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Get it Loud in Libraries

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[Editor’s note: Guest post from Stewart Parsons, founder and manager of the Get it Loud in Libraries project]

When introducing the Get It Loud In Libraries project, I often use the shorthand: “It’s a programme of high quality live music shows, in mostly smaller towns, showcasing the best new music, for new audiences, offering new creative opportunities for talented young people.” So the emphasis is firmly on the ‘new’ for those harbouring perceptions that libraries specialized in the ‘old’.

And yet there is much more to tell.

Now funded by Arts Council England, Paul Hamlyn Foundation and Youth Music, the project continues to grow - strategically and geographically - the programme now delivers shows into libraries beyond the North West including Coventry.
Sure we still harbour a huge desire to utterly electrify library spaces, but we are now developing a programme bound up in a strategic intelligence. Something that hopefully sets us apart from a library events team simply ‘putting on gigs in libraries’.

Amanda Palmer, Liverpool Central Library, October 2016. Photo credit: Get it Loud in Libraries
Amanda Palmer, Liverpool Central Library, October 2016. Photo credit: Get it Loud in Libraries

Origins of the project

Backtrack three years, and Get It Loud In Libraries was turned from a popular grassroots arts project into a Community Interest Company; a not for profit organisation with charitable principles: rocking out libraries for the common good. After a few false starts with private investment, we whooped when we scored grant funding from both the Arts Council England, Youth Music and the Paul Hamlyn Foundation. This funding would allow us to develop the programme and install an increased number of gigs across a wider area of North West England. The grant will support our delivery to October 2017 – enough time to rock some very solid Carnegie Library buildings to their literary foundations.

After consulting libraries across four boroughs, we had a fixed tour map for expanding our delivery. The library tour now takes in Cumbria, Lancashire, Merseyside, Coventry and Greater Manchester. In some ways, it is a shame that the libraries are geographically so closely aligned. But it also allows us to share the model across a network in a strategy that allows us to disseminate astutely and allow library staff who know each other through other means to develop and learn.

Going beyond original aims

A significant change to the original formula is the fact that a learning platform pitched against every show allows young people to develop and finesse their digital skills.

The programme was always designed to allow young people to lead and learn, but this formalised development will hopefully set up young people on the creative industries career path. One major success story thus far is the story of 17 year old Robbie Williams (yes I know). Robbie illustrated his maturity behind a mixing desk so well to our techie guys on a show with US band The Lone Bellow, that he was taken on in a paid role. One minute he was supporting an intimate Loud in Libraries show, enjoying the mentoring opportunities, the next he was on an arena tour with Gabrielle and Billy Ocean.

It’s this kind of social elevation and creative career progression offered by the programme that acts as invisible energy for Loud In Libraries. Amplifying libraries as a catalyst for growth and experience, opportunity and success.

It also serves as a glowing reminder for the directors of the programme that this is why we do what we do. Number one – we love libraries. Number two – we love music. Number three – we believe in life chances for young people. Package that up and then deliver the ethos in areas of low arts activity and challenging economic circumstances and you have everything you need to know about Get It Loud In Libraries.

Ghostpoet, Lancaster Library. Photo credit: Sarah Read
Ghostpoet, Lancaster Library. Photo credit: Sarah Read

Don’t forget the music

Of course the gig is THE thing and always will be. Sell out shows with library savvy chart stars Clean Bandit, Teleman and Frank Turner in intimate library venues packed with first time library-goers is a thrilling experience. Furthermore, to allow the library to act as tastemaker for popular culture is something of immense value for us; it isn’t happening in the big city libraries but the smaller, more provincial ones. It is this part of the strategy that helps us retain the wow factor in a non-stop cultural age where the consumer is bombarded with the invitation to wow 24/7 over practically anything.

We are hitting our targets, developing new audiences and also encountering an ever changing library landscape where staging a gig with the hottest new band in the land might be the last thing on the minds of staff faced with budget and staffing cuts – all we can do as a programme and a company is be true to our beliefs and continue to articulate the project’s intrinsic value.
Offering young people something they consume and value most – music, in a place many frequent least – the library, is where it all started, where it continues to excite and engage, and where it will end. But not for a long time yet.

Next shows:

  • Anna Meredith – Liverpool Central Library, 29 October
    We Are Scientists – Barrow Library, 4 November
    Slow Club – Museum Of Wigan Life, Wigan, 10 December
    Cate Le Bon – Kendal Library, 20 December
    Lucy Rose Library Tour – various libraries, 9-13 December (See details below)
Poster: Lucy Rose tour
Poster: Lucy Rose tour

All details
Please note, this is a guest blog. Views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of DCMS or the Libraries Taskforce

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