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Libraries, Communities and Democracy

Libraries Unlimited secures European funding for North Devon communities

Libraries Unlimited has been awarded a grant by the Europe Challenge to deliver an arts project tackling social isolation, loss and grief in North Devon.

Braunton Library has been chosen to host this project, as it lies at the heart of its community in North Devon. Communities in North Devon face many barriers such as transport issues and lack of disposable income, making it an ideal place to launch this new and vital project. According to the Office for National Statistics, 12.5% of people in North Devon reported feeling lonely “often or always”.

Sarah Bushell, Braunton Library Supervisor said “Our staff hear stories of loss and loneliness every week. Loss of family members, loss of connections with their community or neighbours, loss of employment, loss of support structures, accidents, bereavements, or family breakdowns. As democratic community spaces, libraries play a vital role in connecting communities as places of advice, signposting and companionship.”

The Europe Challenge is an annual programme that brings together libraries and communities across Europe to address pressing challenges in their local areas. The programme was first launched in 2020 by the European Cultural Foundation and partners. The Europe Challenge, is supported by Fondazione Cariplo, the Scottish Library and Information Council and by public funding through Arts Council England. As a partner in the Europe Challenge, the project team will be sharing their learning with a peer network across Europe, with the aspiration to create lasting friendships and develop exchange pathways.

Rae Hoole, Creative Communities Producer for Libraries Unlimited said: “We are delighted to have been selected to participate in this programme. It is further affirmation that Libraries Unlimited is at the forefront of demonstrating that libraries are the lifeblood of any community. Many of our programmes support reducing inequality, isolation, and improving wellbeing.”

Libraries Unlimited is partnering with Amy Shelton, Artistic Director of Honeyscribe to deliver the project. Honeyscribe is a charity which creates artworks and projects focusing on the natural world, human health and environmental wellbeing. Their goal is to bring people together as co-creators and audiences, sharing stories, enabling conversation and supporting the exchange of knowledge. 

Amy said: ‘‘The Gatherers’ will comprise a series of workshops centred around the old tradition of flower pressing. Activities might include making bookmarks to go in books going out on loan, planting seasonal flowers to press at the library, and wildflower walks.   The Gatherers will actively strive to connect people with each other. Low self-esteem & lack of self-confidence surround loneliness. Moods will lift through hands-on creative & purposeful activity. Pride can be found in creating a beautiful, pressed flower, repurposing it into a piece of art and gifting it back to the community where you live. It also celebrates the themes of reusing and recycling, central of course to the ethos of libraries.”

Another reason for launching this project at Braunton Library is its proximity to the world renowned Braunton Burrows complex sand dune system which is designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and within the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. This provides a natural link to the project’s emphasis on people, plants and place. If successful, the project aspires to continue and develop to spread wider across Devon.

There will also be opportunities for volunteers to get involved in the project.

Libraries in Devon and Torbay are run by Libraries Unlimited, an independent staff and community owned charity. Join up for free by filling in the online form. Join the Library – Devon (devonlibraries.org.uk) or Torbay (torbaylibraries.org.uk). Follow Libraries Unlimited on Facebook.

For further information and full contact details please visit our web page librariesunlimited.org.uk.