Evaluation Summary - Phase 2:  March 2021 - February 2022

Libraries as Cultural Hubs Phase 2 is an Arts Council England National Lottery funded cultural development programme.

This year- long digital arts programme is supported by The Friends Groups of Corfe Mullen, Sturminster Newton, Weymouth, Wimborne and Wyke Regis Libraries and our partner The Arts Development Company.

The funded programme ran from March 2021 to February 2022 and included 11 events and 2 artists in residencies for young people and adults across Dorset as well as a range of author, music, arts, and dance events.

The programme is designed to celebrate diversity with a range of artists to shape an open, more diverse, inclusive and equal cultural offer.

Achievements

Libraries as Cultural Hubs Phase 2 has enabled us to:

  • deliver a digital arts programme of 9 events and in compliance with COVID guidelines we were able to deliver 4 events at Library locations
  • work with a diverse range of artists including the award – winning author Bali Rai who explored diversity and multiculturalism with children aged 5-7 years. Adisa provided an energetic poetry performance for 424 young people inspiring them to write poems about identity, while Louisa Adjoa Parker offered adults the opportunity to explore stories of Dorset’s Black History and John Stockley shared his experience of growing up in Weymouth having a local mother and an African American GI. To celebrate LGBT+ History Month, Mama G appeared in person to deliver stories to children about being who you want to be and loving who you are
  • our work with Bali Ray and Adisa enabled us to reach out to children from black and minority ethnic communities who form 9% of school age children. Creative Clay was a dementia friendly clay making and painting tea-light holders workshop and Telling a Different Story with Chris Jury offered the opportunity to encourage empathy and was supported by a mental health support worker
  • promote and engage young people in the Arts Awards. 30 young people were excited to achieve their Discover Awards from our credited staff
  • collaborate with Activate Performing Arts Remix and Dorset Youth Dance to create What’s the Goss? The captivating video draws upon Thomas Hardy’s time in Wimborne, where according to hearsay he eavesdropped on local gossip to glean ideas that he used in his work
  • focus on targeting our in situ events at libraries located in identified cultural cold spots. Stemming the Tide workshops were held at Swanage and Wareham Libraries in August, the Creative clay workshops were held at Ferndown Library in January and Storytime with Mama G was held at Verwood Library
  • contribute to the local economy and sense of place by employing artists originally from or based in Dorset including Libby Page and Lucy Clarke
  • trial donations by using the online platform Eventbrite to promote all the events and while all the events were free, we did trial asking for donations for four events
  • develop our collaborative relationship with The Friends Groups of Corfe Mullen, Sturminster Newton, Weymouth, Wimborne and Wyke Regis Libraries, our partners The Arts Development Company and Activate Performing Arts
  • support staff in digital diversity training, learning how to set up Eventbrite and undertake video production including editing

Libraries as Cultural Hubs Phase 2 Engagement

Engagement included:

  • 17 artists employed
  • 295 participants at events
  • 33 live audience
  • 2064 online audience
  • 3 new commissions
  • 16 days of employment for artists
  • 5 exhibitions/performance days
  • 42 staff training days
  • 30 children achieved an Arts Awards Discover

Key Learning

Things we have learnt:

  • the pandemic has meant that schools are finding online events more accessible and this is positive as it enables us to continue to deliver digital programmes to a wide range of young people and work with schools to offer library membership
  • customer feedback has highlighted that libraries are adaptable community hubs that everyone has access to, and we are more than just books
  • customers have told us they wish to see want to see a continuation of the events that we are offering
  • the professional video production training has reiterated the need for planning before starting to film as this results in the filming aspect being completed much quicker
  • using Eventbrite to book our events has meant we have amassed 430 followers which we are continuing to develop as this becomes the default booking method
  • LACH Phase 2 has enabled us to test donations and we have found that participants donate more at in person events than online
  • having an inclusive programme has highlighted the need to continue on this journey as a focus on diversity and other cultures has really broadened participants outlook and the understanding of others
  • libraries as Cultural Hubs has enabled us to demonstrate how we contribute to the Dorset Council Plan, the Dorset Cultural Strategy and Let’s Create (Arts Council England ‘s 10-year Strategy 2020-2030)

The programme

As part of the Libraries as Cultural Hubs phase 2 programme we delivered 13 exciting and varied events that all contributed to showcase the importance of libraries in connecting communities through culture and arts.

Information and digital – inform, inspire, innovate. Empower local communities to be informed and engaged.

Stem the Tide – Artist in Residence for children and their families - Peter Margerum

August 2021

A series of recycled and reclaimed interactive hands-on art workshops for families. Children experimented with making 3D artworks from a wide selection of found and recycled objects. With a focus on capturing identity and sense of place, children learned and discovered how they can make a difference to the environment. The workshops took place in Wareham and Swanage Libraries.

Key achievements:

  • children left the event with a sculpture they had created from found and recycled objects – most popular were buckets, spades, milk bottle tops
  • the events were some of our first live in person events since COVID-19 began
  • the first time we had used gazebos to ensure the events could be held outside and allow good air flow throughout the event

"Everything was so organised. I was inspired to get stuck in. I didn't know junk can look so beautiful."  

Personal stories

An Evening with John Stockley

Celebrating Black History Month, John gave a virtual event focusing on his early childhood growing up in Weymouth.  John is of mixed heritage, his father was a black African American G.I., his mum a Weymouth local lady. The event gave John the opportunity to share his life journey – of acceptance, discrimination, and being strong. 

“Local history from a different perspective.”

“Stories from the heart.”

Exploring Stories of Dorset’s Black History with Louisa Adjoa Parker

This online event was an opportunity for Louisa to share her personal life experience growing up in the South West and how her mixed heritage affected her upbringing. Thought provoking talk that gave attendees lots of areas they could follow up and find out more about if they wished. An interview Louisa Adjoa Parker was filmed before the event to help promote interest in social media.

“It was a brilliant webinar, really informative and Louisa’s personal insights made it all the more impactful.”

Storytelling

Storytime with Mama G

This was an interactive story time session for younger children and their parents with a panto dame as the storyteller. The stories focus on being who you are and loving who you want, told with puppets and lots of action.  The drag element of the storytelling was to show the diversity and inclusivity of libraries and to forge a link with the local LGBT community.  The session was also to promote acceptance for being who you are.

Woman with baby - sepia tint photo      Woman stood and leaning against a tree    Pantomime dame

Culture and creativity – explore, create, participate. Enabling communities to experience arts and culture in libraries.

Music

Tranter Dewey’s Christmas Party

A celebration of traditional Dorset folk tales with a Christmas theme and music from the time of Thomas Hardy. Performed by Tim Laycock and Colin Thompson there was a feast of seasonal songs, local carols, sparkling instruments, Yuletide tails and wintertime readings with music on the fiddle, viola, guitar, concertina and melodeon. This event took place in Gillingham Library with a live audience.

“Wonderful music, singing and storytelling. What more can one ask?”

Dance

What’s the Goss?

Local voices, music and dance inspired by What’s the Goss? and based on Thomas Hardy’s time living in Wimborne. Music and choreographed dance were created through workshops before filming in local locations to create an inspiring video, What's the Goss showcasing the talents of local students.

The performance piece involved 30 students from Dorset Youth Dance and The Remix. The Remix is an integrated youth performance company made up of young people aged 13 –19 both disabled and non-disabled from across the county. Dorset Youth Dance is a county-wide youth dance company offering high quality dance experiences for young people who have a real passion for dance. Wimborne Library was used as the indoor venue for rehearsals and filming and an interview with the choreographers and producers of the show was created to help promote the video on social media.

“What a fantastic video”

Poetry

Spoken Word Workshops with Liv Torc

This intimate online workshop with Liv Torc helped people to discover poetry in everyday objects and to have fun with words. Together the group collaborated to create a poem about their emotions. All 20 places were booked up quickly.

“New ways of sparking writing ideas were great.”

Two men playing instruments - violinspeople looking around library
Health and Wellbeing – healthier, happier and connected. Supporting local people to engage and connect through libraries.

Writing

Telling a Different Story – Writer in Residence – Chris Jury

September – December 2021

An online creative writing programme aimed at individuals belonging to minority and disadvantaged groups in the UK. The underpinning principles of the programme were creativity, opportunity, tolerance, understanding and mutual respect. An interview with Chris Jury  was created to explain about the sessions and to promote interest on social media.

The programme aimed to work with individuals and groups from across a wide range of minority and protected groups in the UK including racial, religious and ethnic minorities, the physically disabled, the LGBTQ community and the aged, as well as groups such as the homeless, ex-prisoners and ex-service personnel. 

A mental health support worker was available at all the sessions to provide signposting and support if required.

By the end of the course, participants had:

  • written a script for a short film or short play
  • gained an insight into other cultural communities
  • made connections with members of other cultural communities
  • gained a greater understanding of how diverse cultural communities can live together harmoniously

“I am very glad to have stuck with it. There’s no doubt I have learned a lot and though I struggled you have given me the tools, and even possibly the inclination, to try and write more.”

Craft

Creative Clay Workshop with Community Artist Deborah Clarke

This dementia-friendly workshop was held to give people a hands-on experience of working with clay and creating a tea-light holder that they could decorate. These were kiln fired and collected from the library. The holders were to be inspired by a book, creating a link with libraries and reading. The workshops took place in Ferndown Library and gave a face-to-face experience after months of COVID-19 and isolation.

“Plenty of space, good materials, good teacher”

People making tealight holdersa few tealight holders

Reading

Engage, imagine and discover. Developing, delivering and promoting creative reading activities in libraries.

A series of events where bestselling authors and poets shared their experiences, contributing to the development of writing and literary interest in the community.

Bali Rai

A virtual author event with children and young adult author Bali Rai.  Bali has written over 50 books for children. The event focused on his latest book ‘Mohinder’s War’ - a thrilling World War II adventure set in occupied France, featuring an Indian RAF pilot. 

The event was promoted to schools highlighting the diversity aspect of broadening children’s reading to include books featuring diversity, inclusion, and identity. The event was attended by 20 different schools from across Dorset and an estimated 850 children attended.

“Children are very keen for us to now get copies of his books - they loved how his knowledge of history tied in so well with their current learning. “

Lucy Clarke

In partnership with Sturminster Newton Literary Festival, this online event attracted 75 participants and introduced Lucy Clarke as the bestselling author of six psychological thrillers.

Lucy was in conversation with Jane MacLeod from the Library Service Development Team and talked about her passion for fresh air and beaches, writing from a beach hut and then read from her latest novel The Castaways, followed by Q & A from the audience. The aim was to partner with local literary connections and Friends of the Library to bring new audiences to digital events.

“I learned a lot about Lucy Clarke's writing from this event and it was lovely to 'meet' her, as I hadn't seen her before. It was interesting to hear about her writing process too. I thought the interviewer was very good and asked excellent questions. “

Adisa

An online author event with performance poet Adisa. Adisa’s session explored diversity, culture and black history. The event was aimed at schools, particularly targeting those in the Dorchester area to show poetry and performance can be accessible. It was part of the Dorchester Literary Festival programme and part of Dorset Libraries Black History month offer. The event was attended by more than 10 different schools with an estimated 400 students.

“Loved Adisa’s big personality, his sense of humour, how he connected to our learning bringing in what, for them, are sometimes adult topics of conversations.”

Libby Page

In partnership with Sturminster Newton Literary Festival, this online event introduced Libby Page as the bestselling author of The Lido and the 24-Hour Cafe. Libby was in conversation with Julie Freeman from the Library Service Development Team and talked about her writing, passion for wild swimming, and overcoming isolation. She read from forthcoming novel The Island Home, followed by a Q & A from the audience. The aim was to partner with local literary connections and bring new audiences to digital events.

“Her enthusiasm! Hearing her read an extract from her latest book: which I have just ordered from my local library.”

Lady with glasses       Smiling lady with dark hair      A book cover

 

 

Next Steps

 

 

  • moving forward we will offer a hybrid programme to schools to engage with children and young people as we have a higher proportion of smaller rural, schools. This approach is inclusive as it enables the children to interact with artists and have access to the same cultural stimulation as larger urban schools
  • continue to develop the relationships we have made with the project. In particular, our partner The Arts Development Company who have been ambassadors for Libraries as Cultural Hubs Phase 2 by sharing the good practice and talking about the programme with other organisations who are looking to develop work in libraries both in Dorset and in other counties. This has resulted in new partnerships between artists and libraries for future work. The Friends Groups of Corfe Mullen, Sturminster Newton, Weymouth, Wimborne and Wyke Regis Libraries have also played a key role in supporting the programme and marketing the events and we would like to continue to develop this collaboration
  • event attendees have commented that libraries are becoming more of a cultural hub for their communities and we want to explore how we can develop this and continue to reach diverse audiences
  • Libraries as Cultural Hubs Phase 2 has highlighted the important role that Libraries can play in employing artists and writers to develop and deliver work in libraries (in all art forms) and we plan to continue to support local artists and contribute to the cultural economy
  • we plan to sustain a hybrid events programme as this enables choice and also attracts wider participation from non-library users
  • upskilling staff in video production and editing with local professionals, Pageant Productions means that we will have a greater capacity to develop quality videos
  • testing a donation model for 4 events has shown that donations are a useful income source and moving forward we now have the option of donations and/or charging for events

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