What we’ve been up to while our front door has had to be shut
We’ve hugely missed the usual buzz of library activity since we closed our doors on 18 March. But the staff have worked throughout, and here’s a flavour of what we’ve been up to…
We were thrilled to get money from the Arts Council emergency fund pot for a podcast project, Begin the World Over Again. Working with Salford outdoor arts organisation Walk the Plank we have commissioned six artists, each with a member of the Bones of Paine writing group, to make a podcast episode about significant aspects of the Library’s collection and the thinking behind them, exploring parallels with our contemporary situation and what the future might look like. We’ve learned a lot about podcasting, and about social media, along the way, and the results have been terrific, hope you agree – you can listen to the podcasts here, and browse more about the themes and the project in general here.
We have also been delighted to present 26 free live-streamed talks so far since lockdown, on a really wide range of topics. Attendance has been higher than our ‘traditional’ annexe audiences, and of course with a wider geographical spread (plus good figures for later views on YouTube). It’s also easier to invite long-distance speakers, such as Maria Bloshteyn who tuned in from Toronto to talk about Russian poetry from the Great Patriotic War. We have also received kind donations from people who have enjoyed the talks. The talks will start up again in February 2021 and you can find out more by keeping an eye on www.wcml.org.uk/events – or by signing up to our free weekly ebulletin here, if you don’t get it already.
Over 200 people watched the third annual Engels Memorial Lecture, which we co-hosted with Marx Memorial Library last month, and this is also available now to watch on YouTube here. You can also relive on YouTube our online fundraiser Radical Sounds – many folk joined us from the comfort of their living rooms on August Bank Holiday Monday for a fantastic mixture of music and readings, curated by our very own Maxine Peake.
We have selected and digitised some interesting material from:
* The Pan-African Congress in Manchester in 1945. This was used not only on our own social media but also was blown up large (see picture, left) to feature in the windows of the old Chorlton-on-Medlock Town Hall, now an MMU building and where the Congress took place.
* The Communist Party, which was presented online as part of the CP centenary celebration on 1 August.
* The Manchester and Salford Film Society (the oldest film society in the UK, whose archive we hold) to mark its 90th anniversary in November (www.wcml.org.uk/90NotOut), and
* The pages of our quirky Engels in Manchester scrapbook to mark Engels’s 200th birthday (www.wcml.org.uk/EngelsScrapbook).
We have lent our Lancashire Women Against Pit Closures banner to the Museum of Wigan Life, along with two suffragette badges, for their protest exhibition which is due to run for a year. The banner looks terrific as it is hung so that both sides can be viewed.
So far, so virtual… We were excited to be able to reopen the library to a maximum of two real life readers per day on 16 September, and until we had to close again on 4 November we were ‘full’ nearly every day. A lot of effort was required to get just two people into the building, but all were very appreciative to be back. We are planning to re-reopen on Tuesday 5 January, again to two readers per day by prior appointment, so do get in touch if you’d like to book a place…
In the meantime take care, in solidarity, all the very best for the festive season and for 2021 from all at WCML