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Cambridgeshire County Council’s Community and Cultural Services have been awarded funding from Arts Council England for a four year programme of arts events and activities in libraries, beginning in 2018, called ‘The Library Presents’. 

The County Council’s Community and Cultural Services will become a ‘National Portfolio Organisation’ and receive a £694,980 grant for the next four years. The Service has succeeded amid intense competition from organisations across the country in gaining this status.  This support will enable a programme of performances, Book Festivals and workshops across the County’s libraries.

In this new programme the Council will work to transform library spaces for these activities and bring a professionalism to the experience without losing the familiar friendly and welcoming elements which make such a positive difference to our participants and audiences.

The programme could feature a wide range of art forms – dance, classical, folk and popular music; visual arts activity with exhibitions linked to workshops and possibly a digital ‘trail’; poetry, digital arts; theatre performance, comedy and spoken word. We will be relying on the involvement of Friends Groups and volunteers, as well as the staff, to deliver a programme that takes arts into the heart of our communities, breaking down the barriers and reaching out to each and every corner – rural and urban - of the county.

Our Council’s Libraries are trusted places that can reach widely across people and places, and in particular children and young people and their families. Bringing arts to Libraries through this programme offers a chance for communities of all ages and all backgrounds to come together to participate in arts activities and benefit from a wide range of new experiences.

Cambridgeshire County Councillor Mathew Shuter, Chairman of the Highways and Community Infrastructure Committee, said : “We are really pleased that our libraries are being recognised as a great place to host local events, workshops and to see performing arts. Libraries are in the heart of local communities and as well as being a trusted and safe place to go to find out information, they provide a warm welcome to all members of our communities either as participants, performers or members of the audience.” 

Christine May, interim Director of Infrastructure Management and Operation at Cambridgeshire County Council, said : “We are very proud that the Arts Council England has the confidence in us to take this forward. That confidence is based upon the previous hard work and dedication of all those staff members, volunteers and library friends groups who have been involved in recent years. The previous Arts Alive in Libraries programmes have demonstrated that library staff, library friends and volunteers are able to stage events well and are keen to welcome new users for many different kinds of activity. The experience also shows that there is an audience for good quality arts activity in local venues. We look forward to rising to the challenge of working together to deliver an excellent programme.”

The Arts Council supports, develops and invests in art and culture across England. For the first time, libraries will now be part of the Arts Council National Portfolio. Along with Community and Cultural Services Cambridgeshire, other library organisations awarded this status are the Society of Chief Librarians (Sector Support Organisation), London Borough of Barking and Dagenham, Culture Learning and Libraries (Midlands), Suffolk Libraries, Libraries Unlimited (Devon) and St Helens Council Library Service.

Hedley Swain, Area Director, South East, Arts Council England, said: “Libraries sit at the heart of so many communities across the country and their spaces offer a wonderful opportunity for people living in highly rural areas to experience and participate in more high quality arts and cultural activity. We’re really pleased to welcome Cambridgeshire Libraries to the 2018-22 National Portfolio and are excited by its plans for ‘The Library Presents’."

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