Coming soon: The Universal Culture Offer

October is an exciting month for the Society of Chief Librarians. Not only will we be joining in the celebrations for National Libraries Week but later in the month, we’ll also be marking the official launch of the Universal Culture Offer, which will take place in Hull, City of Culture 2017.

Libraries make a huge contribution to local cultural life. They enable people who would not otherwise engage with arts, culture or heritage to have quality experiences on their doorsteps, to express themselves and to find new talents through creative and digital arts. Libraries also support local cultural economies, providing a platform for new work, a showcase for artists and the chance to connect with local people.

Nationally, regionally and locally, libraries are developing creative partnerships with arts, cultural and heritage organisations. The local bridge organisations have created new opportunities for exciting projects and one that we really loved this year was A Place Free of Judgement.

Supported by Grants for the Arts from Arts Council England, this project was a collaboration with author Tony White and three groups of young people. In the project, young people in Worcester, Telford and Cannock took control of their local libraries and performed live to a worldwide online audience. The project aimed to re-frame and re-engage young people’s relationship to words, literature and libraries.

Another fantastic project involving young people which really caught our attention is a public art project with Hull Central Library. Called ‘What I want more than anything else’ the partnership with Networked Narrative and internationally acclaimed artist, Mark Titchner has created art based on the hopes and dreams of young people growing up in the Hull area. The artworks were displayed in and around the central library and then went on to tour around Yorkshire.

These two projects perfectly demonstrate the values that we expect the Universal Culture Offer to express over the next four years. We want to support cultural activity in our libraries that offers challenge, celebration, planning and co-creation with communities, experimentation, risk and exploration of identity and diversity.

There are already some brilliant examples of eye-catching arts and culture programmes in our libraries. We hope that the culture offer will encourage more partners and more libraries to work together, creating more inspirational and enriching experiences that help to make lives better.

Sarah Mears, Library Services Manager