Friday, 25 October 2013

Try Reading and more

Manchester Literature Festival, which I am lucky enough to be able to attend, has been and gone. This year I managed to enjoy hearing live writers Patrick Ness and Louise Doughty, learned more about dead writers Barbara Pym and F.Scott Fitzgerald and at long last did a literary walk round Manchester.  One aspect of the festival I really like is the organised way in which a team of volunteers  is tasked with writing blogs from all the high-profile events. So even if you can’t attend in person, and it would be impossible for a working person to attend them all, you can still  get a flavour of most of the events from someone who was there and paying attention.

The highlight event for me, of course, was the Passion for Sport event with Owen Sheers and Ian McMillan, both engaging writers and performers. The writers’ informed expositions revealed  sportsmen and team supporters as fragile and anxious, in stark contrast to the way in which they often appear on television or in press reports. The event was chaired by a BBC sports reporter Karthi Gnanasegaram, who said more than once that she wasn’t used to working with creative writers. I’m sure she will have found that this event revealed a lot more about sport than some more traditional book signing events. You can read the blog post from the event here.

Passion for Sport was a partnership event between MLF and Try Reading, our libraries project linked to the Rugby League World Cup 2013. As I write this, we are anticipating the opening event of the tournament tomorrow. I have been shocked this week by how little attention has been paid to this World Cup tournament by the papers or TV that I see. This lack of profile is something that Tom Palmer has also been commenting on, in his blog posts for the Try Reading project. Perhaps something will happen over the course of the tournament to get the eyes of the media focused on it. Its spread over a month so there should be plenty of opportunity.

This morning I attended the launch of the first Rochdale Literature & Ideas Festival taking place in the new Council Building  & Library in the centre of town. The festival has been carefully timed to take place over the weekend before the town hosts its own RLWC match on Monday between Fiji and Ireland, so that there is a real air of excitement in the town. Festival organisers have put together a varied programme for all ages, which includes visits by 2 outstanding poets, Simon Armitage and Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy,  as well as other creative writers and performers. I hope the people of Rochdale turn out for all of them.

Finally, next week (October 31st) sees the end of our Reading Rewards challenge , so I hope that completed entry forms are flooding into libraries now. Once the closing date has passed, library staff will need to gather all the entries in from all their service points, before picking out their winners for a £50 prize (1 per library authority). We really have a target for entries this year and want to be able top show that it has encouraged people to read more and more widely. There is still time to enter and if you don’t have a form, please enter on line here

Friday, 4 October 2013

4 weeks to go- the final countdown

Now October has arrived we really are in the final countdown to the end of the Reading Rewards challenge for this year. It’s a very strange time  for me. I created and despatched all the print for Reading Rewards to my library colleagues across the region. It is their task to distribute it locally and to try and encourage readers to take part. Many staff work very hard to talk up the challenge with their colleagues and at all sorts of events at which potential participants are present.

I, however, have no real clue as to how successful all this effort has been until the closing date has passed and the numbers have been counted, so I was really cheered this week, by an email which arrived from a happy participant called Margaret  who said: …I was keen to do it when I saw the form a few weeks ago.  I've read all my life, under the covers with a torch, as an adult (working in a library for a while), later to my children and now my grandchildren, but I probably read even more than ever now that I live alone and have far more time and no one there to tell me not to read in bed because they don't want to be disturbed . . .

I've been stuck in a rut and too lazy to get out of it, so the challenge was a great idea for me.  Biographies I'd tried occasionally and not enjoyed, so I went for one of those first… I ticked the box on the entry form to say that I wouldn't read more of my 'new' category, but that's true of now, not then, because I then read Tony Hart's story (another sympathetic character) to try to push myself… 

Anyway, thank you for the challenge.  I suspect I will probably stick with my old favourites most of the time at the moment, but as soon as...I depend less on the escapism element of my reading, I will be branching out! 
I'm looking forward to next year's challenge . . . 
Here is a reader who has taken the challenge in the spirit in which it was created. Even though no one is looking over her shoulder, she has allowed herself to be pushed gently into choosing something different to read. So many people struggle to find books to read when they are browsing because they are always looking for an author or type of book they have tried before. There are so many wonderful books to be read on library shelves, we know that people just need to be open to trying something new occasionally, for some great reading experiences.

OK, Margaret's not hugely enthused by the biography titles she chose this time, but she has been inspired enough by the very fact of reading something different, to tell me her  reactions.

That’s reward enough for me.