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Young Walter Scott Prize

If you’re aged between 11 and 19 and interested in history and writing, the Young Walter Scott Prize is ready to take you on an adventure! This is the UK’s only creative writing prize specifically for budding historical writers. 

The Prize runs a series of Imagining History workshops in amazing historical sites throughout the UK, where experts guide you in active historical research, and show you how to start putting your ideas down on paper. Find out how to take part in a workshop near you, or even how to host one, on our website! 

If you have a story of between 800 and 2000 words, set in a time before you were born, you can enter the Young Walter Scott Prize – now open for entries, and the closing date is 31st October 2018. Entries are judged in two age groups – 11 to 15 years and 16 to 19 years. Any kind of fiction is accepted – prose, poetry, drama, fictional letters or reportage.

You could win a £500 travel grant, an invitation to one of the UK’s best book festivals to meet published authors, and a chance to see your own work in print. Full terms and conditions, tips for writing and research, and details of the Imagining History workshops are all on the website. 

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Every Child deserves a Great School Library

The School Library Association and CILIP’s School Libraries Group have launched a three-year school library campaign.

Supported by CILIP, the campaign will focus on the importance of school libraries and librarians and the benefits they bring to children, staff and schools. Aside from raising the profile of school libraries, the campaign will have three specific objectives:

*The recognition of School Libraries/Librarians in Ofsted Inspection Framework.
*The creation of a School Library Strategy for England.
*Specific investment into School Library development.

The campaign will look to Scotland and its success in creating a National Strategy for School Libraries. The Government-backed initiative will be implemented in Scotland this August as schools in the country return from the summer break.

The Great School Libraries campaign will build on lessons learned from Scotland helping to unite stakeholders in a common goal of improving school library provision across all four nations in the UK. The campaign will look to engage with school librarians, supporters and school library champions and other allies to help push the message that: “Every child deserves a Great School Library.”

The aim is to create strong evidence-based advocacy messages tailored to various stakeholders including politicians, the Department for Education, Ofsted, schools – including teachers, parents, leadership teams and governors. There will also be media and public focussed awareness campaigns, helping to build an understanding of the importance of school libraries in supporting the curriculum and achievements amongst pupils.

CILIP Chief Executive Nick Poole said: ““This is a truly important campaign and one that has the potential to transform lives. Great school librarians not only support students, but also teachers – helping to raise standards and results across the board. They inspire people, improve literacy through a love of reading, and help teach lifelong skills like information and digital literacy. Teachers can call on them to help find information and resources when they are planning lessons.

“Through this campaign we will provide evidence that clearly shows the value of school libraries – not just to pupils, but also for teachers, schools and wider society. That is why we are saying Every Child deserves a Great School Library.”

Alison Tarrant, Managing Director of the SLA, said: “This campaign is an opportunity to celebrate and discuss school libraries and librarians, and to promote understanding and engagement with the profession. We will be working tirelessly to achieve the aims set out.”

Caroline Roche, Chair of CILIP’s SLG, warned that school libraries were being undervalued and often faced cuts as head teachers felt increasing budget pressures, saying that the campaign is a “chance for school librarians to stand up and show the value of a good school library, professionally run by a school librarian.”

She added: “ We believe that the impact that a school library has in a school, not only on literacy and reading for pleasure, but also on mental and emotional health, providing a safe haven for vulnerable children, a place for study, a place where students can find books to enlarge their world view or to find they are not alone, is inestimable.  Such value cannot be measured in terms of money or figures – a good school library, professionally run, is the gift a school can give to every one of their children, for very little cost.”

Sign up to keep informed about the campaign and find out how you can get involved at


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Klaus Fugge Bursary to attend the Youth Libraries Group Annual Conference

The Youth Libraries Group are delighted to announce, thanks to the generosity of honorary member and champion of the group, Klaus Flugge from Andersen Press, we will be offering a bursary to attend the annual Youth Libraries Group conference. The 2018 conference will be held in Manchester, newly named UNESCO City of Literature. It will run from 21 to 23 September and is titled Reading the Future. Keynote speakers include Philip Pullman and Jackie Morris, 2018 winners of the British Book Awards. The conference is sponsored by Enid Blyton Entertainment.

To apply for this bursary, please e-mail providing your name, profession and also outlining a short statement not exceeding 300 words of how you would benefit from attending conference and the ways you intend to use and share the learning.

Applicants should be a member of the Youth Libraries Group. The successful applicant will be expected to write a blog article for the group on their conference experiences and learning. Applicants are able to include their Twitter handles or Instagram usernames when applying and posts about conference using the hashtag #YLGConference will be viewed favourably in support of applications.

The bursary will cover the cost for a residential place at the #YLGConference 2018, and will also cover travel booked standard class travel booked at least 4 weeks in advance in the UK mainland.

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Empathy Day 2018

image001Children’s Laureate Lauren Child and a host of award winning children’s authors and illustrators will be flying the flag for Empathy Day on Tuesday 12 June.

Charlie and Lola creator Lauren Child will appear at Waterstone’s Piccadilly, along with psychology expert Professor Robin Banarjee and Oscar’s First Book Prize-winner, author-illustrator Benji Davies, between 7 and 8pm on Tuesday 12 June – while other authors will be promoting the day on social media and through blog tours.

Empathy Day first launched in 2017 as part of not-for-profit organisation EmpathyLab, created by ex-Reading Agency founder Miranda McKearney – as a response to troubling statistics on hate crime around the world and concerns over how we teach empathy to our children.  Empathy is one of the most crucial of the social and emotional skills children need to thrive. Neuroscientific research shows that the brain can develop empathy through reading; it is this intersection of literacy and empathy that is at the heart of EmpathyLab’s work.

A hotlist of children’s fiction has been compiled for use in schools, libraries and the community, to help teach children gain an understanding of the world as seen from other perspectives. And scores of children’s authors have got behind the campaign. Miranda McKearney comments: “Books are a hugely important way of allowing young minds to imagine lives beyond their own; how they would cope in a crisis; if they were a refugee, an orphan, or had just lost someone they loved. They are scientifically proven to help children and adults to develop empathy and grow up to be concerned and caring adults.”

‘Empathy through Stories’ event at the Hay Festival on Saturday 2 June 2018.  Ahead of Empathy Day, Miranda McKearney will appear at the Hay Festival on Saturday 2 June 2018, 4pm alongside 3000 Chairs-unaccompanied child refugee campaigner and author of The Day the War Came, Nicola Davies and Nigerian storyteller Atinuke in an ‘Empathy Through Stories’ event.

What’s happening on Empathy Day 2018

  • Massive social media #ReadForEmpathy campaign
  • Empathy Lab pioneer schools, from Carlisle to the New Forest. Bringing the children’s work during the year to a head
  • Empathy Awards. Range of authors involved: Morag Hood, Ross Montgomery, Sue Hendra , Shoo Rayner, Robin Stevens, Joseph Coelho, Jo Cotterill, Sita Brahmachari, Alan MacDonald
  • 4 special projects designed with the community in St Helens, Sheffield, Essex and Devon. Community has highlighted issues where more empathy is needed – two key themes, loneliness and inter-generational contact. Empathy Café sessions in the run up, families will work with librarians and authors (Bali Rai, Sita Brahmachari, Helen Moss, Gillian Cross) to run activities exploring and addressing these issues
  • 37 library services doing activities and displays. Manchester doing special rhyme times and x across all 22 city libraries
  • Experimental Swap Your Reading Life pilots: psychology/literacy academics; prison staff/prisoners
  • Bookshops taking part for the first time, in partnership with BA
  • Lots of other schools taking part

I was delighted to have had a very small part in this for 2018 – by helping in the selection of books for the Read for Empathy guide linked above – a very inspiring process and one which I hope may be repeated.

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The last couple of weeks…

I thought the last few weeks in my ‘day job’ might be a bit strange – well feel a bit strange, and I suppose they did.  Going into the Swindon office of the School Library Association (SLA) for the last time.  We all had a lovely lunch together – and I’m still pondering how to spend the lovely token I was given – books obviously – just which ones?

My landlady for the last nearly 10 years was wonderful – and I shall always have a soft spot for Jackie and Roger at the Old Post Office, South Marston.  If you are ever down Swindon way do stay with them – it’s a lovely place to stay, and I shall miss the friendship, the warm welcome and the gorgeous breakfasts.  Don’t worry Jackie – I’ll be back!

Then it was using up my annual leave until the end of the month when I officially finished.  A lovely relaxed long weekend in Liverpool with the family including lots of eating and drinking done!  Plus, Sarah and friends ran the Liverpool half marathon too!  Very proud of her – I couldn’t run a mile never mind 13.

Then down to London to celebrate my actual retirement.  To start Will and I went to see the amazing musical that is 42nd Street at the Theatre Royal.  The stage is huge, but it was filled with a cast of 50, plus 20 musicians making this one of the most spectacular theatrical events – a great way to spend an evening.  The sound of so many tap shoes hitting the stage in unison is just mind-blowing!

412tLlnwukL._SX357_BO1,204,203,200_The next day we pottered – a lovely early morning in the Foundling Museum.  This is a fascinating and moving collection about the history of the Foundling Hospital full of emotionally engaging objects and witness statements on the way the place worked.  I had especially wanted to visit as there was an exhibition of the wonderful artwork for The Lost Words by Robert McFarlane and Jackie Morris.  Great to be able to get up close to these wonderful illustrations of the natural world.

We then moved on to the John Soane Museum in Lincoln’s Inn Fields – an amazing house full of Soane’s eclectic collections.  Fascinating, but especially so for any students of architecture.

When you are in the house you are asked to turn off all electrical devices – so it was not until we came out into a rainy London we heard via a voice mail that the venue I was holding my ‘Semi-retirement party’ in was closed – due to a major gas leak beneath Longacre and St Martin’s Lane!  Several anguished phone calls to the organizer at the venue followed – and I tried to contact as many people as I could with the news – we had no idea if the venue would be open in time, or at all that day!  If nothing else I have now learned never to leave home without all the documentation about any event!  I didn’t have everyone’s contact details on my phone, or even in the email account I could access from my phone!  (I always take ‘work’ event details, but as this was personal I hadn’t!)

We knew there would be people who would turn up not having been contacted so we set off to get as near to the venue as we could – to discover that, although it was within the police cordon, it was so close to the edge that it was allowed to open, but entry was via the back door!  We went in rather intrepidly to find out what, if anything, they could do for us to rescue the situation.  They came up trumps!  Rather than our private room (which hadn’t been prepared as they hadn’t been able to get in the building) we had a semi-private area of the bar, most of the canapes ordered were quickly prepared (and were delicious) plus we had a bar assistant spending the whole time with us topping up our prosecco glasses!  Well done to Brown’s Covent Garden for rescuing the situation so very well!

So, as the event was somewhat reduced it means we can have another – to celebrate again – and make announcements about the future – all very exciting!

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Who knows where the time goes…

BooksA quote from one of my favourite songs from the ever popular Fairport Convention (written by Sandy Denny)- I’m already really looking forward to the August weekend we’ll spend at Cropredy this year.  There’s a great line up, and we know we won’t have to put up with too much rain and wind as we’re opting for a hotel stay locally rather than camping – think our camping days are over…

This last year has felt like a whirlwind, with lots of change, lots of events and not enough time to just relax and enjoy things…  Is that a sign of age? Or do I just try and fit in too many things around my already busy job? Can’t imagine I’m going to change too much at this stage.

A few high (and low) lights –

Totally thrilled to be asked to be Chair of Youth Libraries Group in 2017 – the year the Carnegie Medal is 80, the Kate Greenaway Medal is 60 and the SLA is also 80.  We’re going to have some fun with all the celebrations…

Lovely family wedding in Northumberland – my second cousin (I think) got married in the teeth of a gale last December – wonderful wedding!  And one of the few times I get to see my tiny extended family.

Disturbing times that we live in – the Brexit vote has shaken me (and many others) and I struggle to envisage a future with the UK being alone.

Some of the concerts Sarah and Canter Semper have performed at – uplifting and thoroughly enjoyable.

92 year old father-in-law dying – though his funeral will be a celebration of a life well lived.

The great work Screen Northants is doing with young people and with the community around inspiration, literacy and engagement – well done to Becky and her partners

Reading some fantastic books ready for judging the Carnegie and Greenaway Medals – trying to see what might get nominated in October!

The fight to save libraries and school libraries continue – particularly worrying as this is often the only access to culture for a large number of people.

Wonder what next will throw my way?

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March 2016

Well, I’ve failed again in my attempts to keep up to date!  I do try but life just seems to get in the way, but a little reflection now and again is all to the good.

The end of last year was spent in catching up with some old friends – you know, those friends who you don’t see for years and years, then you meet and it’s as if there has been no time in between meetings!  In both cases it was as delight and we reveled in enjoying each others company again – and vowed not to let it go so long again…

DSC00321The winter has been exceedingly mild – lots of rain and lots of standing water round us – but by no means as bad as many parts of the country.  The one day of snow came and went in a flash.

The family all seem settled in there various locations, and it is great that we get together for usually very brief but highly enjoyable meals, BBQs and the odd overnight stop!

My reading in the last six months of 2015 was mainly dedicated to catching up with possible Carnegie and Greenaway Medal nominations – and then the actual readings of the 91 and 73 (respectively) nominated titles.  Jut about to hear the shortlists – so watch the website for the announcements.  I was amazingly honoured to be asked to be Chair of Youth Libraries Group for 2017 (making me VC now) and thus VC of Judges this year.  I’ve already started reading titles that are likely to be on the nominations for the 2017 medal – catch my Goodreads feed for the best of them that I add to my reviews.

Beyond that work at the School Library Association is amazingly busy – but I’m sure I’ll get some catch up time in the Easter holidays – I hope!

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