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Warm welcoming space aims to beat loneliness with‘best spring season of events ever’

A rich programme of special events in Exeter Library in the first three months of 2023 is promising to chase away the winter blues.

A night of Big Band classics from Exeter Jazz Orchestra is set to shake the shelves, along with the now-regular seasonal Library Lates offering DJs and live music. There’s a visit from Poet Laureate Simon Armitage, a competition for young poets, a chance to contribute to a public art project, a performance of Harold Pinter’s ‘The Birthday Party’, and a workshop to boost confidence and contentment.

Caleb Chester, Senior Supervisor of Development and Innovation at Exeter Library, said: “Libraries Unlimited, the charity that runs the library service in both Devon and Torbay, was recently delighted to receive a grant of over £720k for the next three years from Arts Council England. The money is to boost library services by extending our thriving programme of music, films, workshops and other creative events. We’ve not wasted any time in scheduling cultural activities and we think this is our best spring season of events ever.”

“We’re the busiest public library in Devon and one of the busiest in the South West with a daily footfall of 1500 and we’re really excited to be offering such a broad and high quality programme for what is traditionally a gloomy post-Christmas time of year for many people.  With theatre performances in the library, a feel-good jazz music evening, plus the chance to contribute to a community art project or join a new creative group having fun with literature and music, the emphasis is on positivity, wellbeing, community and connection.”

“Exeter is a UNESCO City of Literature. The library works closely with UNESCO to help spread the love of reading and offer a warm, welcoming space to discover books. Put all this together with our regular range of groups, free computer and WiFi, our Business & IP Centre and FabLab, and we believe Exeter Library has something to lift everyone’s spirits at the start of 2023.”

The range of events include:

Exe Ensemble – The Birthday Party

Wednesday 25th January to Saturday 28th January, 7.30 – 9.45pm

Nobel Prize-winning playwright Harold Pinter wrote his first full-length play ‘The Birthday Party’ in 1957. The play takes place in a dismal guest house by the sea in the South of England. There is only one guest, Stanley Webber, a pianist who appears unemployed and lives like a slob. His hosts are husband and wife Petey and Meg. Their routines are interrupted by the arrival of two mysterious men who start a process of disturbing interrogation of Stanley, causing severe mental distress. Pinter’s cryptic play is mesmerising as one tries desperately to decipher the obscure relationships and figure out why the intruders disturb the flow of events. The Exe Ensemble aims to celebrate Pinter’s comedy of menace, delve deep into his layers of ambiguity, and awaken modern relevance through the mental health lens.


Saturday 28th January and 25th February, between 10.30am – 12.30pm. 

Ever wanted to play a part in a public artwork? Preston Street Union (PSU) invites library visitors to join them in two creative sessions. In the first session guests will be asked to help generate random phrases from library books. ‘How to’ and instruction manuals will be taken from the shelves and plundered for phrases to write on whiteboards. The resulting ‘instructions’ will be photographed. In session two they will be handwritten on printed #Instructions2LiveBy postcards and put in books to be discovered by library users. The idea for #instructions2liveby began in lockdown when PSU explored ways of working without meeting in person, communicating without speaking on Zoom and outside each other’s windows. PSU is an Exeter-based affiliation of artists who generate new work and learning through social, collaborative processes.

From stress to confidence and enjoyment: A workshop with Paul Booth

Saturday 11th February,11am – 12.30pm and2 – 3pm

Best-selling author Paul Booth teaches a fun, easy to implement system enabling people to get back in control of life. His methods help people move away from a state of anxiety, worry, fear and stress to feelings of confidence, courage, happiness and enjoyment. Exeter-based Paul Booth is the author of the ‘mastery’ series of books and a speaking on mastering mind-set, motivation and mental strength. He became interested in self-development during his work as a ski instructor, attending Tony Robbins courses all over the world and eventually assisting Tony. Outside his work, Paul enjoys zip-wiring, especially over crocodiles!

Exeter Jazz Orchestra

Friday 24th February    8pm (doors open 7.30pm)

A swinging night of jazz classics, golden age groovers and modern belters, the Exeter Jazz Orchestra are a big band not to be missed. Founded in 2021 to beat the pandemic blues, they’ve already filled the high-street with joyful jazz for the Jubilee and played around in the park at the Respect Festival. With the emphasis on having a good time, jazz saxophonist Will Paley leads numbers from Count Basie and Glenn Miller through to the more modern sounds of Buddy Rich and Gordon Goodwin. A guaranteed cure for the winter blues!

Poet Laureate Simon Armitage’s tour of UK libraries

Friday 17th March  7.30 – 9pm

Simon Armitage began his A to Z tour of UK libraries at Ashby-de-la-Zouch in April 2021. In 2023 he will be touring libraries E to G, and will kick off his tour in Exeter. He visited Colyton Library in the initial stages of the tour, and will now be a welcome guest at Devon’s biggest library. Simon Armitage CBE was made Poet Laureate in 2019. He is currently professor of poetry at the University of Leeds and has published over 20 collections of poetry, as well as plays and novels, and has received an Ivor Novello Award for song writing. As part of his visit, Simon will be performing with his ambient post-rock band LYR.

Armitage says, “My experience of reading and writing began in the village library where I grew up, then in the nearby town library, then in libraries at various places of study and teaching. For many people they are an invaluable aspect of everyday life, giving access not just to books but to services, learning, conversation and creative thinking. I want to pay my respects to these unique institutions. By planning readings up to a decade in advance I’m being optimistic about the future of our libraries, and challenging those authorities who would consider closing them down.”

“It would have been easy to stream these events from my office or garden shed but, at a time when libraries are under threat and have been out of bounds during the pandemic, reading from inside their physical structures feels like an act of solidarity – with books, with poetry, and with communities.”

For further information on the Laureate’s Library Tour and how to book, visit The event is free of charge. 

Library Lates

Friday 31st March,  7.30 – 11.30pm

Exeter Library will once again throw open its doors after closing time for another Library Lates evening of live music and fun. DJs, bands, a bar, workshops and behind-the-scenes tours will transform the bookshelves. Alternative rock band Luna Gray will be joined by the unique sounds of Nierra Creek along with a silent disco and three library staff moonlighting as DJs and delivering 80s classics, high energy dance music and Europop. There will also be printing workshops from Double Elephant, a chance to make a sculpture out of cardboard with sculptor James Lake, and an opportunity to learn more about 3D printing with FabLab. The Hidden Spaces Tour will go behind the scenes and reveal the library’s special collection and some old and interesting volumes.

Words and Music

Every Thursday,11am – 12noon

A music group one week, a reading group the next. A chance to relax and sample a

range of musical styles – from operatic arias to jazz solos, comical songs to soaring symphonic movements, impressionistic chamber pieces to rowdy singalong shanties. 

Settle down to read from passages of prose and poetry – tales of travels local or far flung, fictional vignettes and character sketches, memoirs and historical reminiscences. A friendly environment in which to meet and mingle, to listen and discuss, to share enthusiasms and discover new favourites. There will be tea…..and biscuits!

For more information about these events and to book tickets, go to the Libraries Evolve website, or for projects and workshops see the Devon Libraries website.

A network of 54 libraries in Devon and Torbay, and four Devon mobile libraries, are run by Libraries Unlimited, an independent charity. Join up for free by filling in the online form. Join the Library – Devon ( or Torbay ( Follow Libraries Unlimited on Facebook.

For further information and full contact details please visit our web page