We're bringing libraries to life, literally

September 2019

Waltham Forest Echo

Helen Bigham helps bring wildlife to local libraries this month

Albert Einstein once said: “The only thing that you absolutely have to know is the location of the library.” Libraries represent to me a safe and trusted space; they developed my enduring love of words and played an important part in my childhood. Every Saturday morning I visited North Chingford Library, taking out my allocation of four books. Reading still provides me with a comforting security blanket when I want to be distracted from life’s 'curve balls'.

Working with Waltham Forest Dyslexia Association I was made aware that not everyone has this safety valve. Listening to attendees at the monthly adult group, I heard many personal stories. To develop resilience everyone needs to find their own strategies to build up their confidence and find ways to switch off.

I was reminded of this when putting together a free library roadshow for Suntrap Forest Centre – sponsored by Great Place: Creative Connections, a scheme supported by Arts Council England and National Lottery Heritage Fund. The roadshow launches at Walthamstow Library (one of four libraries on the tour) on Monday 2nd September. At each library on the opening day there’ll be an adult workshop based on the natural heritage of Epping Forest and at the closing event families will get the chance to meet some of the much-loved Suntrap animals. There will be fun, interactive quizzes along with a memory tree for everyone to share their recollections and commitments. The exhibition is packed full of entertaining stories shared by previous local school pupils.

Ayse Rifat, an award-winning wildlife artist, said: “Having undiagnosed dyslexia, I didn’t find school very interesting. Textbooks and chalkboards were full of words and numbers which didn’t really sink in. “Then, out of the blue, came Suntrap! Armed with our welly boots, pond-dipping nets and jam jars for our findings, we were free to ask questions, squelch in mud and kick leaves while being taught about one of the most important subjects; nature. “I didn’t realise at the time how much of an impact those trips to Suntrap would have on me. I now use my love and passion for British wildlife existing on our very own doorstep – some of which is sadly in decline – to create artwork to raise awareness.”

Communities need libraries; make today the day you visit your local one!