Our Grants for the arts Libraries fund

The Grants for the arts Libraries fund is open until March 2015, investing £6 million of the Arts Council's National Lottery money into projects delivered by public libraries or library authorities working in partnership with cultural organisations.

It’s just over six months since we opened our designated Grants for the arts fund for libraries. Speaking with library staff at some of the workshops we ran last year about the fund, it was exciting to hear the ideas and inspirations it was generating and it’s been great to see these ideas turn into reality with the varied and high quality applications coming in from libraries all over the country.

Congratulations to the 15 successful applications we’ve had in so far – these projects were really able to demonstrate genuinely ambitious, innovative partnerships between libraries, communities and the arts sector that will all support vibrant, engaged communities, participating in arts and cultural activities.

One of these is Islington Borough Council’s Word Festival, a rich programme of events and workshops, happening from the 1 to 31 May this year, which celebrates the joy of reading and writing and, importantly, freedom of expression. It’s a programme that not only works with the community, co-commissioning events, it is also central to the local authority’s work to raise levels of literacy and reading for pleasure in the borough.

Another successful applicant was Leeds City Council, who will use their funding to test the feasibility of creating a multi-functional arts space in Leeds Central Library. The new space would offer a new way for the public to engage with the library and the local arts community, bringing new audiences to both. Working with arts organisations, individual artists and community groups the space will focus on opportunities to develop new writing, spoken word pieces and small-scale performance work.

This idea of fostering cultural collaborations in library spaces is something that came through strongly in our research Envisioning the library of the future, due to be published later this week. We found that libraries will continue to be regarded as trusted, safe, democratic spaces and that these spaces will become increasingly flexible, giving library users opportunities and resources to engage in creative and cultural activities alongside reading and study.

Yardstick, led by Bristol Libraries, was also awarded funding. The programme of author events and workshops with established and emerging Black authors and writers engaging on themes of Black Britishness and the African Diaspora will take place at the end of June 2013 and builds on and expands the really successful Yardstick 2012 which was funded through our wider Grants for the arts fund last year. You can see the achievements of last year’s programme in this video:

And we’ve had a successful cross-regional application from Society of Chief Librarians North West and Yorkshire and the Humber – Try Reading – which will offer a wide-ranging programme of reading, writing, drama-based and digital events all built around the Rugby League World Cup and working with partners including Rugby League World Cup 2013 and The Reading Agency.

You can see from just these few examples the range of partnerships, content and scale of projects that the Grants for the arts Libraries fund can support. There are many more projects currently in the pipeline and going through assessment so good luck to those waiting to hear on decisions. And for those who haven’t yet explored the possibilities of the fund, visit our website for more information, guidance and case studies to help you make your application.

Emma Whiting, is Senior Officer, Libraries, at Arts Council England.

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