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.

What we achieved:

  • 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


Reading the South workshop at Eastbourne Library


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:

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.


Graphic art books created in Zara Slattery's creative writing and history workshop at Worthing Library


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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The Team

Reading the South is managed on behalf of the library services by a core team of experienced professionals:


Jim Shea 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 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.