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The Living Library needs Living Books | 22-Oct-14

A new Festival is happening at Southbank Centre (23-26th October) called WHY? What's Happening for the Young?

WHY? invites members of the public to join us as we ask big questions about what's happening for the young. What rights do children really have today? How can we inspire and equip children and adults to become champions for children's rights, in their own homes, schools and communities and around the world? 

As part of WHY? Southbank is running a living library. The idea being that instead of going to a library and taking out a book to give you information, you come to our living library and take out a "living book" who can answer your questions face to face. The living library is about challenging stereotypes and offering insight into peoples stories and experiences in life in a non-judgemental, safe space. 

A living library can be used to display the many perspectives that make the human race so colourful, and offers a safe space for discussion, understanding and challenges some of our stereotypes. Words in writing can say many things and have a very strong impact on people but the Living Library offers words face to face. Some seek advice from book titles such as the ex-alcoholic or drug user. Others want insight into titles such as the disabled, the Muslim or the refugee.   

Being a Living Book:

Living Books are people just like you and me and many won't realise they have an interesting story to tell and could be a best seller! But for different reasons they can be subjected to stereotyping and prejudices. They are open about who they are and prepared to share their experiences. Living books must be willing to label themselves to then offer the public the opportunity to ask questions to hopefully challenge their perceptions linked to those labels. A living book is willing to be a public representative of a certain group. They are courageous people that stand by their convictions and are willing to discuss their values with others.

Book titles can be anything but some that have appeared at similar events in the past include: Alternative Family, Buddhist, Bodybuilder, Bisexual, Bulimic, Catholic Priest, Deaf, Diplomat, Disabled, Drag Queen, Dyslexic, Environmental Activist, Ex-gang Member,  Feminist, Gambler, Genius, Graffiti Artist, Hacker,Hate Crime Victim, Hindu, Hip Hopper,Homeless, Jew, Lawyer, Male Nanny, Male Nurse, Mental Health Difficulties, Night Club Bouncer, Police Officer, Retired, Runaway Child, Sexual Psychologist, Single Dad, Sky Diver, Stay at Home Parent, Go-Go Dancer, Terminally ill, Transgender, Unemployed, Working Mum.

How it works:

Taking books from a Living Library is free. Readers will be given a 30 minute time limit to return their book within. No reader can take their book out of the building and we encourage you to stay in the designated area, space permitting. A set of guidelines to follow during the conversation will be issued to readers to make sure everyone feels safe and comfortable and a living book can choose to discontinue a loan at any time if they feel they need to. The "Librarian" will monitor the exchange of books throughout and make sure no one breaks the rules. 

What we need:

We need people like you to be one of our books. This would involve a three hour time slot, so a maximum of 6 loans (you can offer more time if you are avilable).  Available slots are:

Saturday 25th October: 
10.00am-1.00pm
1.00pm-4.00pm

Sunday 26th October
10.00am-1.00pm
1.00pm-4.00pm

"Books" are welcome to offer time in the living library and the one stop shop if relevant or you can suggest which might be most appropriate.

If you'd like to take part please email ruth.hardie@southbankcentre.co.uk with:

  • Your Title (what your book would be called)
  • A brief description of the book (what perspectives/ positions you could discuss/advice you could give)
  • Which sessions you are available for.
  • Why you'd like to be there (briefly)


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