Posts Tagged ‘libraries’

Poster for 28 July 2015 Storytelling Dragon Tales at Sutton Coldfield LibraryA rare flying visit from the Dragon Whisperer brings a morning of fantasy and magical adventure to Sutton Coldfield Library (Birmingham, England) on Tuesday 28 July.

As part of the Record Breakers themed Summer Reading Challenge 2015, gorgeously costumed Agent Green the world’s only living Dragon Whisperer tells Dragon Tales from around the world to age 7+ at 11am. At 12.30, Agent Green breaks out the drawing pens to show age 9+ How To Draw Your Dragon – bring your favourite sketchbooks, pencils and colouring pens.

Both sessions are free thanks to sponsorship from Sutton Coldfield Charitable Trust. The Library is at Lower Parade, B72 1XX. Tel 0121 464 2274.

Thrilling legends and folktales include a dragon in hiding and the dragon who was really a lost princess, ranging from Eastern Europe to Bamburgh Castle.

Agent Green, who is alleged to work for DCHQ, Dragon Conservation Headquarters, also reveals hot tips on dragon care and training, and talks about her mission to find and save the world’s last dragons. You’re welcome to ask everything you ever wanted to know about dragons – because the Dragon Whisperer has the answer!

Behind the bling is Chloë of the Midnight Storytellers, a storytelling entertainer and writer/illustrator from the Cotswolds. Celebrating 15 years as a spoken word artist, Chloë sets a new record this August as the first ever Dragon Whisperer in Residence at Sudeley Castle (Gloucestershire).

Chloë’s performances for children take her to primary schools, community events and festivals all over the UK. Her story cabaret shows for adults are acclaimed from Cheltenham Literature Festival to cruise ships on the Mediterranean. For her 15th anniversary celebrations Chloë has launched a new contemporary story cabaret show Scheherazade’s Shed which tours to Kidderminster Arts Festival 14 August and Windsor Fringe Festival 24 September. The Dragon Tales CD is available £5 from Chloë, while the fully written out and illustrated Dragon Tales are available as a Kindle ebook (£2.99).

  • The annual UK Summer Reading Challenge, an initiative from the Reading Agency and the Arts Council, encourages UK children aged 4-11 into libraries to read up to 6 books during the long summer holiday. The scheme is designed to maintain reading skills and confidence which can otherwise weaken during over that time.
Chloë: "Fairytales help me function in the real world"

Chloë: “Fairytales help me function in the real world”

Experts tell me my blogs are too long. They insist you don’t have the time (or intelligence?) to take in detail.
I think experts cater for the average – and that’s not what I’m working with, here.
I think you read with cuppa to hand and brain provoked into firing off your own ideas. That’s what blogging is about, isn’t it? But today I experiment: the long blog has been split into 2 parts. You tell me what you think – add your comment or use the Contact Form below.

When I perform as the Dragon Whisperer, every audience includes one child who asks, “Are dragons real?”

To the child whose voice quavers with anxiety I answer, “I am a storyteller. It’s my job to make things up. What do you think?”

To the grinning, streetwise brat as well as to the gravely enquiring child I respond with a straight look and “Dragons are real to me. You’ll have to make up your own mind.”

I believe these responses empower children to sort out their own thinking; and that’s the point, really.

A few young people find fiction an irritating turn off. Was Richard Dawkins, disparager of fairytales, one of those? Many reluctant readers need facts – wild truths, outrageous reality, biographies and encyclopedias. Fiction phobes relish real life stories about how their heroes overcame disadvantage and setbacks. Engage their imaginations with how the real world is constructed, from weird sea creatures to the craziest twists of history: because truth is, of course, stranger and more wonderful than fiction. Every day.

Relief in fantasy

It’s quite disturbing to hear an eight-year-old claiming that fantasy stories help her ‘escape’. I have to hope she was repeating what she’d heard adults say.

But fantasy / fairytale as escapism for teens and adults is also valuable.

BBC Radio 4 intelligentsia might fret about teen boys immured in bedrooms playing internet wargames and watching endless films; I suggest this is still feeding imagination – and diverting the rogue waves of testosterone. Better films and fantasy than rampaging down the road with an Uzi. (Yes, this is a whole different subject, for another day.)

Put it another way: if your life is dull or difficult, if physical or mental health is on the blink, then fantasy can provide significant relief.

More adaptable

For more than 30 years I’ve been pummelled by phases of depression, some more derailing than others. Millions of people face the same mood management challenges that I do, and likewise refuse to resort to alcohol or other substances.

I can’t change my world: only my response to it. For me, that means a short trip into fantasy – dragons, space ships and all; sometimes in a book or film, sometimes at a live action roleplay game. Thus refreshed, I face my real world tasks in a stronger and more adaptable frame of mind.

In my mid 50s, I still NEED fairytales in order to function.

I hazard the guess that Richard Dawkins loathes Narnia author C S Lewis, whose work was as much Christian allegory as children’s entertainment. I read the whole series repeatedly between the ages of eight and twelve and took no interest whatsoever in the Christian connections. The stories were just rattling good reads. So I’ll give today’s last word to the creator of Aslan, so thrillingly “not a tame lion”.

“Since it is so likely that (children) will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage.” – C S Lewis 


Chloë of the Midnight Storytellers

Library Blues

I’ve supported the Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries campaign for about a year. It’s been utterly brain scrambling and I would not have been capable of following matters through to court, in the amazing way that FoGL core team has done.

However, we have to work with the world as it is. My local library was to be cut to 3.5 hours of staffed opening a week. If it can open for 12 or 21 staffed hours, that’s better. If it also becomes an easy access point for public services, that’s great.

..If it moves into a broom cupboard instead of its current shoebox, that will be difficult. LIbrary users will have to get used to pre-ordering books from the Online Catalogue. Not impossible.

We can’t keep fighting Gloucestershire County Council: they have too much bullying power. Democracy is dead in Gloucestershire. It took a High Court judge to stop GCC steamrollering on with their first destructive plans. They’ve made so many librarians redundant, they couldn’t run a full service if they wanted to. They still won’t answer their taxpayers’ questions. I don’t understand why GCC behave so arrogantly… They just do…

And I don’t want to see any more of my friends with health damaged and careers at risk because of the stress of trying to stand up to GCC. Library supporters must find more subtle methods. We shouldn’t have to, but the point is to win the war not every battle.

Good negotiations start when participants find points of agreement. Regardless of anybody’s previous actions or statements.

It should be easy enough to agree that we all want a Library Service that meets its users’ needs and which can take advantage of modern technologies.

I believe the library service should also draw on different funding sources, including commercial sponsorship.

Hospitals, air ambulances and schools can’t cope without support groups. It’s all shamefully wrong but it’s the real world. Library users will have to organise along the same lines.

At least there’s a proposal for a Mobile Library with Public Services. So a health advisor or similar could travel round with the librarian.

I’m keen to support this. I’ve suggested a Magnificent Mobile project designed to increase its usage, with costs shared among council, public services and community minded businesses and organisations.

Victorian philanthropists paid for many good works including libraries. In some cases the money was dirty. But the money did good things. Since rich = bad in the UK these days, let’s see if these outcasts can rehabilitate themselves by pouring money where it’ll do good. Developers, supermarkets and other big companies with image problems are ahead of the game: they have budgets for social responsibility… What do you want for your library? Who’re you gonna call? Because – let’s be clear – your council and your national government have other priorities.

I’m equally keen to support serious development of Online Library services.
A lot of access problems (not all) can be solved by hardware and training given to disadvantaged people; the groups are identified; funding can be part GCC, part donation.

If Gloucestershire’s remaining libraries are to squeeze into smaller premises, users must get the habit of online ordering. Many people do it for films, groceries and other shopping. LIbrary service must maintain a good delivery system.

Thinking about isolated people, I hope existing Library Clubs can continue. I further suggested ideas for online community activity (eg reviews and recommendations, so people can be involved in choosing library stock).

Young people gravitate to electronic media. GCC online library service must be well made and up to date. Right now it’s limited and clunky to use. But children and young adults are the people whose literacy and job prospects we most want to support. Don’t we?

Of course you can easily shred my ideas. But I don’t give a twisted d*mn for anybody’s politics: I joined FoGL to help stop our library service being destroyed, and I’m staying to try to help it adapt.

Until you get elected to Gloucestershire County Council, you can’t stop what they do to our future. We can’t change other people’s behaviour. But we can change our response to it.

So until we sweep the polls, perhaps if we can put our fury and frustration aside and show overwhelming goodwill – it might just turn out that GCC can’t do anything except follow our lead.

Amid the fury and political stench of the battle for Gloucestershire’s libraries, it was a relief to turn my attention to the 10th anniversary of National Storytelling Week.

Six storytellers from across Gloucestershire, plus me, squeezed into a BBC Radio studio to record mini interviews and 5 minute tales. Some spoke of the oral tradition; some told of new work; one spun an outrageous Hollywood-style fictitious origin of his interest in storytelling… We’re storytellers: what d’you expect?!

NSW events across the county also reflected the mixed fortunes of modern storytelling. Two ‘tellers masked their disappointment as best they could at the paltry turn-out for their evening in a rural library. Free of charge, too. As often happens, the small audience were swept away by the magic and sheer other-ness of the stories. In a delicious touch of reality-swap, the cherries from one tale appeared on a plate for us audience to nosh at the interval.

My own NSW performance was packed out, partly because people in that little town have the habit of enjoying events at their local library – Aha! Another good thing in a LIBRARY! D’you sense a theme here?! – and probably partly because we gave away gourmet chocolate… Radio mentions and good networking probably helped double the expected numbers for the final NSW Gloucestershire event at Stroud’s Museum in the Park, where the storyteller themed her tales to match an exhibition about the tradition of weaving in the Stroud valleys.

Even as the last syllables of NSW floated away, I sent myself on a training course. It was an extension of Bristol’s NSW Storytelling Festival (noted for packing in young, funky audiences) and the 2 days were led by top notch modern storyteller Michael Harvey. He’s been wowing audiences with ‘Hunting the Giant’s Daughter’, a fiery and entrancing Welsh legend complete with hilarious heroic lists and jazz in Welsh.

Continuous professional development for storytellers is.. different. Mind and body get stretched. For me, the course couldn’t have come at a better time: I’m starting to work with very different, very new material and Michael was opening up new ways of bringing stories to life in our own re-tellings. Mind you, I swear there were sharp intakes of breath when the other storytellers worked out what my new story is about…

Oh dear. Looks like I’m going to break the rules again.

  • National Storytelling Week happens in the last week of January/first week of Febrary, Saturday to Saturday
  • Details of the Gloucestershire storytellers involved are in my previous posting ‘Babble On 7’ [26 January 2011]
Chloe at Bourton on the Water

Chloe campaigns for Gloucs Library petition at Bourton on the Water; photo by Charlotte Fothergill

Libraries are important. I only survived a lonely and often unpleasant childhood because I could escape into library books.

Gloucestershire County Council plans to cut library services by 43%. They want to stop running 11 out of 26 libraries; they want my local library at Bourton on the Water to become a so-called ‘self service’ library opening only three hours a week; and they want to do it all NOW.

I need libraries partly to research material for my performances, and partly for leisure reading. The proposed cut at Bourton is especially stupid because it will make library books and other services inaccessible for people without cars. Among the shut out will be Bourton’s many older residents and parents with young children. You try waiting for one of our rare rural buses in the freezing cold/rain with a pack of toddlers, or even if you’ve just got a bad back..!

Libraries cost only 1.46% of the total Gloucestershire budget, yet they’re expected to accept 2.3% of the total cuts. Specialist jobs are apparently to be replaced by unpaid, untrained volunteers. Gloucestershire’s mobile libraries and the housebound library service will be wiped out. Once these services are gone and libraries closed, we’ll never get them back.

There’s still just enough time to sign the anti cuts petition, either online at or you’ll find petitions to sign in lots of local shops and businesses – all to be returned by 31 December, please! You can only sign the petition if you can give a GL postcode ie if you live, work or study in Gloucestershire.

5,000 signatures will oblige GCC to formally review their proposals. More than 3,000 have been collected in three weeks.

I’m supporting Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries because I want Gloucestershire County Council to change their plans for library service cuts. Certainly libraries must share in the county’s economy plans – but reductions must be fairer and less destructive. Current proposals were put together based on an earlier consultation with fewer than 1% of Gloucestershire residents.

You can complete the county council’s alleged new consultation Library Survey online at . Sadly I see this survey as fake and fixed: questions seem slanted so as to prompt the answers that the council wants to see…

BUT your views definitely won’t have enough effect unless you also complete GCC’s budget consultation at

* You can ask for physical copies to be sent to you by calling 01452 425551
* Surveys must be completed before the next GGC corporate strategy meeting on 7 January 2011

At lunchtime I glammed up as best I could for the Gloucestershire Echo photographer’s snap of me and my protest banner in the snow at Bourton Library. Then  I lurked outside local shops for couple of hours collecting 50 more signatures for the libraries petition.

It was cold and wet, and not much better at home with no radiators and no LPG delivery date. But I grew up without central heating – was a toddler in ’63, y’know! – so what’s a bit of cold compared to the chilling prospect of a whole generation effectively denied a public library service. And we’ll still all be paying for it in Council Tax!

Last few ‘DROP-IN’ CONSULTATION DATES at Gloucestershire Libraries

! Subject to sudden changes!

Cirencester Library:             13th January, 10am-1pm

Tewkesbury Library:            14th January, 10am-1pm

Churchdown Library:          19th January, 6.30pm-8.30pm