult because BPD sufferers feel emotions intensely, and the slightest perceived negativity can send them into episodes of depression and self-doubt that can last days, and interacting with others during this period can be incredibly stressful. 

“[…] one thing I’ve learnt about people, is that they can always surprise you.” – Nathan Filer, The Shock of the Fall

One of the hardest things for a mental health sufferer to accept is that this illness is theirs whether they want it or not, and that can be a very isolating experience. This is why this week is so important in highlighting just how much a human presence can mean to someone like Matt, who felt often deflated and without a clue how to help himself, or accept help. Just like relationships take time to nurture, understanding the dynamics of mental health will take a long time. But all of us can make a small start by making a cup of tea for a struggling loved one, or even by picking up a book and being open about what we find in it.


by Lauris


Brent Libraries have great stock of mental health related books, whether factual or fictional. It’s never too late to start talking about mental health, and books always make great conversation starters.
Some helpful contacts, should you feel you need them:

15-19 Broadway, Stratford, London E15 4BQ
T: 020 8519 2122, Info line: 0300 123 3393
e: contact@mind.org.uk
24 hour helpline: 116 123 (freephone)
Freepost RSRB-KKBY-CYJK, Chris
PO Box 90 90

Sane Line
Offering specialist mental health emotional support 6-11pm everyday.
You can also email through their website.
Tel: 0845 767 8000
Web: www.sane.org.uk

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Filed under books, Brent Libraries, Libraries, mental health, Mental Health Awareness Week, Modern Fiction, reading

Reading Well for young people

The Reading Agency have compiled a list of books to help young people deal with and  gain understand of mental health issues.  This is an extension of the successful Books on Prescription scheme.

There’s some really interesting choices and it’s not all about self-help, there’s fiction and graphic novels too.

What do you think?  Can reading help with health?  Would you add anything to this list…or take any of the titles off it?!

Here is the list the Reading Agency suggest:

  1. Stuff That Sucks: Accepting What You Can’t Change and Committing to What You Can by Ben Sedley (Robinson, Little Brown)
  2. Mind Your Head by Juno Dawson (Hot Key Books)
  3. The Self-Esteem Team’s Guide to Sex, Drugs and WTFs?!! by The Self-Esteem Team (John Blake Publishing)
  4. Blame My Brain: The Amazing Teenage Brain Revealed by Nicola Morgan (Walker Books)
  5. Quiet the Mind by Matthew Johnstone (Robinson, Little, Brown)
  6. I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson (Walker Books)
  7. Kite Spirit by Sita Brahmachari (Macmillan Children’s Books)
  8. House of Windows by Alexia Casale (Faber)
  9. Every Day by David Levithan (Electric Monkey, Egmont)
  10. My Anxious Mind: A Teen’s Guide to Managing Anxiety and Panic by Michael Tompkins and Katherine Martinez (Magination Press, American Psychological Association)
  11. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky (Simon & Schuster)
  12. The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida (Sceptre, Hodder)
  13. Freaks, Geeks and Asperger Syndrome: A User’s Guide to Adolescence by Luke Jackson (Jessica Kingsley)
  14. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon (Vintage)
  15. Teen Life Confidential: Bullies, Cyberbullies and Frenemies by Michele Elliott (Wayland, Hachette Children’s)
  16. Vicious: True Stories by Teens about Bullying Hope Vanderberg (Free Spirit Publishing)
  17. Banish Your Self-Esteem Thief: A Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Workbook on Building Positive Self-Esteem for Young People by Kate Collins-Donnelly (Jessica Kingsley)
  18. Teen Life Confidential: Self-Esteem and Being You by Anita Naik (Wayland, Hachette Children’s)
  19. Face by Benjamin Zephaniah (Bloomsbury)
  20. Am I Depressed and What Can I Do About it? by Shirley Reynolds and Monika Parkinson (Robinson, Little, Brown)
  21. I Had a Black Dog by Matthew Johnstone (Robinson, Little, Brown)
  22. Can I Tell You About Depression? by Christopher Dowrick and Susan Martin (Jessica Kingsley)
  23. Can I Tell You About Eating Disorders? by Bryan Lask and Lucy Watson (Jessica Kingsley)
  24. Banish Your Body Image Thief by Kate Collins-Donnelly (Jessica Kingsley)
  25. Touch and Go Joe by Joe Wells (Jessica Kingsley)
  26. Breaking Free from OCD: A CBT Guide for Young People and their Families by Jo Derisley, Isobel Heyman, Sarah Robinson, Cynthia Turner (Jessica Kingsley)
  27. The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B by Teresa Toten (Walker Books)
  28. The Truth About Self-Harm by Celia Richardson (Mental Health Foundation)
  29. Fighting Invisible Tigers: A Stress Management Guide for Teens by Earl Hipp (Free Spirit Publishing)
  30. Teenage Guide to Stress by Nicola Morgan (Walker Books)

(All these books are available to borrow from Brent Libraries)

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Event: The Sign of Sherlock

Sherlock Holmes could be said to be the world’s greatest multimedia star. But he never even existed. In stories, plays, musicals, movies, not to mention TV and radio, he’s been played by over 70 actors from countries across the globe. The magic is that we all feel we know the character, he’s as ubiquitous as The Beatles or Father Christmas in popular culture and adored by even those who’ve never read a word of Arthur Conan Doyle’s original books. How did this happen? And how has a very Victorian character endured and thrived in the modern, digital world?

Sherlock on sofa

Tomorrow night amateur sleuth and Holmes buff WJ Bird be appearing at The Library at Willesden Green to take you on a journey from Baker Street to the bright lights of Hollywood and beyond to answer these questions.

The first Sherlock Holmes film was made in 1900, the latest just last year. His author died in 1930 but new stories about his most famous creation are still being written. Sherlock Holmes himself was killed off in a story in 1893 but returned from the dead in 1901 so perhaps his immortality was assured back then!

I met up with Will to ask him a few questions about his relationship with the great  fictional detective.

Q. What’s Your favourite Sherlock Homes story and why?

“The Red Headed League” is a personal favourite as it is such a bizarre case and a lovely depiction of working life in Victorian London. Like many of the early short stories, nobody dies either. “The Musgrave Ritual” too is interesting as it’s a historical case that Holmes himself narrates – it’s set before he met Watson.


red headed league

Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes in the ITV version of The Red Headed League.

Q. Why do you think Sherlock Holmes captured the public’s imagination?

Come to the talk to find out my theories on this! But it’s mainly down to 1) the spread of popular media like magazines, cinema, TV and radio and 2) the creativity and passion of a lot of talented people over the past century, not just Arthur Conan Doyle!

Q. How has Sherlock Holmes influenced modern detectives on TV and in fiction?

Difficult question, but I guess being the first popular detective in English fiction means that he’s influenced them all. The detective as a maverick, not an establishment figure, has become a common theme, as has the importance of the more approachable “sidekick”. Conan Doyle also helped establish the idea of exposing the criminal underworld of a modern city through sometimes shocking tales, setting the template for Raymond Chandler and his like.

Big screen sherlock

Sherlock Holmes has appeared many times on the big screen

Q. Will Sherlock Homes still be in the public consciousness in 100 years?

As he keeps being reinvented then absolutely yes. As I say in my talk he’s gone in and out of fashion in popular culture over the decades, but the stories have never been out of print. But he’s becoming almost a mythical figure like Robin Hood now, not merely a literary one.

To hear more from Will do please come along to our free talk at The Library at Willesden Green, 6.30pm, 18 November.  (They’ll even be free wine and mince pies!)

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Our Artist in Residence

Jared Louche PBW

Great blog from our wonderful Artist in Residence Jared Louche.  He’s doing some fantastic work with young people and Brent Libraries feel very lucky to be working with him!

He’s been with us for a month already but there are still plenty of workshops to come at Harlesden Library, please see our online calendar for times and dates.

That’s all from me, here’s what Jared has to say about the project:

I’m currently involved in the Apples&Snakes SPINE Festival as artist-in-residence based in Harlesden Library. I’m a poet, performer, rock star, writer, photographer and workshop facilitator. For the past fifteen years I’ve been working at the nexus of the Arts, Education and Health Care. I facilitate writing, art and performance workshops in schools, prisons, hospitals, museums and libraries, using creativity as a way to excite people to better command the language and their ideas. Creativity’s a thrilling tool of empowerment that helps people release their imaginations and express things they might never dare tackle and I love to help midwife that creation.
This is an exciting and important project that highlights a collection of London libraries. With the explosive growth of the internet as a research tool, combined with extensive government cutbacks to library funding, libraries are currently fighting a battle to remain relevant in the 21st century. One of the things that I’m constantly fascinated by is creatively exploring people and buildings that are marginalized in society, those who (for whatever reasons) can’t tell their own story or whose stories aren’t seen as important by the society around them. We place value on the young, on the new, on the freshly rearranged. In doing so though we seem to feel that importance can’t simultaneously be placed upon the elders of our communities, upon older buildings and older traditions. There’s much that’s lost because of this and many voices that are no longer heard, fading as mist before a too-bright sun.
Libraries are the perfect illustration of this; every library has gone through countless changes, alterations and renovations. They’ve seen war and peace, busy times and slow, and down the years they’ve watched the community around them shift and change. Despite being the richest realm of words though, the one thing that no library has ever been able to do is to find its unique voice and be able to tell the story of its life. No library has ever been able to tell us its experiences, what its greatest fear and proudest moment might have been or what it dreams about when the last librarian has locked up, the stacks are still and the lights are finally out. The only way to hear that hidden voice is with your creative ears.Jared table
At Harlesden I’ll be working creatively with a broad spectrum of the local community, developing stories from the library’s perspective as well as looking at language and books in alternate ways. We’ll be developing Haiku-brief poems about secrets and hiding them in books throughout the library. We’ll also be creating and binding our own books. I’ll be running workshops with groups from schools as well as in a much more guerilla context with people who have come to borrow books and unwittingly wander into my orbit.
With children from local Primary Schools, I’m unleashing creative writing and creative thinking workshops to look differently at the amazing things the language can do. The ancient, universal language of poetry is the most phenominal spade with which to dig into the loamy soil of language and ideas. This helps expose children to the delights their library contains and allows them to see the space as both useful as well as exciting. Although the project only just launched last week, we’ve had lots of excited school children writing and talking about the language, and the library staff have been inundated with gleeful waves of children clamouring for library cards.
This is exactly the sort of project I love being involved in; one that allows for broad conceptual interpretation, that pushes at the membrane between the Known and the Unknown, that involves both the local community and Primary School children. Art may not change the world, but I’ve watched it change individual lives and I’m honoured to be able to be a part of SPINE.
Thanks Apples. This is already an excellent project. As usual, you rock!



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