Artwork

The making of ‘In Praise of Libraries’

I listened to the audio archive and selected various sections of the transcript. I then took a trip to explore books in the Readerships and Literary Cultures 1900-1950 book archive at Sheffield Hallam University. The archive is nestled in a custom made wooden pod within the Adsett’s library, it has book shelves (of course) and places to sit and read. It’s a special little reading place preserving words that were read in the first half of the 20th century. The work above is my first response, I’m planning 11 more.

adeleblog

Here is the second one. I especially like the Anderson shelter. It’s from WW2, but looks like it has been dug up and converted to a handy garden shed. This was common after the war had ended. The shelters date back to 1938 and were designed by Sir John Anderson each one protected six people from German air raids. I think that families must have been bigger then. The edition of Far From the Madding Crowd belonged to my grandfather, it’s bound in rather beautiful plum coloured leather with embossed gold lettering. I’m rather fond of the words from this transcript, we share some favourite books and I love the words ‘my life would have been less rich without reading’, so I have made sure that it is not obscured.

josieblogThis is Josie. I choose to put The Scarlet Pimpernel there because she describes it as the first book that ‘grabbed’ her. Aesthetically the colour and it’s battered state appeal to me.  This volume is in the Readerships and Literary Cultures 1900-1950 archive at Sheffield Hallam University.

mavisblog

The energy leaps out of the pages of Mavis’s transcript, if she ever sat down it was with a book. She seems to have read entire libraries, five books at a time, which is why there is more than one book in this piece of artwork.

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Tea and poetry (2020)

On 29 January 2020 Reading Sheffield invited our interviewees and their families, our interviewers, the readers from our sister project, Reading 1900-1950, and some old friends to a special reading by poet Eleanor Brown from her latest collection. Published in October 2019 by Bloodaxe Books, White Ink Stains is based in part on what our 60+ interviewees told us about their reading journeys.

About 25 of us met at The Art House, in the centre of the city, and over tea or coffee and scones, with jam and cream, we listened to Eleanor read a dozen or so poems and discuss how she writes. It was a particular pleasure to welcome our interviewees, Julia BanksShirley EllinsJim Green and Betty Newman.

Eleanor says that she has never looked at a transcript of our interviews. She has only listened, time and again over eighteen long months, to the voices, learning the rhythms, the sounds, the laughter and the sadness. And from this have come her poems. Here are some quotations:

From Appetite:

Book-hungry teenage girl, great ravenous

word-eating eyes, amazing stamina

for nothing but to lie in bed and read

omnivorous of print, devouring gaze

insatiable for all the big fat works,

yes all of Dickens, Eliot and James,

now Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Zola, Proust.

From Helpless with Laughter:

Mother would read me The House at Pooh Corner

When I was only so high

She in her big chair and I in my little

Straight-backed Mother and I

Once I remember us helpless with laughter

Both of us laughing so much

Neither could speak, and I fell off my chair

From The Dressmaker:

They asked us what we liked to do

My mother spoke for me

‘She likes to sew’ – ‘Then she should go

In the shirt factory.’

And I were furious! For that

I could nor would not bear.

Oh, I came home and angry-cried

‘I will not go in there.’

From Snatches of Old Lauds:

I found my Sunday School hymn book –

the Bible in another form, we used to say;

the poetry helps you remember.

But damp in the attic had got it.

What hadn’t mouldered away up there

disintegrated softly in my hands.

It was a very enjoyable afternoon all round. ‘The poems were wonderful,’ said one guest, ‘ with a very rich vein of humour throughout, as well as the touching/poignant ones.’ ‘I have always enjoyed reading poems,’ said another, ‘but never been particularly attracted to readings. Eleanor’s readings have converted me.’

Sheffield Hallam University’s Humanities Research Centre was kind enough to sponsor the event, and we thank the Head of the Centre, Professor Chris Hopkins, for his continuing enthusiasm and support.

And thanks too to The Art House for their excellent refreshments and for being so friendly.

Copies of White Ink Stains can be bought locally from Rhyme and Reason and Waterstones.

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