A killer library-arts partnership in the UK caught our eye recently– read more about the Library Takeover, an event-production bootcamp for library staff and teens that culminated with two live events in the library space!  ~Erinn

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by Nina McDonagh & Alice Frecknall

6 young people, 6 library staff, 4 mentors, 2 boroughs – this is a Library Takeover.

Over the course of summer 2015, Apples and Snakes, England’s leading organisation for performance poetry in partnership with Half Moon Theatre, embarked on an ambitious project to equip young people and library staff from the boroughs of Waltham Forest and Croydon with the skills necessary to be creative events producers.

Through a bespoke training programme, delivered from May to July, the twelve Library Takeover participants gained experience in all areas of event producing, from budgeting, to marketing, to stage management, and everything in between. Under the expert guidance of Chris Elwell and Lucy Foster from Half Moon Theatre, Maeve O’Neill, facilitator and Creative Producer for Truth About Youth at Ovalhouse, and Apples and SnakesNicky Crabb, Senior Associate and Library Takeover programme facilitator, the young people and library staff built up their skills, experience, and confidence, until it was time to put what they’d learnt into action!

In teams, the newly formed producers set to work planning their very own live events, which would take place towards the end of October 2015. This was a real challenge, but one that the young people and library staff embraced with excitement and dedication; before long, the barebone ideas for some impressively original and creative events started to be fleshed out.

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“So proud of the talented youth who killed it tonight – keep doing what you’re doing” – Audience Member, Waltham Forest

At Leytonstone Library in the borough of Waltham Forest, Urban Explosion put out an open call for talent, and brought together a huge cross-section of performances in poetry, acting, rap, spoken word, dancing, singing, and comedy. Just under fifteen young performers took to the Urban Explosion stage in front of an audience almost fifty strong.

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“Taking part in organising an event has helped me to see what tasks it consists of, so I’m more confident that I will be able to accomplish similar tasks in the future.” (Young participant, Waltham Forest)

“All of the acts were awesome! Such a high quality free event!” – Audience Member, Waltham Forest

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The line-up took the audience by storm, showcasing the high standard and diversity of talent that the borough is home to. Hosted by Emanuel Speaks and young producer Rachel Sarpong, featuring incredible local spoken word artist and grime musicians Mitch, Rugez and Cass (STP), plus DJ Conrad Kira, the night also provided audience members with refreshments, glowsticks, and the chance to give feedback on the Urban Explosion graffiti wall! The slick running of the event and the great turn-out were testaments to the hard work of the Library Takeover team, who had considered every detail, from the decoration of the building, to team t-shirts that were worn on the night.

Amazing, Time of our lives, Party, Show Time!, This is sick!, So cool, Awesome!, Sick show!!!, Great vocals, Good job. ~ Notes from the graffiti wall

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“This was an excellent idea to bring the books to life – Wear the Book, three cheers!” – Audience Member, Croydon

“I feel a lot more confident about planning, organising and putting on an event since being of the Library Takeover. I have learned many valuable skills.” Library staff, Croydon

At Thornton Heath Library in Croydon, Wear the Book brought some of the nation’s favourite books to life through fashion. Leading up to the main event – a literature themed catwalk – young people were encouraged to get involved in the project through a series of three workshops led by a professional fashion designer. Taking on the challenge, the Wear the Book workshop participants worked feverishly to design and create some incredible costumes inspired by the books and characters housed in the library around them.

“This was a great event, the outfits were amazing, great creativity, keep up the good work” – Audience Member, Croydon

With the last stitch in place, the Wear the Book models were ready to strut their stuff on the runway. The night was hosted by renowned spoken word artist Francesca Beard, who encouraged the audience to get involved, to move around the library, and take in different elements of the evening. This was a catwalk show like no other, with poetry performances and promenade re-enactments of the stories that helped inspire the young people’s fashion creations – a truly original celebration of literature.

“Excellent costumes, great venue, young people worked hard as some costumes quite detailed, fantastic way of getting young people to read more books and bring the characters alive, young people doing things together is good and as a team, giving the young children an opportunity to learn and develop is marvelous” – Audience Member, Croydon

Library Takeover has been an invigorating experience for all involved – huge well done to all the participants and performers, and a massive thank you to Library Takeover mentors Chris Elwell, Lucy Foster, Maeve O’Neill, and Nicky Crabb, along with the library services of Waltham Forest and Croydon. Head to the Apples and Snakes blog to read all about student Praveena’s experience of being involved in the project!

What the participants said about the range of emotions they experienced during the event: excited, fun, lively, relieved, positive, hyper, stressful, apprehensive, nervous, happy, calm.

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Library Takeover is an Apples and Snakes project in partnership with Half Moon Theatre, Waltham Forest Libraries and Croydon Libraries. It is funded by the European Cultural Foundation (ECF) and Arts Council England. For more information about Library Takeover, visit the Apples and Snakes project page.

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