Taking poetry to the people

Poetry painted onto Barrow AFC's football pitch
02 Jun 2024

Professional boxer and former Young Birmingham Poet Laureate Matt Windle has been working with a group of ‘hard-to-reach’ men in Barrow to help them get creative through words, as Helen Bartosinski reports.

Cancelled Glasgow festival receives unexpected donation

17 Apr 2024

Glasgow book festival Aye Write, which was cancelled last month after Creative Scotland turned down its funding application, has received an unexpected £65,000 donation that will enable it to host more author events.

While the full festival – last year 175 authors appeared across 10 days – will not go ahead, the money will go towards an increased number of pop-up author events throughout 2024. 

Wee Write, a festival for children and young people, will also now go ahead in autumn, albeit on a reduced scale.

The money, from the foundation set up by the late EuroMillions lottery winner Colin Weir, was described as “unexpected, but very welcome” by Glasgow Life, the council-funded charity that runs Aye Write.

Annette Christie, Chair of Glasgow Life, said the donation meant Aye Write “can continue to have a positive impact on Glaswegians and people throughout Scotland”.

A spokesperson for Weir’s foundation commented: “It was unthinkable that Aye Write should be silenced until next year. Happily, the donation means that won’t be the case.”

Glasgow Life said it will continue to develop a multi-year funding application to Creative Scotland for future festivals.

Charity launches appeal to send mobile library to Ukraine

15 Apr 2024

A crowdfunding appeal to buy and deliver a mobile library to Ukraine has been launched by the charity representing public libraries in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Libraries Connected hopes to raise £10,000 to purchase a decommissioned mobile library and deliver it to Ukraine. 

The charity said that with more than 600 public libraries and 2,000 school libraries damaged or destroyed by Russian forces, communities in the worst affected areas of Ukraine are unable to access a library at all. 

Isobel Hunter, Chief Executive of Libraries Connected, said: "When our Ukrainian colleagues asked if we could help source them a mobile library, we were only too happy to help. 

"We’ve heard such heartbreaking stories from Ukraine – of libraries destroyed, collections burned, and library workers killed. 

"This may be a relatively small gesture, but it will make a big difference to our partners in Ukraine and the communities they serve."

The crowdfunding appeal will run for eight weeks until 7 June.

Birmingham launches library cuts consultation

09 Apr 2024

Plans to switch library provision in Birmingham to a mixture of council and community-run hubs to save money have been put out for consultation.

Launching the exercise, Birmingham City Council said that, based on current information on community interest and co-location opportunities, it estimates this combination of provision could allow for 25 building-based library services. 

"For more than a decade, tightening budgets for maintenance, staffing and technology have made Birmingham Libraries’ current delivery model inefficient and not effective," a statement accompanying the consultation said.

"The current budget challenges mean that library budgets have been further reduced. 

"In that time we have also seen the way people use libraries has changed with a reduction in people accessing library buildings, yet the need for free and facilitated access to information, culture, and advice is high in the city. 

"Public libraries in Birmingham have a long and strong track record of adapting to new demands and changed circumstances, therefore, an essential review and redesign of the way we provide information and library services in Birmingham offers the best route towards a long-term, effective and sustainable solution."

The consultation on the plans is open until 17 July.

Glasgow literary festivals cancelled

02 Apr 2024

Two literary festivals in Glasgow have been cancelled after a funding application to Creative Scotland was unsuccessful.

Glasgow Life, the charity that runs the Aye Write and Wee Write festivals, said the events will not take place this year after it failed to secure financial support from the public body.

"While bids from events for funding support continue to exceed monies available—especially during the current difficult economic climate—some events will inevitably miss out, and we recognise that decision-making around funding award recipients is extremely challenging," the charity's website said.

"Unfortunately, our 2024 funding application to Creative Scotland was not successful, so Aye Write and Wee Write will not be able to take place as festivals this year."

The charity added that it will organise some pop-up events during 2024 and develop its funding application for next year.

Scottish authors have been among those raising concerns about the situation.

Val McDermid said it was “profoundly depressing” that Glasgow “cannot sustain a book festival”, while Stuart called it “unacceptable”. O’Hagan said the cancellation is “savage, and it shouldn’t be happening”.

Douglas Stuart also said there was “righteous outrage” over the cancellation.

“I have watched in horror, as Scotland has haggled over funding for the arts, has closed her libraries, and now has allowed the cancellation of a major literary festival in her largest city,” he posted on X.

Derby Council to put community libraries out to tender

18 Mar 2024

Organisations interested in running 10 community libraries in Derby have been given a month to register their interest.

Following Derby City Council's approval of plans for the city’s non-statutory libraries to be run by a trust, a formal expression of interest process has opened to invite viable proposals. 

Under the plans, legally required statutory library provision will continue to be delivered by the council from five static libraries.

But the council wants the city's 10 community libraries to be run by a separate organisation, either as itself or through the establishment of a new trust.

Organisations have until 26 April to submit an expression of interest.

Baggy Shanker, Leader of Derby City Council, said: “Our ambition is to protect and sustain our libraries for the future and drive forward their growth.

“This is a different opportunity from previous proposals as the council is now seeking a single, separate trust to champion all 10 of Derby’s community libraries to deliver and enhance needs-led, sustainable services.

“Libraries are the backbone of thriving communities. They work hand-in-hand with other public services."

Climate emergency: Stories are as important as science

Adam Cooper with some children examining the earh
23 Oct 2023

Think back to summer 2022. What do you remember? If Claire Malcolm remembers one thing, it is the fear and foreboding she felt when UK temperatures topped 40C. 

Libraries 'worth at least £3.4bn' to economy

11 Jul 2023

Libraries across England generate at least £3.4bn in value a year to the economy through the services they provide, a study has found.

The Guardian reports that researchers at the University of East Anglia discovered that the services a typical branch provides in a year are worth £1m.

The study found the overall value of libraries, through supporting children’s literacy, digital inclusion and health, could equate to six times their running costs.

The project was funded by library services in the east of England and received a £30,000 contribution from Arts Council England (ACE).

“The evidence is clear: investing in libraries brings huge returns for local communities and the public purse,” Isobel Hunter, Chief Executive of Libraries Connected, the charity that commissioned the report, said.

Luke Burton, Director for Libraries at ACE said he hopes the UEA report can help make the case to potential partners and funders to support libraries.

How to curate a festival

Panellist on stage at the Belfast book festival
12 Jun 2023

Belfast Book Festival is celebrating its 13th edition this week, bringing together Ireland's storytelling talent. Sophie Hayles is challenging the traditional model to deliver a festival that is more reflective of the communities across the island. 

Birkbeck proposes cuts to creative teaching

03 Nov 2022

Birkbeck, University of London plans to cut 140 roles this academic year, including up to 11 staff in the department of English, theatre and creative writing.

Birkbeck, which offers classes almost exclusively in the evenings, says the proposals, if approved, could lead to the loss of up to 140 posts. A spokesperson for the university said that many of these are already vacant or will become so over the academic year.

Alongside cuts to English, theatre and creative writing, up to seven roles in film, media and cultural studies will be affected.

Birkbeck has said it needs to make the cuts to fill a multi-million pound deficit caused by a fall in student numbers, but the union has vowed to fight the proposals, saying they are "a disaster for students and the university".

Last week Birkbeck's local University and College Union (UCU) said overwhelmingly voted for a motion of no confidence in the senior leadership team and to move towards an industrial dispute. 

UCU Birkbeck branch president Mike Berlin said: "We will not allow hard working staff to lose their jobs because of mistakes by senior management. 

"Birbeck's cuts, which do not include any plans for recovery and growth, are a recipe for managed decline. Birkbeck has a proud history of reaching students who otherwise would not enter higher education. 

"Sacking 140 staff, including up to one in four teaching staff, threatens to trash that history. The cuts would severely harm student learning and jeopardise the university's commitment to social mobility and lifelong learning. 

"We urge management to rethink its knee jerk job cuts and instead work with us to look at how we can attract more students. If the university refuses to do so we will have no option other than to begin taking steps for an industrial ballot."

Edinburgh to appoint music-writer-in-residence

06 Apr 2022

The city of Edinburgh will hold a competition to select a music-writer-in-residence.

The appointee will chronicle the recovery of the local live music scene on the webistes of Edinburgh Music Lovers and Forever Edinburgh, a £90,000 campaign by Visit Scotland.

Edinburgh Music Lovers founder Jim Byers he that "telling more people about music in Edinburgh is something I’m very passionate about ".

"Local venues and artists need support more than ever and a music writer in residence can help showcase Edinburgh to music fans around the UK and also showcase and develop their writing skills at the same time.”

Permanent free entry to children's book museum

05 Apr 2022

Seven Stories, the national centre for children's books, is making entry free for good.

The museum removed admission fees on a trial basis in February and received record visitor numbers - 7,500 in a single week.

Since free entry aligns with its overall engagement strategy, it has decided to keep the model permanently.

CEO Wendy Elliott said attendance at the Newcastle-upon-Tyne site now far exceeds pre-pandemic levels.

"It was fantastic to see so many new visitors enjoying our galleries and events, from our region and further afield.

"Our goal is to put stories at the heart of every childhood, no matter what background or place you grow up in, and in order to do that we need be as accessible as possible to as many children as possible."

Scheme takes aim at declining theatre commissions

14 Mar 2022

Fifteen plays will be commissioned under a new scheme to address a "devastating" decline in opportunities during the pandemic.

The Writers' Guild of Great Britain (WGGB), HighTide Theatre, UK Theatre and the Independent Theatre Council have partnered on the New Play Commission Scheme, securing £50,000 in funding. There is a £5,000 award for the best play by an unpublished writer.

A survey of UK Theatre members revealed new commissions had declined by a third since 2019/20, while a poll of WGGB members indiciated three quarters of playwrights had lost income during Covid-19. Half believed they would not be working in theatre in two years' time.

HighTide Artistic Director Suba Das said the commissions not only offer "a lifeline to both writers and companies across the UK but helps ensure new writing forms part of how we all move forwards as citizens and communities".

The scheme will launch in April.

Digital ‘no substitute’ to traditional libraries

01 Feb 2022

Most adults think digital services are an inadequate replacement for traditional libraries.

More than half (57%) expressed their preference for in-person services in a survey by the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow.

Just under a quarter (22%) agreed an online replacement was adequate.

The number of people using digital library services was up 11% last year on pre-pandemic levels, amounting to one fifth of all library users.

University of Glasgow professor David McMenemy, one of the research leads, said the findings suggest people missed libraries during the lockdowns.

"They are also social spaces at the heart of communities."

£95m British Library project gets go-ahead

10 Jan 2022

The British Library has received the green light for a £95m redevelopment project of its Boston Spa site in West Yorkshire. 

The refurbishment will create 220km extra shelf space in a new storage facility equipped with a public viewing gallery.

An £8.5m Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme grant to install 730 solar panels, ground source heat pump system and improve insulation has also been secured.

British Library Chief Operating Officer Phil Spence is delighted Leeds City Council approved plans for the redevelopment.

"It marks a major step forward towards transforming our presence in the north of England and creating a sustainable British Library for everyone."

Leaders take top honours in New Years list

Peter Murray at Yorkshire Sculpture Park
07 Jan 2022

Over 90 arts professionals were recognised for services to the sector in 2021.

Curators and librarians among 'most trusted' professions

13 Dec 2021

Museum curators and librarians rank among the top five most trusted professions in the UK, according to a survey by Ipsos Mori.

93% of Britons said they trust librarians to tell the truth, second only to nurses at 94%.

It's the first time librarians have made it into the top of the index, which confirms growing distrust in the police and slightly more trust in politicians, journalists and professional footballers.

86% of people trust museum curators, up four percentage points since last year, the survey found.

Scotland gives libraries £1.25m lifeline

16 Nov 2021

Twenty-three library projects across Scotland will receive a share of the £1.25m Public Library Covid Relief Fund.

The Scottish Government has awarded funding to local authorities to reopen libraries that closed during the pandemic, start wellbeing cafes and facilitate home library services.

The largest grant of £448,000 will help reopen five Glasgow libraries and increase opening hours across the city.

Scotland's Culture Minister Jenny Gilruth said the funding reflects the Government's goal of driving cultural recovery through its communities.

"This fund will see the provision of community-centred projects aimed at, among other things, reducing social isolation, promoting mental wellbeing and reducing the poverty-related attainment gap."

£1.9m to transform 500 primary school libraries

pupil sat in a primary school library
03 Nov 2021

New investment into the World of Stories programme will target seven areas highlighted as Arts Council England priority places.

Arts and higher education: a successful partnership in action

three people in discussion
21 Oct 2021

Creating and sharing new knowledge - through teaching, learning, impact and public engagement - lies at the heart of relationships between universities and cultural organisations, Professor Katy Shaw and Claire Malcolm write. 


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