The luxury of being able to plan artistic programmes over four years, to take risks and immediately apply lessons from past activities, and new partnership opportunities were highlighted as some of the key benefits that National Portfolio status has brought to libraries.
Earlier this month, the Arts Council hosted an event in Birmingham where the six library services who are part of their National Portfolio could share and reflect on their activities over the past year. A vast range of activities were unveiled, with each library service producing a cultural programme tailored to their local communities.
Sir Nicholas Serota and Sue Williamson opened the event by sharing the Arts Council’s vision for libraries and how vital they felt libraries were to the cultural landscape of the country. The good news is that they both want to see more library services applying for project funding from the Arts Council to help develop their relationship and journey towards a National Portfolio award in the future.
Our CEO, Isobel Hunter then chaired a session on how the libraries could share their learnings with other library services to support them and work together to ensure that the wider sector benefits from their experiences.
We will now be working with the Arts Council to see how we can better support the six library services as well as the wider sector. This includes facilitating opportunities for the six libraries to connect with each other and other library services, looking at ways to improve marketing and promotional support, and in particular, how to grow the number of National Portfolio libraries.
The six libraries are:
St Helens Library Service
This programme aims to enhance the cultural provision for families, young people, disability arts and LGBT people. They collaborated with Heart of Glass to bring local celebrity Frank Cottrell-Boyce and US performance troop, Split Britches to their Take Over arts festival.
Barking and Dagenham Libraries
Pen to Print is the writing programme designed to help local writers to collaborate, reach local communities and get their work published. They work with young people, diverse communities and new and aspiring writers, and host ReadFest, an annual literary festival.
Inspire’s programme has a primary focus on children, young people and families and they’ve partnered with Spark Arts who produce theatre productions for young people in libraries. They’ve also created a series of multi-sensory cultural experiences for under-fives.
Community and Cultural Services, Cambridgeshire
The Library Presents work with Babylon Arts to bring a season of performing arts and exhibitions to 22 libraries in villages and towns around the county each year. 2018 highlights include Apple’n’Spice, based on Snow White and Ramayana with Indian and western dance.
BLOC: Building Libraries on Creativity is a countywide programme developed in partnership with young people. They have partnered with METAL to run a week-long, mixed media residency for Suffolk-based artists to look at the role creativity plays in nurturing community.
Libraries Unlimited, Devon
Discover. Create. Explore. aims to use new technologies such as Virtual Reality and 3D sound to connect people with cultural activities. They aim to celebrate the uniqueness of libraries as a cultural space and work with artists to create unlikely works of art in libraries.