As the brand new Beswick Library opens its doors Len Grant asks Maxine Goulding how the role of east Manchester’s libraries has changed since books were loaned to local residents from a converted pub.
Maxine Goulding, Miles Platting Group Manager: "The new Beswick Library is gorgeous. We love it!"
I remember, a few years ago, Beswick Library was here on Grey Mare Lane, not that far from where we are now.
Yes, that’s right. We used to be in what was formerly The Bobbin Pub right next to the precinct. I’m sure it would have been the local for many of our customers at one time. It wasn’t a very large building but it had a lovely feel to it and we had a very successful homework club.
The old library was formerly The Bobbin Pub
We were very sad to come out of there in 2006 but, because it was a regeneration area, many of the houses were coming down, the shops were closing and we were losing customers.
From there you set up the East City Library in what is now The Manchester College campus at Openshaw. That must have been a big step.
Oh yes, we moved into this wonderful, large ground floor space that we shared with the college library. We thought it was gorgeous. It was a big change for us because it’s a college and a public library and although we still have many residents using the library, most of our customers are students.
Because we have plenty of space we are able to put on more activities and we enjoy lots of partnership projects like getting involved with the students’ end of year shows. The college has been great and we’ll still be at the East City Library as well as the new Beswick Library.
Working in a regeneration area surely brings its own challenges?
The new library shares the building with the East Manchester Academy
We’re very much a part of the regeneration story, fully committed to the social and cultural regeneration in east Manchester. It’s a new way of working because now we are collaborating with all kinds of partners. I attend ward meetings, youth meetings, health forums, Valuing Older People meetings: we’re using other people’s skills and resources to achieve a common goal. Communities are changing very rapidly and our libraries are changing with them.
We have to work particularly hard in east Manchester to encourage people to use the library. Many still have a traditional view of what libraries were like: all dusty books and ‘quiet please’. But things are very different now and as soon as people walk through those doors they understand that difference.
Our outreach work is essential. We get out there and tell people what we’ve got to offer and work with hard-to-reach groups to encourage them to use the library. For instance, we’ve run drama and sound recording sessions to promote the Manchester Book Awards and we’ve had artists working with youth clubs on art projects in the libraries.
The light pours into the new library
And now you’re back in Beswick with this wonderful library alongside the new East Manchester Academy.
We were always going to come back. We’ve been involved with the design of the building from the very beginning and we’ve worked closely with the Academy promoting the school and the library together. We’ve got the same customers.
I just love it. The space is amazing and with the light pouring through those tall windows, well, it’s just a wonderful building.
We’ve got community meeting rooms and a community space for larger events as well as all the services we now offer throughout the city.
Of course we’ve got all the computers and – what some people don’t realise – we’ve got staff on hand who can help. So, even if you haven’t used a computer before, you can book one-to-one sessions and be taken through the very basics by our friendly staff.
It’s a lot less daunting than booking on a college course.
Then there’s the story sessions for the little ones and a chance for parents and carers to have a cuppa and a chat. We hold lots of advice sessions on a variety of topics so residents don’t always have to travel to get the help they need, and then there’s the health information point, the parenting advice books and now even ebooks…
What do you find most rewarding?
I love working in east Manchester because I feel we have been making a real difference. Being part of the regeneration effort is very exciting.
Many homes still don’t have internet access and we can offer all that – and more – here. We’ve made a huge impact with our homework clubs and now that we share the building with the Academy and we have extended opening times, we can build on that success even further.
Click here for opening times, facilities and lots more.
Numerous computers as well as books and community information
Children's and teenage books are upstairs
Stairs and a lift link the two floors
Beswick Library: something for all ages and abilities
East Manchester’s Food and Drink Fringe Festival has now kicked off! There are 20 mouth-watering events this month across the area. Len Grant calls in at a community centre in Newton Heath to see one of the first.
Billy Jones, left, amongst the Over 50s Forum enjoying the Fringe workshop
I’d intended to drop in at The Stirling Centre in Newton Heath and take a few snaps of the very first event of the 2010 East Manchester Food and Drink Fringe Festival. Sure enough tables were being laid out for the Fringe’s ‘How Does Your Garden Grow’ workshop but there was already a flurry of activity across the hall as members from the Over 50s Forum were busy painting plant pots. I wasn’t expecting two events for the price of one!
Liz Lomas from the Forum explained: “Every year the city council’s Valuing Older People programme puts on a fortnightly Full of Life Festival to celebrate older people and encourage more participation in the community. One of the themes this year is ‘Grub and Gossip’ and that’s what going on here. We’ve got herbs and seedlings and packets of seeds which will go into the plant pots once they’re painted.
Esther Parnell: "The last time I painted was with the grandkids!"
There was plenty of gossip going on as the pots were decorated: “The last time I did anything like this it was colouring-in with the grandkids,” said Esther Parnell as she added another petal to the red rose she was painting on her ceramic pot. The grub came in the form of a splendid buffet provided by Liz’s colleague, Brenda Austen.
Once the pots were filled with compost and seedlings and the participants had had their fill of sandwiches and mini sausage rolls, it was time to turn to the Fringe Festival event staged by community artist, Michele Hawthorne.
“We were looking for something relatively easy and yet creative to make,” says Michele, opening bags of laurel, rhododendron, conifer and holly branches out onto the table. “We’ve got some plant pots with wooden stems already prepared and we’re encouraging people to use their imaginations and create a living decoration that should stay alive for several weeks.”
This group don’t need much encouragement and within minutes the table was full of green-fingered enthusiasts.
Community artist, Michele Hawthorne, gives some tips to Forum member Caroline Crerar
Caroline Coates, the Cultural Regeneration Officer from New East Manchester is here too. She’s responsible for putting many of the Fringe events together over here in east Manchester. I ask her what she’s looking forward to most in the weeks ahead. “There are 20 events during October and it’s hard to highlight just a couple but I think the cooking demonstration with locally grown food at Emerge’s Learning Garden (next to Smithfield Market) on the 9th will be fun. And then there’s the World Food Event staged by Adactus Housing on the 30th at Miles Platting Library. Here local residents will be cooking food form all over the world, so that should be amazing to watch… and amazing to taste!”
See the Food and Drink website: http://www.foodanddrinkfestival.com/events/east-manchester/
See east Manchester’s what’s on listings: http://www.east-manchester.com/whats-happening/index.htm
Street signs, silhouettes of tower blocks, ornate church windows, paving stones, railings and even pub signs have all inspired a West Gorton art group to produce striking silk screen prints depicting their local area.
Field Worker Amanda Crummett, centre, with the Young at Heart Group and their art mentors
The Young at Heart Group – set up more than two years ago and ‘adopted’ by Keele University’s CALL-ME research programme – flung open the doors of their community rooms on Gortonvilla Walk this week to show off their creativity.
Matty Wade: "It's my design on the T-shirt!"
Each member displayed a finished print mounted and framed on the walls with other limited editions on sale to raise funds for future projects.
The silk screening techniques were taught by artist Ian McKay and his son Andrew as part of the M12-11 arts project, set up in 2005 of offer creative opportunities to east Manchester groups and residents.
“I’ve enjoyed every part of this project,” says Matty Wade, who accompanies his partially-sighted grandmother to the group and whose design features on the group’s T-shirts. “We all took a vote on which image should go on the shirts and the group chose mine. That made me very happy.”
Eighty-five year-old Maggie Wade was, at first, reluctant to join in the group’s activities: “When they came to ask me if I’d like to join I told them I could only see light and shape and I’d never to able to manage. We started with pottery and I thought I’d never to able to do it but, with the help of these people, I’ve managed. I felt as if I was past it at my age, so it just goes to show.
“They’re starting keep fit classes on Wednesday so I’ll come down to that too!”
“Some older people hardly go out at all,” says club secretary, Audrey Hurley. “So this group has given them a chance to have a cuppa and a chat as well as make some fantastic art. We all enjoy the laughs when we get together.”
“CALL-ME is part of a longer research project aimed at improving the quality of life for older people,” explains Keele University’s Professor Michael Murray. “With our partners, we’re providing opportunities for older people in disadvantaged areas of Manchester to socialise. Here the Young at Heart group have produced some amazing artwork but mainly it’s been about people coming together.
Our field worker, Amanda Crummett, has been able to support the group to apply for funding, recruit a community artist and develop this project. We’re really pleased with the results.”
On the same afternoon as England’s bid to reach the World Cup quarter finals, photographer Len Grant led a photography workshop at Clayton Vale hosted by Groundwork.
Photography workshop in the beautiful Clayton Vale. Photo: Len Grant
I was surprised anyone showed up at all. This was the big one: England versus Germany and it seemed every other house in east Manchester was sporting a massive St George’s flag or half a mile of bunting. Many had both.
But as our own kick-off arrived there were many eager snappers fingering their dials and knobs ready to capture the beauty of the Vale.
Billed as being totally non-technical, I firstly extolled the virtues of ‘looking at light’, imagining the sun as one massive photographic light that could be either on, off or many variations in between.
Getting a different viewpoint. Photo: Elliot Brown
The committed participants also heard my recommendation for ‘moving about’, looking for the best viewpoint and not being content with the view of a scene that first presents itself. It sounds incredibly basic but it is consistently overlooked and can make a good photograph even better.
I remember my photographic education – such as it was – took great leaps forward when my evening class teacher encouraged us to start taking pictures in a sequence rather than looking just for that killer shot. So my workshop participants were sent off to take a series of images, of any subject matter, that might be the beginning of ‘story-telling’, or at least thinking about they wanted to say with their photography before lifting the viewfinder to the eye.
Congratulation to all involved. It was a constructive afternoon for photography if not for English football. Here are some of the results.