What is theatre going to do about closing libraries?

Convener(s): Ben Cutler

Participants: Lucy Ellinson, Joshua, A homes, Carie Thomas,  Laura Mcdermat, Betty Brixham, Sarah C. A few others

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations

Ben opened with a discussion of the Philip Pullman article championing libraries around the UK. Recommended that as artists we too have a great responsibility to help the libraries and a debt of gratitude for time spent reading, thinking or meeting in these spaces. How and what can theatre do. Lucy Ellinson discussed UKUNCUT in relation to action as an outlet for getting creatives to actively protest on behalf of libraries and public concerns (forest selling, bankers bonus’s etc.) Transforming corporate spaces into people places.


Points raised early on:

  • How do we use our skills to protest effectively?
  • Convert corporate spaces into public spaces >>>Topshop to forest creation.
  • In what ways can we encourage people to believe in the power of protest and the direct effect it has.
  • Example used of good practice were the Belarus free theatre(?). The company used the projection of numbers and statistics to great affect on its audience to communicate information about their society. So effective was this that many of them have either been jailed or exiled from the Belarus. The conveners suggested the use of statistics as a useful model to use somehow in relation to protest.

Many people realised that we did not have a large body of information about how and when the cuts have begun/will begin on libraries. Which have closed and when local councils are planning to begin closure. If anyone has more information please pass this on.

We began thinking about what libraries mean to each of us. What is the reason we should be so supportive of them.

They are communal spaces.

They are private spaces for personal time where young people we knew who had difficult times at home could go. They are spaces where many refugees and asylum seekers spend time using facilities and reading/learning English.

We also acknowledged as a group that libraries do not, and should, catalogue the reasons to celebrate them, though personally I find a time when we have to catalogue the reasons for celebrating library use sad and telling of the current governments politics.

Be this as it may we thought a large book each library holds that encourages people to write what reasons and why they have used the library eg. Came to meet friends and read books.


Forms of protest

Thinking specifically about forms of protest through performance here were some ideas floated: 

Dancing in banks as a form of performance protest- difficult to move on.

Public library ‘stay in’s’- Local community members sit together and read stories throughout the night as a kind of sleep over. 

A library shout in- Make as much noise I nthe library as possible bringing local media to the ‘shout in’. Make some noise about librarues closing.

Read an extract of your favourite book on public transport to passengers.

Read a favourite extract of your book in coorporate stores.

FIding famous MP’s constituencies and embarrising them through public demonstrations- as a hook choose those who have recently published books etc making the maware of how much money they have made from it and that these would be read in libraries. Get national pres to this through local press interest. 

Begin a NATIONAL DAY OF ACTION- Every local library across the country invites local artists and performers to create a story from their shelves live in their space.

Withdraw all the books from your library- the whole commuity withdraws all of the books in protest of saving them.

Some networks to use were Artists of the resistance and A & R (Not sure what stands for?)

How to get involved

If you want to get involved please contact Lucy or UKUNCUT- perhaps through twitter feeds facebook can set up your best ideas for how to protest. 

Last thought: Kettling the Houses of parliament- take a kettle, pot of tea and a book- read a story to each other and have a public sit down.

We need more information nand contribution on this project. Do people know of a local library service that has closed, or a council that is threatening closure. Tell us!

Last point to raise :  If the British government is so serious about austerity measures then why should they not remove their collective head from the arse of the Americans, take their troops out of Afghanistan  freeing up billions of pounds for many programmes at home including important social obligations and University tuition.

If we are thinking about this Taliban insurgent rhetoric that is plastered around by spin-doctors left and right then how irresponsible is this in relation to our ‘boys dying in vain’ over there. The truth is British boys and girls have died unnecessarily because of Blaire’s arse creeping policies and ‘special relationship’.