Manchester’s Festival of Libraries welcomes poet and broadcaster Lemn Sissay as event ambassador

Manchester’s Festival of Libraries welcomes poet and broadcaster Lemn Sissay as event ambassador

One of Manchester’s best-known and most acclaimed literary figures has been named as ambassador to a festival celebrating the city’s love of libraries.

Poet and broadcaster Lemn Sissay OBE has been given the role for the 2022 edition of Manchester UNESCO City of Literature’s Festival of Libraries.

The announcement was made at the same time as the packed programme of 80 events, which are taking place over five days in June, was revealed.

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    Lemn Sissay has become an ambassador for Manchester UNESCO City of Literature’s Festival of Libraries. Photo: Hamish Brown

    What role has Lemn Sissay been given with the Festival of Libraries?

    The BAFTA-nominated, international prize-winning writer, who was recently awarded an an OBE for services to literature, has been announced as one of the Festival of Libraries’ ambassadors.

    Lemn will participate in the festival, which celebrates what libraries can offer and do, and support its programme of activities.

    He will join the Inspired By strand of activities which has already secured the services of popular actress Julie Hesmondhalgh, known for her roles in Coronation Street and Dr Who, and The Repair Shop presenter Jay Blades.

    Jay Blades is a fellow ambassador for the Festival of Libraries

    Working alongside library staff across Greater Manchester, Lemn will also act as a judge on the Shoebox Libraries project.

    Open to anyone who wants to give it a go, the competition is guided by artist and theatre designer Klaire Doyle and encourages children to create their own dream library out of materials they can find at home.

    In addition, Lemn will take part in a live stream talking about his love for libraries, reading from his new picture book Don’t Ask The Dragon and answering questions put to him by primary school pupils from across Greater Manchester.

    This will be available to schools across the city-region.

    How was Lemn’s role as ambassador announced?

    A group of budding young reporters were given the chance to speak to Lemn and break the news of his role as ambassador.

    Social enterprise MediaCubs, which gives young children the opportunity to become reporters for the day, got the scoop on the announcement when Lemn visited Standish Library in Wigan with Manchester City of Literature.

    Lemn Sissay with the young reporters from MediaCubs

    The cub reporters, aged between five and nine, tested out their interview skills on Lemn in a pop-up TV studio and newsroom before creating a broadcast revealing the news.

    What else is happening at the Festival of Libraries 2022?

    The full programme for 2022’s Festival of Libraries includes panels, talks and workshops taking place across all 10 Greater Manchester boroughs.

    The event runs between Wednesday 15 June and Sunday 19 June and the details of everything going on are listed on the festival website.

    The aim of it is to celebrate the librarians who run these special places, the users who make use of the services and the extraordinary stories that emerge from the everyday use of libraries.

    The festival also highlights the library network’s full offer for people from all backgrounds and demographics, with events taking in wellbeing, culture and creativity, digital and information and reading.

    New elements for 2022 includes the Readers in Residence programme, featuring acclaimed young adult author Danielle Jawondo of And The Stars Were Burning Brightly fame and Oliver Sykes who has written the likes of Alfie’s First Fight and Stories of Care.

    They will work alongside Young Identity, a Manchester spoken word collective, which aims to encourage teenagers to explore their own creativity, through reading, writing, poetry and performance.

    The Migrant Voices Living Library will showcase musicians from Olympias Music Foundation’s Arts Council England-funded project, Mapping Migrant Voices.

    With performances at Stockport and Bolton libraries, and a celebration at the beautiful and historic John Rylands library in Manchester city centre, the events will invite the public to meet celebrated musicians from the local community, hear their stories and musical performances and share their own oral histories with historians from the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Centre.

    What did Lemn say about becoming a festival ambassador?

    Lemn said: “A library is the loudest place on the high street, because books are bursting with very loud ideas. And yet it is where you can go for peace and quiet; amongst all that is happening in our world, peace and quiet has great value.

    “Libraries change the world because people who use libraries change the world. This year’s Festival of Libraries demonstrates throughout its brilliant programme that all ages, all types, all are welcome. Your community, your library.”