Creativity has always been centre stage with Manchester Libraries. Life is so much more bright and full volume when you set your imagination free and we love to find ways to inspire the people of this wonderful city. It’s never been more important to cultivate our creative lives and Manchester Libraries were key partners with cultural leaders HOME in their recent Manchester Open Exhibition 2020 at HOME which was a hugely popular success. The coronavirus has unfortunately closed the exhibition early although you can still enjoy it online via https://homemcr.org/article/manchester-open-exhibition-online/
HOME’s Open Exhibition revealed some exciting and fresh talent from Manchester’s communities which we in Libraries are proud to say that we helped bring to the world. The Manchester Open workshops we co-hosted in many of our local libraries during 2019 across the city allowed people to discover what the exhibition was all about but also encouraged our customers to submit their artwork for consideration by HOME. As many of our regular customers know, there is usually a wealth of free creative activity to tap into at your local library. There’s StoryTimes for little ones, Creative Spaces for arts and culture on your doorstep, LEGO Clubs and Holiday crafts for all the family to our social groups for older people with knitting, crochet, and lots more.
Two particular libraries, North City Library and The Avenue Library and Learning Centre, seem to have hit a motherlode of creative talent in their groups for older people and the Manchester Open Exhibition was quick to spot this creativity and showcase it to the city and the world. Out of the 500+ artworks in the exhibition (and over 2000 were submitted for consideration), the curators chose three pieces by regular members of our library groups. We were very excited to hear of this honour and, before the exhibition closed, we went along to check out their work.
Blackley resident and former headmistress Suzanne has had a lifelong interest in drawing and painting, having created many works in her life featuring her family and loved ones as well as the natural world. Still active and pinsharp in her nineties, she has been a regular and longstanding member of her local library, North City Library in Harpurhey, which is one of our Creative Spaces libraries where residents can find vibrant arts and culture in their local neighbourhood. Suzanne is an avid fan of audio books and for many years led the Play Reading group which met at North City Library every month. Suzanne submitted an extraordinary work to the exhibition – “Tim” is a portrait of her grandson, painted some years ago when he was 7 years old and coming in muddy from football to wash his hands before tea. It is filled with sunlight, warmth and domestic detail and is a wonderful snapshot of local family life. We feel very privileged to have Suzanne and her originality so closely involved with the creative life of our library in Harpurhey.
TIM by Suzanne
The Avenue Library and Learning Centre in Blackley harbours great talent in the form of the members of the twice weekly Library craft groups which normally meet at this local library on Monday and Thursday mornings.
MOUSE by Carol
“Mouse” by local resident Carol is an endearing piece, a colourful cuddly toy knitted in yarn with an inquisitive expression – his perfectly positioned eyes and whiskers seem to be snuffling in curiosity. Carol is a founder member of Avenue Library’s Monday craft group which began in 2012. She crafts for fun and her own entertainment and is skilled in knitting, crochet, sewing, embroidery and lots more. Although Carol denies being artistic, she loves colour and texture in her creations, often creating really beautiful and rich pieces such as bags or embroidered pictures from her own imagination so she is truly original in her art.
Retired teacher Susan is a crochet expert – her work chosen by the Manchester Open is titled “Artist’s Palette”, an intricate and complex piece of crochet in yarn. Susan always claims not to be creative and only able to follow a pattern. But as all keen knitters or crocheters know, yarn skills involve maths, materials science and the visual arts. It takes considerable mental acuity as well as an eye for colour to create a piece like this. Her inspiration often comes from digital imagery or maths formulae – one of her best crocheted creations was a beautiful sofa throw or blanket illustrating the mathematical concept Pi or 3.14.
Susan showing her amazing work at the Avenue Library’s regular Thursday morning Crochet Circle in Blackley.
All these lovely pieces of art clearly show us that, despite what people might think about their own artistic ability, absolutely everyone has the ability to create and be creative, in whatever form they like. It takes time, skill and love to make a thing of beauty and worth. We at Manchester Libraries are proud to say that we help people to discover their talents or develop and share their skills with others – we truly offer creative spaces.
Both Susan and Carol agree that crafting in a social group is really enjoyable – it takes the pleasure of creativity to a new level, being able to chat and laugh with friends, catch up with each other and check out what’s been happening in the community. It promotes mental and physical wellbeing, particularly important in later years, helping us to learn new skills and make a colourful and vital contribution to our local communities. Manchester Libraries are always keen to offer age-friendly activities which promote creativity, now more than ever. And although coronavirus has closed our actual libraries, we can still share our skills and show off our work to our friends and in our virtual libraries. We’d love to see what you’re making at home during this time. Please send us in snaps of your work, and share a few words about your creation with us. Tell your crafty friends to share too and let’s get a Manchester Show and Tell going! You can email us or post to Manchester Libraries social media. Get a friend or relative to help if you are unsure how to do this – it is a great time to learn the joys of digital skills. Let’s get together online and get creative!
or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
or check out our Express Yourself 10 Week Challenge at www.creativespacesmcr.com/