Reading the South connects established local writers and artists with local people through libraries and outreach centres in the community. We use books, recordings, images, archives, workshops, online facilities and participants’ own creativity to make this happen.
Our overarching aim is to increase the awareness and use of library services in counties in the south of England. We will achieve this by encouraging people creatively to explore what ‘the South’ means to them.
2015-16 – Phase One
With the help of 15 contemporary published writers who have strong connections with the two counties, the first phase of Reading the South took place in East Sussex and West Sussex, September 2015-March 2016.
The project was led by East Sussex Library & Information Service, with funding from Arts Council England and in collaboration with West Sussex Library Service.
- Involved 200 people in 22 creative writing workshops
- Involved 90 people in 18 reading workshops
- Involved 12 offenders in a series of 6 intensive creative writing workshops at HM Prison Ford
- Provided work for 15 local writers
- Increased the loan of books by the participating writers almost 400% (on average) across East and West Sussex
2017 – Phase Two
Reading the South 2017 was led by West Sussex Library Service with funding from Arts Council England and in collaboration with East Sussex Library & Information Service and Portsmouth City Council Library Service.
The second phase of Reading the South explored ways to expand and extend the project through a ‘research & development’ exercise.
Our aims were:
- To understand how the Reading the South campaign might best develop and support the changing agendas of library service partners
- To involve and engage not only more local professional writers but also visual artists and new/developing artists/writers
- To reach out to community groups such as refugees and asylum seekers, people with visual impairments, people with dementia, older people and those living in areas of social deprivation
- To explore the extensive local history archives and resources of local libraries in order to find ways to stimulate reminiscence, research and creativity among participating groups
Findings and recommendations from this year’s activities have formed the basis of a proposal for an extended series of Reading the South activities in 2018-19.
2018-19 – Phase Three
The third phase of Reading the South is being planned for 2018-19 and will programme an extensive series of creative workshops, events, talks and digital activities around the theme of ‘My Library My Home’. Activities in libraries and outreach locations across West Sussex, East Sussex and Kent will be led by established local writers and artists exploring local history archives as the inspiration for creative activity.
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Reading the South is managed on behalf of the library services by a core team of experienced professionals:
James Shea, Business & Development Director
Director of James Shea Consulting, James is an experienced creative consultant, project manager and fundraiser. Recent projects include the development and delivery of ‘Playland’, a series of exhibitions in Kent and Sussex coastal which bring together a commissioned artist’s film and video work and installations created by local communities.
Sarah Matthews, Project Manager
Sarah is a highly experienced project and logistics manager within both the public and private sectors. She has worked on several projects with arts development agencies and local authorities in the region and has been involved with Reading the South since its inception.