I have a confession. Something I’m not proud of… but something that, I feel, can now be shared. Despite having a lifelong love of stories, an unquenchable desire to discover tales from around the world, I grew up hating my local library. It wasn’t because of an angry librarian with a well-practiced and hefty “Shhhhh”, nor was it because of the £75 late book returning fee – I had lost the books in my bedroom for 2 years and finally after 3 years, I finally plucked up the courage to return them via the letterbox and then engaged a robust sprint away…
No, I found the library difficult because of the stillness; the lack of vibrancy in that south-east London 1980’s library still haunts me now. It’s high ceilings and duck egg blue walls, with line after line of overly thumbed, dog-eared books. The stale taste of books far older than myself, and possibly even the librarian watching me intently, in the air.
You can only imagine my hesitation when 8 years ago we were asked to embark on a tour of Warwickshire libraries performing extracts from some of the most famous texts written. Highly Sprung versions of The Railway Children, Swallows and Amazons, Miss Haversham from Great Expectations, The Time Traveller and even Frankenstein entered the libraries. These characters, beautifully costumed by Vortex Creates, filled the buildings: the custodians of the great stories written for the public.
Thinking back to the moments before walking out and performing, I remember the feeling of worry. Were we interrupting others enjoyment of the library? Were we becoming unwelcome guests in a solitude of silence? Were we creating a reason for the stereotypical ‘Shhhh’ to raise it’s ‘spitty’ head once more? The answer was pretty much a resounding “NO!”
The joy of stories is something I have spent my life appreciating and have made a conscious decision to add my own tales to. From a young age I remember my dad constantly mocking me for being able to make a single minute’s daily activity turn into a 20 min story with characters, sub-text and, more extravagantly, props.
It is, in my belief, stories that make us who we are. Stories define us as humans, the unique experiences that each, and every one of us has. Stories live and breathe, they develop over time and resonate with us all differently, depending on where we are in our own lives. When looking at stories in this way, a library is a vessel of life, waiting to gift adventure, knowledge, or escapism to whoever dare enter their walls. Proving that those librarians from the 1980’s had it all wrong and how brilliantly right the librarians of 2022 have got it! The way audiences are being invited into the libraries to celebrate books, inspiring children and adults alike to discover the richness of stories bringing them off the page… and, excitingly, all for free!
Over the Autumn half term Highly Sprung will be touring Warwickshire libraries with STORM. A performance with a difference:
“When a performance of Shakespeare’s the Tempest is cancelled because of a ‘would you believe it?’ storm, an investigation begins. And where better to start an investigation than inside a library full of exciting and informative books and resources…”