A Lit and Phil Carol with a nod to Mr. Dickens - George and Frank. © Jason Thompson, Sound Ideas MediaNovember Club devised and developed a unique, multi-faceted enrichment programme supported by staff at the Lit & Phil Library and delivered by a team of experienced, creative practitioners.  The programme engaged with a wide range of people, old and young from disadvantaged areas of Newcastle upon Tyne, and gave them the opportunity to be involved in an exciting and innovative project, focused on the importance of libraries, creativity and the imagination.

The thread that linked the creative activity was based on Dickens ‘A Christmas Carol’ and the Scrooge character ‘Compendium’.  Compendium wished to eradicate all books from the library’s collections and to close the library down.  Through the librarian characters we created, the actors worked closely with the children and young people to show what Compendium was trying to achieve and to create a debate to help save the library from its demise. The project emphasised the value of books, reading, letting your imagination fly and the importance of having and expressing your opinion on things that you consider important.

A Lit and Phil Carol with a nod to Mr. Dickens - George and Frank. © Jason Thompson, Sound Ideas Media

Through the making of four bespoke films, November Club entered into the young people’s world of books, characters and explorations and began a ‘call to action’ process with the children from Broadwood Primary School.  The films had a great impact on the children and the teachers found them to be an excellent resource and great stimulus for work.  Working with a composer, the children created a new song about books and how they make them feel and developed arguments as to why the library should not close.  Meanwhile, the young people from Northbourne Youth Initiative and Newcastle Bridges School created pop-up books, and sounds that made the books come alive when they were opened.

Intergenerational work was interspersed within the framework of the enrichment programme.  The Lit & Phil particularly wanted the project to build intergenerational connections.  The ukulele group from Search Newcastle (Search Strummers) learnt the children’s song and performed it with them.  Young people met the volunteer Book Binders at the Lit & Phil and spoke to them about the work they do.  The Newburn knitters created 50 new pieces for the library linked to statue busts, the collection and their love of books which were on display for the Celebration event.  The Newburn Knitters attended the Celebration event and met the children and young people.

Different groups achieved different benefits from the project.  Broadwood primary pupils enjoyed going to the library and we have since found out that they have helped to create a new library area at the school.  

“This project reinforced the importance of creativity and imagination – the children enjoyed and talked about it all the time.  It did this by drama and role play.  They realise the importance of books more now and have asked if they could develop a new school library – this happened because they were spellbound by the characters Frank and George and took their lead”.  Alison Bourne, Year 5 teacher. 

The pupil that most engaged from Newcastle Bridges school loved the whole of the project.  All the participants from Northbourne Youth Initiative developed new skills, as did 75% of the Search Strummers. All the Search Strummers and Newburn Knitters enjoyed the project.  The project was particularly a success in terms of its intergenerational work.  The artists specifically commented upon this: 

“When the young people met the book binders and watching their interaction, their curiosity and the enthusiasm and the book binder’s delight in sharing their work” Actor, Zoe Lambert 

"The moment the Search Strummers met Broadwood Primary and the individual exchanges between the children and the older people.  The level of support and acceptance between the two groups and watching them feed off one another”  Katie Doherty, Musician and Composer 

All work produced by all participants from the community groups highlighted the inspirational place that the Lit & Phil can be for a wide range of people

A Lit & Phil Carol Enrichment – Newburn Knitters work. © Richard Kenworthy

Banner image © Jason Thompson, Sound Ideas Media