Sunday 18 September 2016

Birmingham's Big Read Book Benches - Celia Rees

Lord of the Rings Book Bench

This summer, benches appeared all over Birmingham and beyond, 175 of them. They were designed by children and young people from more than 140 schools, nurseries, colleges and community groups from all over the region. Each bench was based on a favourite novel, comic, poem or piece of prose and the formed the centre piece of this summer's Big Read initiative in Birmingham.

Lynsey Rutter, Community Engagement Team Leader at Birmingham Museum, sums up the idea:

“The Big Read is a wonderful way to reach children and adults from across the region and inspire a love of reading and writing. Reading is a vital skill which enriches children’s lives, so we are thrilled to be part of the trail in such a big way this summer ... We have some beautiful Book Bench designs on display across our Birmingham Museums sites and we look forward to welcoming families to complete the trail and take part in our Big Read events.”

Picture Book Bench

The initiative was created by Wild in Art, co-presented by the King Edward VI Schools among others, as a way to encourage reading and celebrate creativity Sally-Ann Wilkinson, Director at Wild in Art, explains the reasoning behind the idea:

 “...we are thrilled to be able to display so many wonderful designs by children and young people. Every decorated BookBench tells a special story and, together with a jam-packed summer of book-themed events and activities, we hope The Big Read encourages all generations to rekindle their passion for reading and writing.”

Jungle Book Bench

The benches were not just sited in museums, art galleries and libraries but in community centres, book shops and shopping centres. Wherever people visit. It was a great way to involve and inspire the city's young people. It's quite something to see your idea move from an initial design, to a model, to a full size sculpture and then put on public display.

Pandora's Box
It's also quite something to have one of your books celebrated in this way. Birmingham's wonderful Museum & Art Gallery held the biggest display with 24 benches dotted through galleries which house their unparalleled collection of Pre-Raphaelite paintings and the fabulous Staffordshire Hoard. One of the benches was inspired by my books, Pirates!.

Bench designed by girls from King Edward VI School, Handsworth
Proud Author with Bench

The Book Bench was designed and displayed by the girls of King Edward VI School, Handsworth. For the past few years, World Book Day has been transformed into Pirates! Day for the school's Year Eights, a chance to celebrate all things piratical and to take part in a whole day of activities, including Music, Dance, Drama, Art and Creative Writing. This year, the challenge for the artists was to design this bench. 

The bench has been on display all summer. It will now be returned to the library at King Edward's. I hope to see it again when I return for Pirates! Day, 2017.  In the meantime, I hope it supplies a handy seat for anyone who wants to sit for a while and have a good read. 

Celia Rees


Joan Lennon said...

What a great accolade, Celia!

Leslie Wilson said...

What a lovely initiative! And congratulations on the Pirates bench. Well deserved.

Sue Purkiss said...

What a wonderful idea!

Sue Bursztynski said...

Great idea! Ah, so that's what Celia Rees looks like!