In Praise of Libraries


This work began in the company of books. I like the qualities of used things, in this case the thumbed pages and coffee stains of their history, the fluctuating choices of typeface and illustration which make them of their time. That time was actually my parents’ time so I am transported back to the 1940s and 50s via the design of a book cover. Then there was the pleasure of meeting some of the interviewees, taking photographs of their photographs, having a little glimpse into their first encounters with books and over and over again in their recorded conversations arose, with great affection, the role that libraries played.

A palace of words,

A place of peace and quiet

A store of knowledge

 A step into a new future

In the early years of the twentieth century in the library of the past before mobile phones, computers and the internet will we find the seeds of the library of the future?

Reading Sheffield Project

This work grew out of memories, stories, images, photos, transcripts and audio.

Cobbled together and placed inside old picture frames. I wanted the frame to be part of the work rather than just a display device,  the grey is to link them as one work and reinforce the hazy memory aspect. I like old frames, these ones are typical designs of the  early and mid 1900’s. Although the frames are of differing sizes the aperture and colour of the mounts are identical. Here are two framed pieces of work temporarily hung in my dining room for Reading Sheffield AGM.




Reading Sheffield portraits of readers

My friend Mary morphed Reading Sheffield from her PhD. The original subject was a ‘middle brow’ author called Warwick Deeping. As I understand it ‘middle brow’ means the books people read but don’t necessarily own up to. From this Mary decided to find out what books people actually read and what influenced their choice of reading. Having picked the years when Warwick Deeping was popular that is the 1930’s 40’s and 50’s, she armed a posse of volunteers with Zoom sound recorders and searched for Sheffield residents who grew up during these years. The result was a fascinating series of audio files documenting the varied reading habits of a cross section of Sheffield residents before the advent of television or internet.

The problem then was what to do with all this fascinating material, and that’s when I became involved. I originally planned an interactive installation in Sheffield City Library but ended up designing a Reading Sheffield web site . I am now working on a series of works based on the people and their conversations recorded during the Reading Sheffield Project.

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